Knowledge exchange in social work
Involving service users in decision-making is a major priority across public services and in social work this presents particular difficulties. Researchers from the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships and the Social Work department at the University of Edinburgh have worked with over 70 social work staff in six Scottish local authorities to address the issues.
Many social work clients, for example, adults with mental health problems, are legally obliged to accept services but do so reluctantly. As part of a scheme designed to create engagement between academics and local authorities, the project experimented with different forms of knowledge exchange including practitioner-led research projects and knowledge sharing seminars. The project was managed by Dr Heather Wilkinson and Mark Smith. Dr Michael Gallagher was the research fellow.
This is a difficult area of practice for social workers so they seemed to really appreciate having time to discuss and reflect. We produced literature reviews to summarise evidence about good practice but we used these as starting points for discussion rather than in a didactic way. It’s been about bringing practitioner knowledge into dialogue with academic knowledge.
Dr Michael Gallagher
When it comes to communication, the project confirmed the value of old-fashioned face-to-face contact; online communication was less successful, in part due to computer firewalls in the local authorities. Attention to simple details, such as appropriate timing of events, using nice venues and providing good quality food also proved crucial. Extensive documentation from the project can be found at:
This article was published on Apr 4, 2011