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Completed Projects

Empowering Social Workers in Challenging Times: Learning from Best Practice during Covid-19

Sui Ting Kong, Deputy Director of CSJCA and Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Durham University, has received ESRC IAA funding (£9590) for a collaborative project between academics from the CSJCA and practitioner-researchers from the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) (who has also contributed £5000 to funding the project).

The project aims to identify best practice and ethical and practical challenges facing social work during covid-19 through collaborative work. The project set up the first BASW UK Practitioner Research Network (the Network) in August 2020 to collaborate with academics from Durham University in analysing the data collected from BASW’s Ongoing Survey on Social Work during COVID-19 (link, referred to as ‘BASW survey’ hereafter).

Sui-Ting Kong co-leads this project with Jane Shears, Head of Professional Development and Education, from BASW. A total number of 14 social work practitioner researchers have been recruited to the Network, and 6 of them (Angelica Quintana, Cherryl Pharoah, Diane Wills, Kerry Sildatke, Wendy Roberts and Vyomesh Thanki) worked very closely with Durham academic researchers (Catrin Noone, Evgenia Stepanova, Helen Charnley, Roger Smith, Sarah Banks and Susan Hawkes) to produce a timely report on social workers’ experience during COVID-19 and their challenges and best practice. They have also produced evidence submitted to the parliamentary inquiry on supporting the vulnerable during lockdown. Catrin Noone and Evgenia Stepanova are our project researchers who have been supporting the development of the training and the preparation of the data for collaborative analysis.

Figure 1 cover of final report

As part of the ESRC IAA grant, the first phase of the project included structured training sessions on social work practitioner research, co-production and collaborative analysis. In those sessions, social work practitioner researchers talked about their training needs and expectations for the next phase of practitioner-academic collaboration.

In the second phase of the project, practitioner researchers teamed up with Durham academic researchers to co-analyse the 2222 responses collected from the BASW survey. They formed small working groups to co-produce the final report, a practice toolkit and a discussion paper to

  • enable learning from best practice for tackling professional ethical and practical challenges;
  • advocate for better protection, recognition and support for social workers; and
  • explore the professional future that social workers envision at the transition to post-COVID-19 society


The project group contributed to two national webinars organised by BASW to talk about the human rights issues arising from social workers’ practice during COVID-19 and the report findings.

The project is now entering its third phase which will focus on the evaluation of the collaborative learning model that the project has developed. We are keen to learn together and seek ways to make social work knowledge production practically grounded and research-informed. To reach this goal, we need a model of collaboration and co-production that brings practice and research closer to each other that enables constructive dialogues to transcend differences into diversity in strengths.

For further information please contact ; and if you are interested in joining the BASW UK Social Work Practitioner Research Network please contact

Imagine - connecting communities through research

Imagine – connecting communities through research was a five-year research project (2012-17) funded by the Economic and Social Research Council under the Connected Communities programme. It had a focus on ‘civic engagement’ (the roles people play in the lives of their communities). It had four different ‘work packages’, which are described on the overall Imagine project website:


Find out more about the  Project

Debt on Teeside: Pathways to Financial Inclusion

During 2011-13, Durham University’s Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, Thrive Teesside and Church Action on Poverty worked with low-income households experiencing high levels of debt in Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees. The project collected detailed financial information from 24 households, offered financial mentoring, ran campaigns on predatory lending and was influential in contributing to changes in policy and practice around predatory lending.


Find out more about the Debt on Teesside Project

Participatory Research Hub

The Participatory Research Hub at Durham University was a short-term project hosted by the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action (CSJCA) during February 2015 to June 2017. It was funded by Durham University’s Economic and Social Research Council Impact Acceleration Account in two phases in 2015-16 and 2016-17 (£29,142 and £37,238). The Hub was hosted in the Geography Department, with Prof Rachel Pain as the main coordinator, supported by Prof Sarah Banks and Dr Andrew Russell (co-directors of CSJCA), and administered by a part-time Development Officer (initially Dr Catherine Alexander, and then Dr Helen Moore).

Aims and objectives

The aims of the Hub were to strengthen the infrastructure for co-produced social research, stimulating and fostering long-term relationships, generating learning and the capacity to undertake co-production across Durham University and its partner organisations; and to enhance the generation of high-quality research, which can have an impact on social and economic policy, practice, advocacy and activism.

The objectives were:

  • To promote and support the co-production of social research, involving University researchers working in partnership with outside organisations.
  • To develop infrastructure to actively link third sector and other organisations that wish to learn about and undertake co-produced research with relevant researchers at Durham University.
  • To offer training and support on aspects of co-production and participatory research, from establishing partnerships through to measuring impact.
  • To support and mentor new and existing research partnerships to generate, monitor and evidence research impact.

For further details, please see Participatory Research Hub, Durham University, 2015-17 - Summary Report

Mapping Alternative Impact

Alternative Approaches to Impact from Co-Produced Research

Members of the CSJCA's Participatory Research Hub and partners have been working on a project to explore alternative forms of impact generated from co-produced and participatory research.

The project was led by Prof Rachel Pain and Ruth Raynor, whose PhD research involved the development of a play with a women’s group in Gateshead. The play, Diehard Gateshead, was staged as part of the research.

British Theatre Guide: DieHard Gateshead

The project also involved a review of academic and policy literatures, and drew on the many years of experience of co-production and impact among members of CSJCA, culminating in a workshop where researchers and members of partner organisations developed themes and recommendations.

The report identifies the difference that co-produced and participatory research make to the way that we think about research “impact” – what it is, how it relates to research processes, who does it and how it can be better supported.

The report is intended as a catalyst for changes in institutional practices and policies, and includes specific recommendations. The key audience, therefore, includes Universities, UK Research Councils and other research funders. The analysis is also relevant to many organisations outside Universities that practice co-production with communities (e.g. charities, the public sector, social enterprises, community organisations, the creative sector). Often these sectors are further ahead in thinking through alternatives, and their experience is drawn upon in this report.

Mapping Alternative Impact - Final Report

Mapping Alternative Impact - Summary Report

To cite this report: Pain, R. et al. (2016) Mapping Alternative Impact: Alternative Approaches to Impact from Co-Produced Research. Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, Durham University

Funding was provided by the N8 / ESRC Research Programme Knowledge that Matters: Realising the Potential of Co-Production, and Durham University’s Impact Acceleration Account.