Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - CIVIL_SW (Civil Engagement in Social Work: Developing Global Models)

CIVIL_SW - IRSES Publishable Summary Report - Period 1
(27 May 2013 – 26 November 2014)

The overall aim of the project was to examine the role of social work (SW) and its engagement with civil society in supporting vulnerable members of the community. It seeks to examine this relationship within the context of social welfare reform in response to neoliberal reform and new public management initiatives across ten countries.

The research project obtained ethical approval, as appropriate, and utilised secondary data analysis and has been largely successful in is first reportable period in achieving its ambitious aims and objectives. Social work as a profession has for some time debated its professional and scientific credibility. The Global Agenda (2012) and the revised International Definition of Social Work (IFSW, 2014) have reinforced the need globally to develop a greater academic profile, research skills, international collaborative skills and research. The environment in which social work is practiced, its importance in supporting policy makers and civil society to deal with a changing society for instance; the nature of the welfare state, increased financial austerity and marketization of welfare services, all emphasised the timeliness of the project. For a profession that is often focussed on the micro environment of the individual, the size, complexity and challenges of international comparison, along with challenges analysing international secondary data at a macro level promoted significant debate and the active utilisation of interdisciplinary knowledge. The resulting debates in the team, meant that work needed to realistic in its achievements with further debate and clarity being required to achieve research objectives.

It has been noted that social work training largely prepares social workers to implement policy (Gal & Weiss-Gal, 2014), rather than to be actively engaged in its critique or the development of alternatives. The use of secondary data and comparative published literature has highlighted limitations in existing international social work literature and the availability of this literature in languages that could be used and understood within the research team. English was used as the de facto language for the research team, but the challenges of exploring complex socially constructed philosophies and policy, highlighted the risks and difficulties in international research of this nature. The difficulties in the use of English required an iterative research process of reviewing literature, developing ideas and debate amongst the team, with a resulting impact on the time taken to complete tasks. Work on documenting these challenges will be published internationally to support others considering such a project.

The reports to finalise the achievements of WP1,2, 3 and 4 were presented and explored during the symposium in St Petersburg in February 2015. In summary work undertaken by each of the WPs has included:
• WP1. Collection of service data from 10 countries focussed on scoping international data sources and developing a research matrix to evaluate data used by the OECD “COFOG” as this classification allowed the review of data according to groups which social work might normally work with. The data collected from OECD could be reviewed against the knowledge of project specialists and mapping of the social welfare services completed. Preliminary results were presented at “Espanet-Italia” (2014) and feedback from conference attendees used to strengthen the framework. Final results were due to be presented at the European Conference on Social Work Research in Slovenia in April 2015.
• WP2. Comprised a cross cultural analysis, developing a conceptual map of the key topics identified by social workers and academics in considering social inequalities and the welfare state. The WP studied the role of social workers within society and their relationships between the state, citizenship and users of services of services and organisation providing social work services. Paper and publications have sought to disseminate findings.
• WP3. Difficulties were experienced in this WP due to the austerity crisis in Portugal, as well as problems recruiting early stage researchers and consequentially the WP started later than other WPs. Comparative analysis was undertaken to explore the drivers, socio-political and economic contexts related to welfare reform. Analysis of the data supported the examination of the social problems affecting populations well-being, quality of life and citizenship rights which are a concern and relate to the intervention of social workers. In particular Brazilian social work reflects a strong Marxist orientation and their models of intervention are significantly different from the models used in other countries participating in the project.
• WP4. This WP sought to map and analyse social work structures and configuration across all the partner’s countries. The work was complicated by identifying that some of the papers published in English about Brazilian social work were factually incorrect, due to the cultural lenses that many authors used to interpret and extrapolate findings in English. This resulted in a proposal to develop a collaborative paper on the importance of language in social work research.
• WP5. Work will be undertaken to synthesise the data from WP1,2,3 and 4 in the final part of the project, commencing from month 14.
• WP6. The project website is available at:
• Dissemination of findings (WP7) has been an ongoing part of the project.

The presentation of working papers, draft reports and the supporting discussion provided excellent opportunities for cross WP working, sharing of scientific findings, identifying challenges and weaknesses in the work undertaken. Resulting discussions enable exploration of areas needing further work, differences in perspectives and exploration of papers that might emerge from the work undertaken. WP reports (reported separately) could also be finalised and discussions undertaken on the delivery of WP5.

Problems have been experienced in the working of the diverse project group due to the reliance on English as the project language, austerity within Europe which have resulted in problems recruiting early stage researchers, staff sickness, changes to university structures and the non-performance of the Indian partner, requiring their removal from the project as well as new Indian partners needing to be inducted into the project. It is likely that the project will not utilise all the travel months allocated due to these challenges. Whilst these difficulties impacted initially on the project, the Coordinating Committee and the team have broadly successfully met the objectives of the project.


Gary Spolander, (Principal Lecturer)
Tel.: +442476795831
Record Number: 192282 / Last updated on: 2016-12-15
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top