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A critical analysis of workforce development research use in the transformation of children’s services

Curran, Tillie; Oliver, Billie; Benjamin, Cathy


Tillie Curran
Associate Lecturer - CHSS - HSS - USLW0001

Billie Oliver

Cathy Benjamin


Summary: This article is based on a study commissioned to find out how agencies providing children’s services in England used workforce development research in the transformation of children’s services. Workforce development research is primarily about how new organisational practices are learnt, embedded and developed. Survey and case study methods provided broad and in-depth data that was mapped against a typology developed to capture a diverse range of research activities.
Findings: Three cross-cutting themes were identified from the analysis: the involvement of children and young people in workforce development research; the development of reflective practice; and the significance of inter-organisational learning cultures. Workforce development research can contribute to a creative culture of inquiry shaping change processes especially where both practitioners and children and young people are involved. In some specialist areas a lack of engagement was attributed to the demands of complex practice and bureaucracy, but in other similar contexts, learning cultures were evident.
Application: Accounts of learning cultures producing active concepts of childhood link with ‘new’ childhood studies and contrast with accounts of crisis management informed by individualised models of ‘problem families’ highlighted in critiques of neo-liberal forms of government. The study shows that this opposition is not an inevitable consequence of complex practice or service configuration per se, but is contingent on a range of supporting factors such as partnerships with universities. To strengthen the exponential impact of research use illustrated, a participatory approach to organisational research strategy is advanced.


Curran, T., Oliver, B., & Benjamin, C. (2014). A critical analysis of workforce development research use in the transformation of children’s services. Journal of Social Work, 14(4), 360-379.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Deposit Date Apr 19, 2013
Journal Journal of Social Work
Print ISSN 1468-0173
Electronic ISSN 1741-296X
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 4
Pages 360-379
Keywords children, research, reflective practice, user participation, social work
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