Practice Research in Social Work – Producing Robust Knowledge

May 30-31, 2012, Helsinki, Finland

**** The 3rd International Conference on Practice Research in New York, June 9-11, 2014 ****


There is a growing recognition that research in professional practice needs approaches that better reflect the character practice. This raises questions such as: How do we conduct research in practice? What are the interests driving knowledge creation? What are the strengths and limitations of current approaches to knowledge production?

This conference aims to explore different approaches to practice research, highlighting the everyday architecture of practice research, the iterative nature of knowledge production processes and the implications for professional knowledge of different theoretical assumptions underpinning practice.

Development in science and social transformation has been discussed in terms of significant shifts in understanding such as the enlightenment and the linguistic turn. More recently there has been increased interest in ‘the practice turn’ – the idea that society changes through practices that direct our thinking and action – reflected in increased interest in research design, the relationship of science and technology, evaluation, information systems and research and innovation. In social work there are several examples of this increased interest in practice. The strengthening of practice perspectives, for instance, can be seen in the development of practice research institutes and teaching within the University of Helsinki.

Practice research entails carrying out rigorous and worthwhile research, and making sure that the outcomes are relevant in and for practice while at the same time expanding and promoting generic knowledge. It combines: an interest in describing, explaining and theorising practice; using knowledge as a means of improving practice; and working with practitioners and service users to test and explore new ways of working.

An earlier conference on practice research took place in June 2008 in Salisbury, UK. The conference brought together a group of interested academics and professionals (organised by SPRING – the Southampton Practice Research Initiative Network Group) in Salisbury, UK, to formulate an international statement on practice research. The group comprised researchers and practitioners from a range of countries (the Nordic countries, Italy, Canada, the USA, Israel, Singapore, and the UK). This group formed the backbone of the group known as the “Salisbury Forum”. The group comprised primarily professionals from the social work discipline but tried to formulate a statement which might be applied more broadly in all professions where the research of practice is important. The statement was the subject of a special issue of the online journal ‘Social Work and Society’ in 2011. The statement was published in this special issue.


The conference is organized by:

Department of Social Research, Social Work, University of Helsinki

National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)

The Finnish Society of Social Work Research

The Mathilda Wrede Institute/ FSKC – The Swedish Centre of Excellence on Social Welfare in Finland

The Heikki Waris Institute/ Socca – The Centre of Excellence on Social Welfare in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area

The Nordplus Network on Knowledge Production in Social Work


Scientific committee:

Michael J. Austin, University of California, Berkeley

Tony Evans, Royal Holloway, University of London

Ritva Engeström, University of Helsinki

Jan Fook, Dalhousie University & Royal Holloway, University of London

Göran Goldkuhl, University of Linköping

Joan Orme, University of Glasgow

Gillian Ruch, University of Southampton

Mirja Satka, University of Jyväskylä

Jill Thistlethwaite, University of Queensland



The Finnish Work Environment Fund (Työsuojelurahasto)

Federation of Finnish Learned Societies (Tieteellisten seurain valtuuskunta)