Bridging the gap between social work and community development: implementing a post-graduate training partnership

Fergal O’Brien, Isobel Hawthorne-Steele, Katheryn Margaret Pascoe, Rosemary Moreland, Erik Cownie, Campbell Killick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Downloads (Pure)


Although, arguably, the origins of social work in the UK have been closely aligned to community development in the past few decades, social work has occupied a bureaucratic landscape focusing primarily on individual risks and needs, leading to both fields drifting further apart. Dismantling of shared values and practices was fueled by layers of government policy and legislation, driven by a neoliberal agenda and public management reforms. However, a horizon of hope emerged when university staff in Social Work and Community Development Departments in Northern Ireland were approached to examine the need to reintroduce community development principles and practices into social work training. This paper aims to trace the development of a post-graduate diploma in community development approaches for professional social workers and analyses research that explores community development as the essence of social work. The programme was developed through a synergistic partnership between university, health trusts and the professional awarding body. Tracking 4 years of programme delivery, the paper highlights the effectiveness of, and learning from, collaboration between the two professions at strategic, technical, and operational levels. We posit here well-learned lessons for future collaborations and make recommendations providing a route map to mainstreaming community development in social work practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Work Education
Early online date25 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 25 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Social work education
  • community development
  • post-graduate training
  • values
  • radical social work


Dive into the research topics of 'Bridging the gap between social work and community development: implementing a post-graduate training partnership'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this