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Centre seeks partners to help design studies on workforce wellbeing

11 January 2019

Press Release

The What Works Centre for Children's Social Care is looking for expressions of interest from prospective partners to develop research studies aimed at helping people working in children's social care, especially social workers, to be happier and healthier

Employee health and wellbeing is increasingly recognised as a core ingredient in achieving any organisation’s goals, and social work faces particular challenges with worker stress, sickness absence and turnover. To support the profession, we’re collaborating with academic researchers from the Harvard Business School, University College London and beyond, to understand how to support and increase the health, happiness and productivity of social workers in England.

We are seeking potential partners to help us design a study investigating what works best to help social workers achieve success in their work and happiness in their lives. We’re looking for input at an early stage from social workers, social work managers and senior leaders to ensure that we design research informed by the people most affected by these issues. We also want to learn from strategies that local authorities, voluntary sector organisations and other social work employers already have in place to promote the wellbeing and productivity of their workers.

Michael Sanders, the Centre’s Executive Director, said: “We’re really excited about launching this partnership programme to bring together organisations working in children’s social care with world-leading academics specialising in workplace wellbeing. You can’t have children’s social care without the people making things happen every day, so working out how to help professionals become happier and healthier is an essential element of What Works.”

To carry out this research, the Centre will be collaborating with Professor Ashley Whillans, Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School, one of the world’s leading experts on workplace happiness research. This study will draw on learning from behavioural science to explore how we can improve a wide range of work-related outcomes for social workers in England, including job satisfaction and engagement, productivity, work/life balance, work-related stress, turnover, and other factors that impact on workforce wellbeing.

What involvement in the design stage will look like
We are asking for expressions of interest to work with us in this initial design phase to be submitted by 15 January. We will then work with the selected partners who will take part in the design stage, participating in workshops and providing feedback on written documents outlining the possible research that could be undertaken. This work will take place between February and March 2019.

Next stage: delivering the research
Once the studies have been designed in collaboration with partners we will issue a fuller Request For Proposals in Spring. Through this work, research study partners will have the opportunity to be leaders in using evidence-based policy to promote healthier and happier workplaces for children’s social care professionals.

Organisations who become research study partners will need to give researchers access to anonymous data and agree to the results of the research being published (details will be specified in a partnership agreement). Once trials have been concluded, organisations will receive detailed analysis of the findings and how they can apply this to their organisation.
Organisations should note that it will be possible for partners to participate in the research delivery if they haven’t been involved in the design stage. However, prior involvement is likely to be an advantage at the Request for Proposals stage (outlined below).

Timeline of work
January – February 2019: Interested organisations will be invited to participate in introductory phone calls and webinars with the research team to discuss the scope of the work, the input and feedback we are seeking at this stage, and there will be an opportunity to ask questions.

February – March: The research studies will be designed in collaboration with the selected partner organisations.
March: Request for Proposals: Following the design stage, we will publish an open call for partner organisations to partake in the research. This will provide a more detailed specification, including the amount of funding available to support implementation and research delivery.

April: Research studies begin, with partnership duration varying depending on goals of the specific studies and research methods involved, concluding before March 2020.

How to get involved
If you are interested in helping us design these exciting research studies, please email wwccsc@nesta.org.uk by no later than 5pm on the 21 January 2019.

Please state in your email:

  1. The lead contact for this work, including their job role, email address and phone number.
  2. Availability for a phone call in the week starting 21 January.
  3. A description of your organisation (no more than one page in length).