U21 Symposium - Strengths Based Practice in Social Work & Social Care

Social workers have aspired to demonstrate strengths based practice with children, adults and families since the publication in the early 1990s of the seminal text by Dennis Saleebey at the University of Kansas. Its principles are widely accepted within the profession and reflected in many contemporary social work models. Many countries have embedded these within good practice guidance and legislative requirements.

Despite this common aspiration, there remain challenges across the world in consistently applying such principles in day-to-day social work practice. There also remains significant gaps in our understanding of the impact of different models within alternative contexts and to develop strength based practice within qualifying and professional development programmes.

The Social Work Community of Practice of the Universitas 21 network of universities is therefore organising a virtual symposium to share latest evidence, practice and thinking regarding strengths based practice. Alongside speakers from research and teaching, the symposium will provide an opportunity to discuss future collaboration between the U21 members around this important topic.

Early career academics are encouraged to attend alongside those more established in their teaching and research careers. The symposium is open to anyone affiliated with a member university of Universitas 21.

Talks will include:

Family Outcomes Recognition and Change: the contribution that Family Group Conferencing (FGC) makes towards child and family outcomes where a child/ren in the family is at risk of being accommodated into state care

 Dr Mary Mitchell (University of Edinburgh) has over thirty years professional experience in social work and community work, with a particular emphasis on work with children, young people and families. Mary has worked extensively in the voluntary, non-government and government sectors in both Australia and Scotland.  

Leading Strengths Based Practice: the development of a reflective programme to support social work practice leaders to demonstrate the leadership behaviours that foster strength based approaches with children, adults and families.

Professor Robin Miller (University of Birmingham) is an applied health and social care academic with an interest in leadership, innovation and collaboration. Robin has developed and delivered leadership programmes for practitioners, managers and partnerships, and has researched widely the implementation of strength-based practice.

Bringing strengths-based concepts into a multi-disciplinary, post-disaster research project

Professor Lou Harms (University of Melbourne) is interested in trauma and resilience, in the health, disability and post-disaster contexts of social work practice. Her research is informed by strengths-based approaches, leading to a focus on how individuals and communities can live with and thrive in the face of adversity.

Teaching solution focused work: Harnessing student social workers’ helping instinct

Dr. Hilda Loughran (University College Dublin) has been teaching counselling skills to social work students for over thirty years. Her experience working with people accessing addiction services led to her belief in the importance of a strengths perspective.


Gap-mending Strategies in Social Work Education, Practice and Research.

Associate professors Marcus Knutagård and Arne Kristiansen together with Cecilia Heule (Lund University) have been developing gap-mending strategies within a course on the social work programme to increase service user influence in social work education, practice and research. Their work is based on a strengths perspective and on theories of intergroup contact.

The Strengths Based Practice symposium will be run twice to accommodate different time zones. Information about how to register is included below.


Event start date
18 May, 07:00
Event end date
18 May, 09:00
How to register

The Strengths Based Practice symposium will be run twice (on Tuesday 18th May and Wednesday 19th May) to accommodate different time zones.

Tuesday 18th May from 7:00 to 9:00 hours (UK) – to register please follow this link:  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/strengths-based-practice-in-social-work-social-care-tickets-151063594277

Wednesday 19th May from 12:00 to 14:00 hours (UK) - – to register please follow this link:  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/strengths-based-practice-in-social-work-social-care-tickets-151064743715


For further information regarding this seminar and the wider work of the Social Work Community of Practice please contact Professor Robin Miller, Director of Global Engagement for College of Social Sciences, University of Birmingham. Email R.S.Miller@bham.ac.uk