Meet social work’s top bloggers no.10: Martin Webber

Social work academic Martin Webber on bridging the gap between social work practice and research and how he nearly got the sack for playing hide and seek

Picture credit: www.martinwebber.net
Picture credit: www.martinwebber.net

What’s your name or pseudonym?

The only pseudonym I use is @mgoat73 for my Twitter username. It’s brief, so saves some of the 140 characters for more interesting things, and reminds me of when I had time for hilly bike rides. It also reveals that I have a big birthday coming up this year. Cryptic? Yes, I know.

Where can we find you on the Twitter/blogosphere?

I blog at martinwebber.net and, as just mentioned, can be found on Twitter @mgoat73.

What three words would best describe your blog?

Not terribly exciting. (I’m not a very good self-critic)

What’s your role in social care?

I’m a social work researcher and educator at the University of York. My job title is ‘Reader in Social Work’ which means I’ve not quite worn out the elbows of my tweed jackets to earn the title of ‘professor’ just yet.

Why did you start blogging/tweeting?

I started to take it seriously in 2011. A very prominent social media expert, Shirley Ayres, kept prompting me to get involved so I eventually gave in and gave it a go.

If you could recommend one of your blog posts to social workers what would it be?

One of the central aims of martinwebber.net is to bridge the gap between social work academia and practice. I use it to disseminate findings of studies in an accessible format for practitioners.

Blogging engages people in conversations about research and shares findings sometimes long before they are published in peer reviewed journals.

One recent example of this is the 2012 national survey of Approved Mental Health Professionals which we disseminated via the blog and other social media as soon as it was finished.

Can you recommend a social care blog?

There are lots I can recommend, but a good starting place are research centre blogs. Three I’d recommend are:

Social Care Workforce Research Unit (King’s College London)
Social Policy Research Unit (University of York)
Health and Social Care (London School of Economics)

Favourite non-social care blog?

The Royal Society for the Arts blogs cover a variety of fascinating topics which get you thinking creatively about social problems. If you want to broaden your mind and think outside of the box, the RSA blogs come highly recommended.

What’s the strangest/funniest thing you’ve seen in your job?

The funniest time was when I almost wet myself with laughter in a teaching session. I was in India leading a research methodology workshop for social workers, nurses and researchers.

We did a session on randomised controlled trials and thought it would be fun to do a trial within the session to exemplify the method. We randomly allocated half of the group to go for a gentle walk outside and the other half did interactive and fun exercises led by a co-facilitator.

We then ran the teaching session with one facilitator observing the students to see how many nodded off during the session. We did a quick analysis of our findings at the end and found a statistically significant difference between the groups.

Interactive and fun exercises before a teaching session prevent students falling asleep. Proven. There you go. That’s the sort of thing I find fun, which proves how much of a geek I am.

I could also tell you about the time I nearly got the sack for playing hide and seek in the university, but you’ll just have to hunt that story down on my blog.

What one tip would you give to NQSWs or people thinking about becoming social workers?

Don’t become a social worker unless you have a passion for it – it is a vocation, not a job.

What’s your most hated jargon in your job?

All the words we use to describe the people we work with – ‘service users’, ‘customers’, ‘clients’ etc etc. We are all people.

What’s your biggest social work hope for 2013?

That The College of Social Work will strengthen with elected board members and begin to make an impact on the profession.

What’s your biggest social work fear for 2013?

That mental health social work will be perceived as little more than a sectioning service and our intervention potential will not be fully realised.

Best biscuit for a tea break?

Anything with chocolate to bring a vague sense of well-being to my day. That shouldn’t sound as depressing as it does!

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