About us

The Family Potential Knowledge Exchange is collaboration between The University of Nottingham, The University of Birmingham, and The Open University. The Knowledge Exchange hosts research responding to the challenges facing contemporary policy and practice in relation to how to work innovatively with families, including looking at responses to international policy agendas and work with families who may be perceived as ‘troubled families’. The research is framed with an understanding that families are variously seen as both the problem and the solution. This tension presents challenges for service delivery and in providing coherent and effective strategies for engaging with the complex realities of family life.

The focus of the Family Potential Knowledge Exchange is to develop innovative ways of thinking family that cut across traditional domains of services and renegotiate traditional child/parent focused policy and practice. The Knowledge Exchange is responding to the dearth of research looking at a genuinely ‘whole family’ perspective. Through understanding the lived experience of families the Knowledge Exchange aims to develop service models; inform professional practice; and influence policy to enable strategies to develop and flourish that mobilise family strengths and potential.

Research themes

These are some indicative themes of work that the Family Potential Knowledge Exchange is interested in and engaged with. If you would like more information about any of these research agendas or are interested in contributing, please do not hesitate to get in touch:

  • Thinking Family: cross national comparisons in policy and practice
  • The impact of system design on professional practice
  • Models and practices for conceptualising and engaging with families, relational networks and communities i.e. Family Group Conferencing; Open Dialogue; Family and community engagement work; Restorative justice
  • Asset based approaches and models of intensive family support
  • Family-inclusive approaches across mental health, adults and children’s services
  • Lived experience of families facing complex challenges
  • Mental health, families and young people
  • Families, networks and communities
  • Families and caring relationships i.e. young carers, young adult carers, and caring where a member of the family may have a mental illness
  • Care, mutuality, resilience and wellbeing

Who we are

Research Core Group

Jerry Tew
Family Potential Research Centre Director / Professor of Mental Health and Social Work
University of Birmingham
Email: j.j.c.tew@bham.ac.uk

Kate Morris
Family Potential Co-Director / Professor in Social Work
University of Sheffield
Email: kate.morris@sheffield.ac.uk 

Brigid Featherstone
Professor of Social Work
University of Huddersfield
Email: b.m.featherstone@hud.ac.uk

Sue White
Professor of Social Work
University of Birmingham
Email: s.white.3@bham.ac.uk

Paula Doherty
Research Fellow, School of Social Policy
University of Birmingham
Email: p.doherty@bham.ac.uk

Sarah-Jane Fenton
Honorary Research Fellow, Family Potential Research Centre
University of Birmingham
Email: s.h.fenton@bham.ac.uk

Jessica Langston
Honorary Research Fellow / PhD Student in Social Work
University of Birmingham
Email: jxl788@student.bham.ac.uk


Saul Becker


Zoe Boden
Lecturer / Lead for Relatedness and Relationships in Mental Health
South Bank University
Email: z.boden@bham.ac.uk

Harriet Clarke
Senior Lecturer, Social Policy & Research
University of Birmingham
Email: h.clarke@bham.ac.uk

Matthew Gibson
Teaching Fellow
University of Birmingham
Email: m.j.gibson.1@bham.ac.uk

Clare Hill
Teaching Fellow
University of Birmingham
Email: c.j.hill@bham.ac.uk

Michael Larkin
Senior Lecturer in Psychology / Lead for Relatedness and Relationships in Mental Health
University of Birmingham
Email: m.larkin@bham.ac.uk

Feylyn Lewis
PhD Student in Social Work
University of Birmingham
Email: FML402@bham.ac.uk

Karen Newbigging
Senior Lecturer in Healthcare Policy and Management
University of Birmingham
Email: k.v.newbigging@bham.ac.uk

David Wastell
Emeritus Professor
University of Nottingham
Email: david.wastell@nottingham.ac.uk