Knowledge Exchange

Family inclusive policy and practice

The Knowledge Exchange provided a platform for learning, inspiration and cross-fertilisation of ideas between academics and those involved in taking forward family oriented practice, services and collaborations. Our starting point was that, for many people, resolving difficulties and reclaiming a ‘life worth living’ depends on having particular sorts of supportive relationships with family and significant others.

Since the Cabinet Office’s focus on ‘Think Family’ in 2007, there have been a range of exciting developments in family inclusive policy and practice across different service sectors. Some of these have been high profile such as the Troubled Families programme, while others have been taking place somewhat ‘under the radar’ within existing services.

Many of these initiatives share a vision that working with families and social networks can bring together a more effective resource for supporting (and ensuring the safety of) vulnerable adults and young people, and also in providing the ‘glue’ that can underpin wider social inclusion and community development initiatives. However, such innovatory activity has often been in the face of other policy drivers and ways of working that can make it very difficult to see beyond the immediate needs (and risks) posed by individuals.

While there is a substantial body of evidence that indicates that ‘whole family’ approaches can be successful in promoting positive outcomes for families, there are still ‘some notable limitations to the evidence base’ (DCLG, 2012) – particularly in terms of what may work for whom and in what contexts. Alongside this, there may be a need for a clearer theoretical grounding by which to ‘think family’ and hence to conceptualise issues, resources and mechanisms of change within a relational whole family perspective.

In conjunction with a range of partners in the field, the Family Potential Research Centre brought together a range of stakeholders and shared the latest research on ‘whole family’ thinking and practice – connecting with the front-line experience of those who are implementing such approaches across different sectors. Out of this exchange, we hoped to provide useful and accessible knowledge for policy makers, practitioners, commissioners and services.

Knowledge Exchange seminars hosted by the Family Potential Research Centre

Map to show the spread of participants attending the ESRC Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series hosted by the Family Potential Research Centre 2015-2016.

28/04/2016 – Widening the circle: Re-thinking family support in safeguarding

This seminar explored the relationship of whole-family working and approaches to safeguarding. The day was a mix of theoretical and practice focused discussions and an exciting opportunity to hear innovative local, national and international developments.

15/01/2016 – Models and practices for engaging with families, relational networks and communities

The third in a series of Knowledge Exchange seminars. This seminar focused on exploring approaches that are genuinely democratic in terms of sharing power with (and within) family and social networks. This can involve both a relentless search for the potentials and capabilities within relational networks, and also a recognition that these may also be the site of past (or current) trauma or abuse, or failure to recognize, protect or support individuals within them. The Seminar offered a mix of theoretical and practice focused discussions and featured current developments including: Family Group Conferencing and its application in children’s and adults’ settings; Open Dialogue – a radical relationally focused approach in mental health; Community and asset-based approaches to enabling families in adversity.

23/10/2015 – Family minded policy and practice: thinking differently about families, services and systems

The second in a series of Knowledge Exchange seminars. This seminar focused on how services and systems consider families and work to engage them in different contexts. The seminar further included discussion of: caring, resilience and wellbeing, community perspectives and restorative practice. Contributions from Paul Nixon (Chief Social Worker, New Zealand); family members from ‘Your Family Your Voice’; Moana Eruera (Maori Advisor, New Zealand Government); and Professor Gale Burford (Emeritus Professor, University of Vermont and leading FGC researcher).

22/06/2015 – What happened to ‘Think Family’? Taking stock of developments in policy and practice

The first in a series of Knowledge Exchange seminars, this seminar focused on sharing experience from practice, what we can learn from this, and what may be interesting areas for further research and development. Contributions from Professor Kate Morris (University of Nottingham), Dr Jerry Tew (University of Birmingham), Professor Andrew Pithouse (Cardiff University), Rachael Wardell (Berkshire County Council), Stephen Goodman (Morning Lane Associates), Deirdre Lewis (BIG Manchester/Improving Futures) and from young carers’ initiatives. 

Visit our Previous events page for more details such as presentation slides and audio files. 

Other Knowledge Exchange activities hosted by the Family Potential Research Centre

Connecting with existing learning, development and evaluation work within organisations

In addition to facilitating and hosting these seminars, we collated and shared examples of existing practice-based knowledge within partner organisations (see information from our KE affiliates), including evaluations of innovative services and distilling practice-based understandings as to what does and does not work.

We hosted a web-based Knowledge Exchange that offered:

  • An opportunity to showcase the work of partner organisations
  • An interactive space in which to share ideas and work in progress
  • The development of user-friendly resoures for the wider policy and practice community
  • Links to other related networks and programmes (e.g. Big Lottery ‘Improving Futures’)

More information

If you would like to receive more information on any of these activities, then please contact Ann Bolstridge,