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20 Years of MSW – Sui Ting Kong

As we celebrate 20 years of the Master of Social Work (MSW), let’s meet Dr Sui Ting Kong, Associate Professor in Durham University’s Department of Sociology.

Please tell us about your role within Sociology/MSW and how did you become involved with MSW? 

I joined Durham University, the Department of Sociology, in 2017 as Assistant Professor in Social Work. I was the convenor of Social Work in Context, placement tutor and dissertation supervisor for MSW students until 2022. Currently, I am on the British Academy/Wolfson fellowship programme working with Hongkonger communities in the UK. Alongside which, I have worked with the British Association of Social Workers to co-produce an online programme for Overseas Qualified Social Workers which empowers social workers qualified overseas to register and practise in the UK. 

What is your research specialism / areas of interest? 

My cross-disciplinary (social work and sociology) work consists of two strands. The methodological strand focuses on developing new approaches and methods for undertaking research with social workers, service users and community members, to produce knowledge that is useful for service improvement and desirable social change. Major methodological innovations include 

• Cooperative Grounded Inquiry (2015) 

• Collaborative focused group analysis (2020), plus the use of theatre (2018) 

• Collaborative Practice Research for Social Work (2022) 

The conceptual strand focuses on developing concepts and theories to enhance our understanding of social work practice and gender-based violence in hyper-politized everyday lives. Major theoretical work includes 

• A relational model for care in the context of intimate partner violence 

• A relational personhood model in end-of-life care (rolled out in more than nine nursing homes in Hong Kong) 

• Hierarchical harmony and hierarchy of victimhood in politicised personal lives 

Why are you so passionate about Social Work and the work your department does? 

Social work is a profession underpinned by compassion for others and the ethics of social justice. These values align with our MSW programme which provides an enabling environment for individual students to thrive in both personal and professional lives.  

How does your work impact communities / the world around you? 

My work has led to some positive changes in the social work profession in  theUK and Hong Kong: 

  • During COVID-19, I co-founded the BASW UK Network for Social Work Practitioner Research for supporting knowledge exchange and coproduced research among social work practitioners and academic researchers. The Network is also the first national network that provides peer support for social work practitioner researchers in the UK.   
  • I developed CORE-UPHOLD, a relational personhood model for end-of-life care, with the Salvation Army in Hong Kong. It has been rolled out to more than nine nursing homes in Hong Kong as their standard practice to support dying older adults and their families. 
  • I co-produced the Overseas Qualified Social Worker Programme with the BASW, based on my research with Hongkonger diaspora social workers. This will support overseas qualified social workers in their transition to the social work workforce in the UK.  

What’s been your proudest moment working on the MSW? 

Our students shared their aspirations to become social workers, and referred to many other exemplary social workers who once helped them in their lives.  

What would you say to someone thinking about working in Social Work? 

We need more social workers who are also compassionate and skilful in supporting disadvantaged individuals and communities.  

How has your subject changed in the last 20 years? Or have the key fundamentals stayed the same? 

My work on social work practice during COVID-19 indicated the benefit of community work to deprived communities. If there is one thing that we could change about social work practice in the UK, it would have been reviving community work in the professional practice to rebuild trust between social workers and the individuals, families and communities that require support.

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