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Institute of Advanced Study

Dr Merlinda Weinberg

COFUND Senior Research Fellow at St Mary's College (April - June 2017)

Weinberg has received national and international recognition for her work. Two of her most substantial research projects are exemplars of this epistemological synthesis. The 3 year SSHRC grant entitled Ethics in Social Work Practice analyzed the practice experiences of social work practitioners, linking individual and social-political aspects of ethics and ethical relationships. This linkage extended our knowledge related to ethics by integrating critical thinking with ethical analysis, especially analysis that challenges the decontextualized nature of ethical codes and linear ethical decision making processes. Similarly the project on which she is currently a co-investigator (Process of Processes of Inclusion and Exclusion: The experience of ‘minority’ professionals in law, social work and academia) will advance our understanding of the intersection of positionality (race, class, gender etc.) with the complexity of ethical problem definition and the resolution of ethical tensions.

Towards a Critical Contextualised Ethics for Social Work

Background: Professional ethics is a major area of interest, given concerns about liability in a risk-averse society, and the needs for ethics training for licensure. Although there are many textbooks on social work ethics, the dominant approach centres on principle-based codes of ethics and linear decision-making models. The collaborators believe an approach that is empirical and grounded in the contextual reality of practice is a preferred process for ethical deliberation and implementation.

Aim: The proposed project is a collaboration between Merlinda Weinberg and Sarah Banks, Durham. The aim is to develop a critical, contextualized theoretical approach to ethics for social work, resulting in a co-authored monograph. The book will critique the traditional method, emphasise the interrelationship in ethics between structural inequities and individual responsibility, and will develop strategies for practicing ethically in an era of fiscal constraints.

Objectives will include reviewing the literature on contextualised ethics, developing and conducting dialogue workshops with professionals regarding models for resolving ethical problems, writing one chapter of the monograph, and offering presentations of Dr. Weinberg’s research.