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Durham University

Policy, Professions and Communities Research Group


Professor Sarah Banks, MA, MSW, PhD

Professor in the Department of Sociology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41497
Room number: 29 Old Elvet: Room 206
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41497

Contact Professor Sarah Banks (email at


Sarah Banks has a background in community development and worked in the voluntary sector and local authority social services before joining Durham University. Her degrees are in philosophy, social history and social work. Her research interests include professional ethics, community development and community-based participatory research.

She initiated the European Social Ethics Project - a group of academics from various countries who have undertaken research and curriculum development work on the theme of teaching practical ethics for the social professions. She has been involved in developing and revising codes of ethics for several national and international bodies, including The National Youth Agency, International Federation of Social Workers and the British Association of Social Workers.

Sarah supervises PhD students who are exploring aspects of community development work, youth work, ethics and policy practice in social work. She welcomes applications from intending PhD students in the fields of professional ethics, practitioner values and motivations, and community development. She is also keen to encourage postgraduate research projects that take a participatory action research approach.

Sarah is co-director of the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action at Durham University. She was founding co-editor of the journal, Ethics and Social Welfare.

Recently published books include the fourth edition of Ethics and Values in Social Work ( also translated into Japanse and Chinese) the edited collection Ethical Issues in Youth Work (2nd edition); Ethics in Professional Life: Virtues for Health and Social Care (co-authored with Ann Gallagher) and the edited collection: Practising Social Work Ethics around the World: Cases and Commentaries (co-edited with Kirsten Nøhr). Recent research projects include work on civic participation and community development, household debt and community organising, faith and bioethics, co-inquiry action research, ethical challenges in community-based participatory research.

Read about the Connected Communities research project, Imagine

Action research with Thrive Teesside on high cost credit in poor households 

Work on ethics in community-based participatory research

Selected Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

Other (Digital/Visual Media)


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Research Interests

  • Professional ethics, community development, community-based participatory research.

Research Groups

Research Projects

Teaching Areas

  • Teaching includes BA module on Communities and Social Justice; MA module on Participatory Action Research; Doctoral training course on Participatory Action Research


Selected Grants

  • 2012: Tackling ethical issues and dilemmas in community-based participatory research
  • 2010: Co-inquiry Action Research Project
  • 2009: Evaluation of Myplace
  • 2008: Making ends meet: action research on sustainable livelihoods. Wolfson Research Institute.
  • 2007: Valuing diversity, exploring faith and culture, funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation
  • 2005: Promoting the Social Inclusion of Young People: The Role of Faith Communities, research grant awarded in partnership with Churches Regional Commission in the North East, from Big Lottery Research Grants Programme, £217,870
  • 2002: Ordinary ethics: the moral evaluation of the new genetics by non-professionals - funded by Wellcome Trust
  • 2001: Evaluation of Durham County Council's Community Support Unit and Member Area Panels, 2001-2004
  • 2001: Evaluation of Empowering Communities Scheme (region-wide SRB6 scheme), 2001-2004
  • 2001: Study of capacity of youth work services to engage with Wellcome Trust’s Medicine in Society programme, Wellcome Trust
  • 1998: Community Capacity Building Research (£10,000, Groundwork East Durham)

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Social sciences: Professional ethics, particularly in social work, youth work and community work.
  • Social sciences: Community and youth work: Community development work; community engagement/participation/empowerment