Engaging the social work profession in the transnational professional space

Allen Bartley, Liz Beddoe and Shajimon Peter


This study is an Aotearoa New Zealand-wide participatory action research project involving all the significant stakeholders in the social work profession to develop an agreed-upon set of standards and expectations of context-specific professional and socio-cultural transitioning programmes for overseas-qualified social workers in New Zealand. This is the latest phase in our “Crossing Borders- Migrant Professionals study”. Our publications are listed here.

This project builds on growing national and international evidence that the increasing transnationalism of the social work profession has not been matched by a readiness of the profession’s key stakeholders to prepare adequately for the challenges of an increasingly transnational workforce.

The stakeholders involved in the project will include the professional bodies: ANZASW, the SWRB, the Tangata Whenua Social Workers Assocation, Tangata Whenua Voices, and also social work employers, specialist employment agencies and the Council for Social Work Education Aotearoa New Zealand (CSWEANZ). The research involves several phases, including a national stock-take across the profession of activities undertaken to address the challenges of the transnational professional space; an intensive series of workshops to disseminate initial findings and work with stakeholders to construct a range of potential responses to them; and an international colloquium to generate a robust, profession-wide set of standards for the cultural transitioning of transnational social workers, and to plan for the development of accredited learning platform for transnational social workers practising – or intending to practise – in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The project has a cumulative set of research objectives that can be framed as specific questions:

  1. How do the stakeholders in the Aotearoa New Zealand social work profession understand the contribution and needs of transnational social workers practising in Aotearoa New Zealand?
  2. What is actually being done across the profession to facilitate the successful integration of transnational social workers into local professional contexts?
  3. What is required to develop consistent standards across the profession with regard to the foundational local knowledge and cultural competence required of transnational social workers to practise in Aotearoa New Zealand, and what are the mechanisms by which the profession might produce and make available resources for capability-building towards those standards?
  4. How might stakeholders from across the Aotearoa New Zealand social work profession partner together to develop a major, multi-agency bid to design, develop, implement and evaluate a nationally-recognised and accredited learning platform for transnational social workers practising – or intending to practise – in Aotearoa New Zealand?

The project is funded by the University of Auckland Faculty Research Development Fund for two years commencing on the 1st of September, 2016. The research team consists of Dr Allen Bartley (lead investigator), Associate Professor Liz Beddoe (Co-investigator) and Dr Shajimon Peter (Research Fellow).

If you are interested  in discussing this research with us please contact me at e.beddoe@auckland.ac.nz

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Crossing Borders: Social work employers’ and managers’ perspectives of migrant social workers

The Crossing Borders Research team: new project in the UK
Allen Bartley

Dr Allen Bartley is an ‘embedded sociologist’ in the social work programme in the School of Counselling, Human Services & Social Work at the University of Auckland. He is part of a research team investigating the transnational dynamics of the social work workforce in New Zealand. Under the rubric ‘Crossing Borders,’ the team has conducted a study of overseas-qualified social workers practising in New Zealand, and a smaller study of New Zealand-qualified social workers practising in the Republic of Ireland. Two further studies are currently underway: a survey of returning transnational social workers in New Zealand, and a study of Auckland social work employers and professional managers about the practice implications (both challenges and opportunities) presented by the employment of migrant professionals in the local workforce.

As part of the Research On Workforce Mobility network (ROWM) at King’s College London, the Crossing Borders team has partnered with Dr Shereen Hussein, Principal Research Fellow at King’s, to replicate in London the study currently underway in Auckland. This involves interviewing social work employers and managers about their experiences of supervising foreign-qualified social workers practising in the local context. Ideally these participants will be drawn from both statutory and NGO organisations of varying sizes (from very small to very large), and across a range of fields of practice. It is expected that each interview will take 60-90 minutes, and will address their professional role; their experiences with overseas-qualified social workers; and their observations on the transnational dynamics of the profession in London and beyond.

The aim of all of these studies is to conceptualise social work as operating in a transnational professional space, and to better understand the dynamics of the transnational professional space as it impacts on the social work workforce, employers, the wider profession, and service-users and their communities. Recent publications from the ‘Crossing Borders’ research programme are below.

This study has received ethical approval from King’s College London REP/13/14-80.

Fouché, C., Beddoe, L., Bartley, A., & Brenton, N. (2013). Strengths and struggles: Overseas qualified social workers’ experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand. Australian Social Work, 1-16. doi:10.1080/0312407x.2013.783604

Fouché, C., Beddoe, L., Bartley, A., & de Haan, I. (2013). Enduring professional dislocation: Migrant social workers’ perceptions of their professional roles. British Journal of Social Work. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bct054

Bartley, A., Beddoe , L., Fouché , C. B., & Harington, P. (2012). Transnational social workers: Making the profession a transnational professional space. International Journal of Population Research, vol. 2012 (Article ID 527510), 11pp. doi:10.1155/2012/527510

Beddoe, L., Fouché, C., Bartley, A., & Harington, P. (2011) Migrant social workers’ experience in New Zealand: education and supervision issues. Social Work Education, 1-20. First published 11 November 2011 doi:10.1080/02615479.2011.633600

Bartley, A., Beddoe, L., Duke, J., Fouché, C., Harington, P. R. J., & Shah, R. (2011). Crossing Borders: Key features of migrant social workers in New Zealand. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 23(3), 16-30.

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Kiwis on the move

A new article from the Crossing Borders team of researchers

Beddoe, L., & Fouché, C. B. (2014). ‘Kiwis on the Move’: New Zealand Social Workers’ Experience of Practising Abroad. British Journal of Social Work. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcu049

Over the last decade, global workforce shortages have seen governments seek to recruit social work practitioners offshore; as a consequence, increasingly, mobile practitioners are navigating the opportunities and challenges posed by working and living in countries other than where they obtained their professional qualifications. This article reports a small exploratory study describing the experiences of ten social workers who qualified in New Zealand but who were practising in England, Scotland or Ireland during 2010–11. While differences in community, work and professional cultures pose challenges, the opportunity such travel provides for reflection on cultural and professional differences is found to be at the heart of participants’ overall positive experiences.

Please contact Liz at e.beddoe@auckland.ac.nz for more info.


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An update on the Coming Home survey

Our Coming Home survey went live last week and we’re pleased to say that responses are starting to trickle in.

We’re very grateful that in this time of unbelievably complicated caseloads, busy and committed social workers still have enough interest and commitment to wider professional issues to contribute to such a study.

If you are a New Zealand social worker who has practised social work overseas and subsequently returned back to practice in Aotearoa New Zealand again, we’d love to hear about your experiences. On the header of this blog you can read participant information and find out about the researchers who make up the Crossing Borders research team. You can contact us here – see ‘About’ for a contact form or leave a comment on the blog and we’ll get back to you very soon:

And if you want to do the survey now you can click here and we estimate it will take you about 20-30 minutes.

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