My name is Lisa Morriss and I am a qualitative researcher in the Sociology Department at Lancaster University. I currently work on two interesting research studies: the Nuffield Supervision Orders and Special Guardianship project and the Nuffield Recurrent Care project. I qualified as a social worker in 1995 and worked in Community Mental Health teams in London and Manchester until 2005.
After taking some time out for childcare reasons, I wanted to return to work to do something that fitted in around my family. I was looking in the Guardian on a Wednesday for social work posts when I noticed an advert for a PhD Studentship which required a qualification in social work. Not really knowing what a studentship was but having always been a geeky bookish type, I decided to apply and ended up being invited for an interview. Due to administrative confusions, I had only been notified of this interview the day before and so had one evening to develop a research proposal. I thought about the question that had puzzled me most since becoming a qualified social worker: when I met other social workers, why was it that I thought ‘she’s such a social worker’ or, conversely, ‘she’s so not a social worker’? I imagined telling the Professor that this was what I wanted to research and how he would laugh at such a bizarre and non-academic proposal.
Again turning to my experience as a social worker in mental health teams, the research proposal that I eventually presented was to examine how mental health social workers sustain a social work identity when seconded to Health Trusts – with a particular focus on the introduction of the Approved Mental Health Professional role under the Mental Health Act 2007. During the four years of the PhD, I fell in love with an approach called ethnomethodology which in the end allowed me to answer my original research question about the co-accomplishment of social work identity.
One of the best parts of doing the PhD is that I met Jadwiga. We share a common passion in wanting to explore what social work identity means and what it is to practice as a social worker. We also have a shared interest in the use of visual and creative methodologies. These interests meant that we always wanted to work together on a project about social work using visual methods – and finally, we have! The idea for ‘experiencing the social work world’ developed from our discussions over a number of years. I was lucky enough to win some funding from the Institute of Social Futures and we were thus able to buy the materials for the project to go ahead. Suffice to say that the workshop exceeded our expectations, mainly due to the brilliant social work practitioners who gave up their Saturday to come create art works with our artist, Matthew Morriss. Their work blew us away and we can’t wait for you all to see it when we exhibit the work at the People’s History Museum from 8th of April to the 18th of June 2017.