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Faculty of Social Work Research Forum

Laurier's Faculty of Social Work annual research forum aims to showcase research activity, knowledge and skills within the Laurier Social Work community and promotes the benefits of social work research. Many thanks to all who share their research expertise, the organizers and those who attend for making this forum a success.


  • Arrival and refreshments: 8:15-8:45 a.m., FSW auditorium
  • Welcome and introductions: 8:45-9 a.m., FSW auditorium
  • Keynote address: 9-10 a.m., FSW auditorium.
    • Maria Liegghio, Associate Professor, Social Work, York University
  • Break: 10-10:15 a.m.
  • First session10:15-11 a.m.
    • Room 108: Jill K. Stoddart, Leyco M. Wilson and Veronica Franco
    • Room 203: Amy Joyce Shuttleworth
    • Room 201: Julie Mason
  • Break: 11-11:15 a.m.
  • Second session11:15-noon
    • Room 108: Ginette Lafrenière
    • Room 203: Kathleeth McTavish
    • Room 201: Christine Wildman and Jennifer Root
    • Room 210: Rose Torres and Dionisio Nyaga

The forum is concluded at the end of the second breakout session.


Keynote Speaker

Maria Liegghio, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, York University

Is it “Research-Based Practice” or “Practice-Based Research”?: My Thoughts on the Integration of Research and Practice

In this presentation, I discuss my journey towards understanding the importance of research and practice, not as competing or separate but rather, as integrated social work mandates. In it, I describe an “epistemological crisis” I had as a frontline “practitioner” that propelled me towards becoming a “researcher”. I provide my thoughts on the importance of integrating research and practice and call for a “research practice” that centres the situated knowledge(s) of the people whose lives we are sanctioned to “help”, “support”, and “intervene” as social workers. I conclude by describing a research initiative where I have been exploring police encounters in children’s mental health.

First Session

Jill K. Stoddart, Leyco M. Wilson and Veronica Franco

The Child and Youth Resilience Project

The Resilience Project is a recent Family and Children’s Services collaborative project that aims to provide realistic and effective opportunities to children and youth, to help them develop essential protective factors important to enhance their life skills, reduce challenging behaviours, improve relationships with family members, and play a productive role within the community through arts, recreational, and other skill building programs.

Recruitment to the programs was facilitated through referrals from child protection workers (for children who are involved in Family and Children’s Services), or through the programs being open to the public for referral. A mixed method approach to data collection was utilized. To assess children and youth’s resilience, a common measurement (the 40 developmental assets) was used across programs (n = 104). The scale is composed of eight subscales: four, which are internal assets (exist within the person) including Positive Values, Commitment to Learning, Social Competencies, and Positive Identity; four, which are external assets (exist outside the person) including Use of Time, Empowerment, Boundaries and Expectations, Support. Additionally, we invited participants (n = 46) to participate in a semi- structured interview. We used grounded theory to understand what meaning participants gave to the resilience programs in their lives with regards to resilience.

Collectively across the array of programs offered, we found support that programs were able to help increase sense of security, sense of belonging, use of strengths to face adversities, and parental resilience. Infographics and storyboard videos were used as communication strategies in this project.

Amy Joyce Shuttleworth

Going Beyond the Best Insufficient Option: An Exploration of Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives Within Two Non-Profit Social Welfare Organizations in Ontario

Facing a backdrop of decreased government funds and an increasing need for services, social service non-profit organizations are struggling to survive and provide services to their communities. One proposed solution to this financial struggle is to generate revenue through social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. This study explored whether the hybrid social enterprise model would offer a viable solution for non-profit organizations.

Two non-profit organizations in Ontario engaging in social enterprise formed the basis for this case study. Fifteen semi-structured interviews took place with five participants from each organization and five key informants. Adopting a hybrid social enterprise model, the two organizations studied received revenue from three main sources: government, private donors, and social enterprise.

This study illustrates that these organizations have managed to broaden their service offering through their social enterprise initiatives and thus provide resources and services for their clients which might not otherwise have been available. A significant finding was that social enterprise has provided these organizations with financial stability, ensuring sustainability for their organizational operations. Additional findings included the supports and challenges that the organizations face when working with the state. Furthermore, the interplay and tensions between the three funding sources was explored and analysed. As a result of this study, a greater understanding was gained of the barriers that non-profit organizations face in developing a social enterprise and the steps that they can take to contribute towards their success.

Julie Mason

Exploring the Discourses of Compulsive Hair-Pulling: A Body-Mapping Study

This study investigates the experiences of people who live with compulsive hair-pulling (which is sometimes diagnosed as the OCD-Related Disorder, Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour, "Trichotillomania”). This study focuses in on the meanings that are derived from the interactions that people with compulsive hair-pulling experience with social discourses surrounding mental illness, physical appearance, and behaviour. This qualitative exploration is guided by anti-oppressive practice and uses an arts-based method called Body-Map Storytelling (also known as "body mapping"). In focus group format, people are invited to describe their knowledge, experiences, and journey visually on a life-sized tracing of their own body over five consecutive weekly sessions. The end result of these sessions is a life-sized depiction of each person's visual telling of their story, which has been co-created within the context of guided facilitation through the sessions. Julie will discuss data collection and prospective analysis strategies in anticipation of the conclusion of the study sessions at the end of November.

As a member of the hair-pulling community herself, Julie will discuss the road that led her to this research, and the implications of her personal embeddedness within the study topic. Julie will discuss her study design process and the interconnectedness of anti-oppressive practice and arts-based inquiry. She will share insights from her reflexive journey as she navigates the often-challenging and always-vulnerable dance of wearing MSW student, researcher, and compulsive hair-puller hats.

Second Session

Ginette Lafrenière

Creating Spaces for Small Voices: Knowledge Dissemination Through Visual and Theatrical Avenues

Arts based social development is a medium which is cogent with community based research initiatives, particularly ones which involve members of vulnerable populations. In this presentation, Dr. Lafrenière will present several film clips of documentaries and other forms of artistic expressions which she produced in tandem with community partners and survivors of gendered and sexual violence. Knowledge dissemination via creative avenues will be the focus of this presentation and a discussion on the legitimacy of this method of communicating data results will be debated within an open dialogue with attendees.

Kathleen McTavish

Thinking Broadly about the Dimensions of Permanency: Relationship-Based Research and Why it Matters

Finding safe, stable and permanent homes is a high priority for child welfare agencies. The Permanency Project is a research partnership between Family and Children’s Services of Guelph and Wellington County and Wilfrid Laurier University. This longitudinal study follows young people for five years after they have been placed in a permanent home. Using mixed methods, this study explores how young people are faring in relation to the established dimensions of permanency -- legal certainty, safe and stable placement, lifelong connections and knowing one’s life story.

This presentation focuses on the voices of young placed people. It compares and contrasts what young people are saying about permanency with the established notions of permanency. We discuss strategies for communicating our findings in ways that encourage and challenge workers and systems of child welfare and how nurtured relationships based on the values of commitment, generosity and honesty are essential.

Christine Wildman and Jennifer Root

Different, but the Same?: Exploring Experiences of Intimate Partner Violence among Brantford’s LGBTQ+ Community

Based on 30 years of research, it is widely accepted that intimate partner violence (IPV) impacts gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals in differing, yet extremely harmful ways. Barrett and St. Pierre’s (2013) nationally representative study of IPV among LGB individuals in Canada suggests a coalesced picture of the scope of IPV among sexual minority communities has yet to emerge. Brantford has the highest rate of IPV in Ontario, and the 9th highest rate across Canada (Statistics Canada, 2015). While this rate is extremely troubling in its own right, what is even more concerning is there remains no incidence data illustrating rates of IPV experienced by LGBT individuals – Statistics Canada is unable to provide perpetration or victimization rates because of insufficient data (Statistics Canada, 2009). While the aim of this project was not to conduct a representative study – as an applied research project our goal was to develop new knowledge in order to directly inform resource development and system change within the Brantford community - this glaring gap in our collective knowledges signaled the importance of gathering information about LGBT experiences of IPV.

In partnership with The Bridge, a local organization responding to inequalities experienced by the Brantford/Brant LGBTQ+ community, this project was built upon principles of community-driven (Jason & Glenwick, 2016) and action (Cherry, 2000) research. Using an online, anonymous survey, we were able to identify 1) how adult members of Brantford’s LGBTQ+ community experienced intimate partner violence (IPV), 2) how abusive tactics rooted in homo/bi/trans phobias differentially impacted survivors, and 3) the nature of helpful and unhelpful experiences when accessing supportive services for IPV. The results of this project have informed the creation of 600 awareness raising postcards, illustrating the key findings of this study.

Rose Torres and Dionisio Nyaga

Social Work Research as Inconsolable Mourning

A colonized research centres the researcher as the only knower; and simultaneously denigrates the participant. The participant becomes a necessary evil in production process. Dominant research is a process of surveying geographies of knowledge as moral or immoral. Research as a moral process is a violent process of production. We come to associate research as spatial production of geographies. Research process is a technology of moral production and subjectivities. They who produce control social discourse; while those who consume are objects of surveillance. This is more complex in the presence of the difference. The difference faces expulsion from the coffee house. Neoliberalism presents a required recipe of erasure of the difference. It is imperative to devise ways through which participants become co-producers of knowledge. Research needs to unlearn power, discourse, language and hegemony. This presentation focuses on a study we conducted with 30 Filipino women in the Greater Toronto Area. The research protocol was provided by University of Toronto. Participants were aged 18 years and above. The study focused on narratives of Filipina. It applied a qualitative strength based methodology to collect and analyze data. Strength perspective looks at participants as assets, self determining and respectable. It is a celebration of the ‘invisible Filipina’. It looks at resiliencies and desires of Filipino women’s. Filipina exudes power of difference. Their position of difference as migrants and glued to their border, reworks and queers systemic oppression. They use their spirituality, culture, community and histories as sites of resistance.