The project

The Social Work Organisational Resilience Diagnostic (SWORD) Change Project by Research in Practice and Dr Louise Grant, University of Bedfordshire, and Professor Gail Kinman, Birkbeck University of London, was developed to improve organisational resilience in child and family social work. It has since been revised, with the additional expertise of Dr Kelly Alexander, University of Bedfordshire, so it is also relevant for social workers who work with adults. This includes, for example, practitioners who work as part of a community multidisciplinary team in an NHS trust or inpatient mental health services.  Where the workbook refers to ‘social work organisations’ this covers all organisations that employ social workers, including in an inter-professional context and where management responsibility might be held by those from other professional disciplines.

SWORD was most recently updated in 2021 to bring in learning from the COVID-19 pandemic and to include features which support remote working. 

Our objectives were to draw on our systemic approach to provide senior leaders with an accessible, research-informed diagnostic tool and associated workbook to understand, build and sustain resilience in their organisations. At each stage of development, the underpinning model, and the diagnostic tool and workbook, were co-produced with groups of social workers, line managers and leaders.

The diagnostic tool takes the form of a workforce survey, which will provide feedback on organisational strengths and weaknesses. The survey is open for a period of 6 weeks and opens Spring and Autumn 2024.

The workbook

This workbook aims to help social work leaders and managers create a workplace climate that builds the capacity for resilience.

It draws on established research findings, together with learning developed from interviews, workshops and seminars with groups of social workers and leaders. It provides a range of evidence-informed practical interventions, ‘quick-wins’ and more in-depth strategies, to foster the conditions that have been shown to underpin resilience at individual, team and organisational levels.

Dimensions of organisational resilience: Five Key Foundational Principles (KFPs)

Figure 1: The ‘golden threads’ – the knowledge, skills and abilities that underpin organisational resilience.

Figure 1 shows the knowledge, skills and abilities that, in the course of the co-production, the Change Project group identified as being most strongly associated with organisational resilience. Five dimensions – Key Foundational Principles (KFPs) – were identified, which provide the structure for the diagnostic tool and workbook:

Workshop participants also identified some critical ‘golden threads’ – i.e. factors that are particularly influential in underpinning the conditions required for organisational resilience in social work organisations and relevant to several KFPs. These are:

  • Strong commitment to maintaining values and building trust
  • Managing change and uncertainty
  • Involves staff in decision making and change
  • Communication
  • Emotional literacy
  • Culturally competent.

Ways in which leaders can enhance these ‘golden threads’ to foster resilience at the organisational, team and individual levels are considered in each of the five KFP sections of this workbook.


For more information on the concept of resilience and its various definitions download the first part of this workbook ‘Understanding resilience’ below. The full workbook and references can also be downloaded below.

SWORD workbook introduction: Understanding Resilience 

SWORD workbook: full version 

SWORD workbook: references




Dr Louise Grant (University of Bedfordshire), Professor Gail Kinman (Birkbeck, University of London) and Dr Kelly Alexander (University of Bedfordshire).


Steve Flood

2019 Change Project Participants:

Rachel Anderton, Matt Ansell, Alister Brown, Sarah Christian, Adrian Dyka, Maureen Evans, Adele Glover, Susan Harrison,
Tony Holmes, Stephanie How, Danielle Johnson, Moira Keen, Sarah Lowe, Leanne McHugh, Debby McKechnie, Sean McKendrick,
Karen Popely, Jen Salter, Alison Smailes, Richard Smalling, Lisa Taylor, Lucy Townsend, Valerie Tulloch, Michelle Vernon, Rachael Ward, Oretha Wofford, Edward Wong and Leigh Zywek.

2021 Focus Group Participants:

Georgina Thorne, David Sines, Sue Newton, Angela Sheerin, Lucy Harrison, Kate Hemple, Natalie Smith, Anne Marie Hatton,
Geraldine Travers, Maggie O’Malley, Debbie Buck, Suzanne Enoh Arthur and Andrew