From ethnography to randomized controlled trial: an innovative approach to developing complex social interventions

Webber M

Journal of Evidence-based Social Work 2014, 11, 1–2: 173—182

Available online 9 Jan 2014


The evidence base for mental health social work is vastly under-developed in contrast to medicine and psychology. Without randomized controlled trial evidence of effectiveness, social work interventions are largely absent from UK clinical guidelines and are increasingly difficult to defend in multidisciplinary teams. This article will discuss an innovative and thorough approach to developing a social intervention which will be amenable to evaluation in a randomized controlled trial. Using ethnography to capture practice wisdom, underpinned by social capital theory with its own rich evidence base, the intervention will help people recovering from an episode of psychosis to connect, or reconnect, with other people. It is envisaged that by ensuring the intervention is grounded in the lived experience of workers and service users it will be more amenable to implementation in routine practice, and produce better outcomes.