Welcome to the Inaugural Edition of Working Notes. By The Editors
Working Notes is the online journal for Sociology At Work. We provide a platform for applied sociologists to share their work experiences, with a view to expanding recognition of what sociologists can do and enhancing how the discipline of sociology promotes sociological practices. Here we provide a brief background about the editors and the papers in this first edition.
Accounting for Sociology in a World of Auditors. By Michael Hughes, UK
Michael is the Director of Studies and Knowledge for the Audit Commission, UK, reviewing reports on local government services. He tells us why we should ‘never underestimate the value of a sociology degree in providing a foundation of skills and concepts for understanding other disciplines and their models’.
Tony reflects on his career in civil service and his current role as a researcher for Early Years and Childcare with the Kent County Council in the UK. He talks about how he uses statistics and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in his job.
An Organisational Perspective: Applying Sociology to the Health Sector. By Christine Walker, Melbourne, Australia
Christine answers some questions about her work as Chief Executive Officer for Chronic Illness Alliance in Melbourne, Australia, which connects not-for-profit groups with government and academics in order to advocate for better healthcare for people with chronic illnesses.
Consuming Sociology: Working for State Government. By Stephen Leyden, Melbourne, Australia
Stephen works as a Research Officer for Consumer Affairs Victoria in Australia, a government agency more accustomed to focusing on business and legal concerns rather than on sociological issues. Stephen says some of the rewards of job involve ‘adding to the organisation’s knowledge by demonstrating the social/historical factors that influence behaviour.’
Strengthening Business Through Sociology: The Work of a Council Coordinator. By Lui Wing Shek Adrian, Hong Kong
Adrian works for a global membership organisation for the business community. He tells us how his general sociological skills help him to work with businesses in order to strengthen their services. Adrian shows that ‘Realising the promise of sociological imagination is a long and winding road.’
War and Peace in Educational Disadvantage. By Lea Campbell, Melbourne, Australia
Lea works as a researcher for a social welfare organisation in Australia. She seeks out to answer the question: ‘How do we bring students, parents, teachers and stakeholders together to have powerful and respectful conversations around the educational, social and emotional needs of students?’ Lea makes a case for constructive conflict in educational policies.
Beyond Merciless Critique: Reflections on the Contribution of Sociology in the Social Policy Space. By Anthony Hogan, Canberra, Australia
Anthony is a Fellow with the National Centre for Epidemiology and Public Health at The Australian National University. His paper argues that sociology could make a stronger impact on social policy if it went beyond criticism and engaged with the imperfect aspects of decision making.
Advice for Students Who Want to Work as Social Activists: A View From a Trade Union. By Gary Pattison, UK
Gary provides advice for students interested in becoming trade union officials, including how he moved into his profession and how sociology helps him achieve better conditions for workers. Gary discusses the challenges of bringing sociology into his job, but he notes the benefits are, ‘That I get to use my professional salary to challenge the state and capitalism. Seriously.’
Annika is one of the convenors of the Sociologists Outside Academia Group, which is part of the British Sociological Association. She answers questions about the issues facing their members.
Becoming an Applied Sociologist: A Personal Journey From Student to Academic to Public Servant. By Dr Zuleyka Zevallos, Australia
Zuleyka has a position as Sociologist in the Australian Public Service. She provides a reflexive case study of her career. She argues that sociology students need better vocational training and career planning strategies.
Within a non-academic work setting, the idea of being ‘too academic’ often implies placing a different value on the scholarly application of theory and methods than is usually practised in formal academic contexts. This edition of Working Notes aims to highlight the different ways in which sociology is practised outside academia.
Language, Ideas and Policy: Insights From the Periphery. By Dr Dina Bowman, Melbourne, Australia
Dina draws parallels between her initial encounters with the jargon and assumptions of employment services policy and the treatment of ‘invalid’ survey responses. She emphasises the importance of looking at marginal perspectives—those understandings outside the dominant frame of reference within which policy research.
Do It Yourself Social Research and Everyday Evaluation: Lessons From a 40-year Career as an Applied Sociologist. By Dr Yoland Wadsworth, Melbourne, Australia
Yoland is renowned for her action research techniques, having worked with various research centres within universities as well as with state government research centres. She writes about her new book which brings together the wealth of her social research and evaluation experiences.
Health Matters: Working with Qualitative and Quantitative Methods. By Dr Christine Walker, Melbourne, Australia
Christine specialises in qualitative research on health issues, but she has more recently began working with quantitative methods. She discusses her not-for-profit alliance network supporting chronic illnesses, as well as her research on diabetes and epilepsy.
Addressing Disadvantage: Applying Theory to Practice. By Dr Dina Bowman, Melbourne, Australia
Dina writes about her work with a not-for-profit organisation that addresses employment disadvantage through services, advocacy and research. Dina’s current research focus is on understanding inequality in the ‘working years’. She outlines how it is possible to use social theory in an applied context in order to address inequality and to inform effective policy and practice.
Sociological Leadership in Education. By Dr Steve Nwokeocha, Abuja, Nigeria
Steve explains how sociology influences his management style for a government department contributing to regional educational policies. Steve also demonstrates ‘the difference a sociologist can make in bringing about positive changes in an organisation and in launching a very new organisation into national, continental and global relevance’.
Influencing Social Change: Advice for Students Who Want to Work with NGOs. By Sharon Bond, Melbourne, Australia
Sharon works as a Senior Research Officer with a not-for-profit organisation. She discusses her research that informs planning and development for community services helping school to work transition. Sharon discusses her career path and she provides advice for people looking to find similar jobs, including her studies and the skills required in her day-to-day work.
Identity Development Amongst Sea/Tree Changers: A Postgrad Research Blog. By Christina Kargillis, Sunshine Coast, Australia
Christina is a third-year postgraduate student studying identity development amongst people who move from larger cities to smaller country areas. She introduces how her blog supported her research.
Doing Sociology Beyond Academia. Zuleyka Zevallos
The articles in Doing Sociology Beyond Academia: Making Sociology “Work” aim to give voice to some of the positive and problematic issues that applied sociologists face in their everyday work. This collection of papers develop the links between applied and academic sociological practices, so that we might all better work together to strengthen Australian sociology.
Youth Unemployment in the Illawarra: An Investigation into the Problems facing Young Job Seekers in our Region. Scott Burrows
This article discusses studying youth unemployment outside of an academic setting by contextualising the ‘sociology of work’ context. It also considers important private sector dimensions that differ from research undertaken in an academic context.
Breaking Down the Otherness of Applied Sociology. Zuleyka Zevallos
Zuleyka focuses on the connections and disconnections between academia and applied sociology, with a view to breaking down the divide between these complimentary spheres of sociology. She discusses Michael Burawoy’s typology of public sociology before presenting a brief case study of the applications of sociology towards national security research and policy.
Joy works as a registered nurse in a rural community mental health facility, but identifies as clinical sociologist. She shows how she uses a sociological perspective to question assumptions about risk management in health policy and biomedical practice.
Changing Places. Bruce Smyth
Bruce moved back into academia having worked in social policy for many years. He reflects on what it’s like to address family issues in an applied context, including identifying problems, finding funding and communicating with external audiences. He also reflects on his move back into university.