Positioning eco-social work: exploring compatibilities with Doughnut Economics
Play • 46 min

GUEST: Louise Whitaker – coordinator of the Bachelor of Social Work and Bachelor of Community Welfare courses at Southern Cross University, NSW.

Prior to joining academia, Louise managed programs promoting access to legal services and practiced in mental health.  Her research is practice based, addressing critical reflection and social inclusion.

Introduction to this episode:

One definition of environmental or eco-social work (ESW) is that it is an approach which ‘seeks to create a society in which ecology and social justice are valued and humans live in harmony with ecosystems’ (Ramsay & Boddy, 2017). It is said that one way that social work practice can achieve these objectives is to support ecologically transformative social change. Amongst other things, such change would promote an ecologically centred understanding of the world and support greatly reduced environmental degradation. Eco-social work methods and frameworks would also seek to incorporate, wherever possible, a valuation of the natural environment, spirituality, and indigenous cultural knowledge into all aspects practice.

Equally, the longstanding ‘person in (social) environment’ metaphor at the heart of traditional social work practice has come under increasing scrutiny as one factor in the slow pace of adoption of eco-social work approaches. One increasingly prevalent view is that an outmoded practice focus on purely social environment influences connected to client challenges needs to be complimented by an understanding of physical environment influences and impacts, such as those linked to uncontrolled climate change. These influences are becoming increasingly relevant to client interventions.

My guest on this podcast episode, Louise Whittaker, is interested in exploring a novel economic frame within which an expanded person in environment perspective might be helpfully located. She has been following the work of renowned British economist Kate Raworth and her ecological economics model of ‘Doughnut Economics’. In our discussion, Louise talks about the compatibility of Doughnut Economic ideas with eco-social work practice and sustainable development (SD); and how this economic model could provide a useful, future research and professional dialogue framing to aid the further mainstream adoption of eco-social work approaches.

INTERVIEW TALKING – approximate time elapsed location in minutes.

  • Guest self-introduction - 2.13
  • Guest’s personal story on early SD interests – 4.31
  • The challenge of linking personal and professional approaches to SD -5.58
  • Traditional v Doughnut Economics concepts– seven principles of the latter model -11.15
  • Compatibility of Doughnut principles with eco-social work ideas -20.54
  • How might the SW profession start a conversation around these ideas? – 25.3
  • Future research links between ESW and sustainable economics ideas? – 29.03
  • Why should mainstream SW engage with such ideas? – 32.18
  • Guest vision for a preferred future for increased ESW adoption – 37.17
  • Guest summary of messages and themes from discussion – 43.05


May be separate or incorporated into talking points listing depending on extent of detail.


Guest: Louise Whittaker, Southern Cross University.

Householders’ Options to Protect the Environment (HOPE):

T 07 4639 2135 E office@hopeaustralia.org.au W http://www.hopeaustralia.org.au/

F https://www.facebook.com/Householders.Options.to.Protect.the.Environment/


Produced for HOPE by Andrew Nicholson. E: anicholsona@gmail.com T: 0413979414

This episode recorded in Toowoomba, S.E. Queensland, Australia in March 2021

Artwork: Daniela Dal'Castel   Incidental Music: James Nicholson



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