The CSDA’s Prof Leila Patel holds the DST/NRF South African Research Chair in Welfare and Social Development at the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA). Research Chairs are nominated by universities, at the level of Associate Professor or full Professor, and are benchmarked nationally. The intention of these research Chairs is to attract and retain established researchers of high calibre, within the universities, recruiting individuals from within South Africa and globally.
In 2015 UJ was successful in securing a Research Chair in Welfare and Social Development. Despite the significance of this field of social enquiry in South Africa, there is limited research capacity to grow the field. Departments of Social Work at South African universities are required to align undergraduate programmes with the developmental approach, but this alignment has occurred unevenly. Only a few universities offer postgraduate programmes that are dedicated to training high level researchers with a specific focus on social welfare and social development. At most universities, postgraduate offerings concentrate on specific categories of client groups or methods of practice.
Social welfare and social development issues are attracting scholarly interest from other disciplines such as development studies, economics, political science, sociology, psychology and in health and education. There is now wide recognition that complex social development issues (such as poverty and vulnerability based on age, disability or other social characteristics, and youth unemployment) require an interdisciplinary response. A new generation of social workers and social service professionals and researchers are needed that have an expansive knowledge base drawn from a variety of disciplines. High level theoretical training and research capability are needed to respond effectively to these challenges.
Given the great need for research capacity in social development, the Chair contributes to growing a new generation of social development scholars in South Africa but also in the Southern Africa region. Prof Patel believes that the Chair builds on the strengths of the CSDA specifically in the areas of poverty and vulnerability with a focus on women, children, youth, people with disabilities; in gender and social protection; and monitoring and evaluation of developmental social welfare policies and services.