Collaborative Practice for Cross-Boundary Collective Impact

Hal A. Lawson

in Encyclopedia of Social Work

Published by NASW Press and Oxford University Press

Published online June 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199975839 | DOI:

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Social workers are uniquely prepared to benefit from and provide cross-boundary leadership for several kinds of collaborative practice. Examples include teamwork, new practice relationships with service users, inter-organizational partnerships, and community-wide coalitions structured for collective impact. All are needed to respond to adaptive problems without easy answers, and to dilemma-rich, “wicked” problems.

Among the family of “c-words” (for example, communication, coordination), collaboration is the most difficult to develop, institutionalize, and sustain because it requires explicit recognition of, and new provisions for, interdependent relationships among participants. Notwithstanding the attendant challenges, collaborative practice increasingly is a requirement in multiple sectors of social work practice, including mental health, substance abuse, school social work, complex, anti-poverty initiatives, international social work, workforce development, and research. New working relationships with service users connect collaborative practice with empowerment theory and serve as a distinctive feature of social work practice.

Keywords: collaboration; interprofessional team; partnership; coalition; social work practice; collective impact; complex systems change

Article.  5673 words. 

Subjects: Social Work Macro Practice

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