Partnership practice as collaborative knowledge work: overcoming common dilemmas through an augmented view of professional expertise

Publication Date20 June 2016
AuthorNick Hopwood,Crispin Day,Anne Edwards
SubjectHealth & social care,Vulnerable groups,Children's services
Partnership practice as collaborative
knowledge work: overcoming common
dilemmas through an augmented view
of professional expertise
Nick Hopwood, Crispin Day and Anne Edwards
Nick Hopwood is a Senior
Lecturer at the School of
Education, University of
Technology Sydney,
Sydney, Australia and is an
Extraordinary Professor at the
Department of Curriculum
Studies, Stellenbosch
University, Matieland,
South Africa.
Crispin Day is based at the
Kings College London,
London, UK.
Anne Edwards is based at the
Department of Education,
Oxford University, Oxford, UK.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to shed new light on how partnership practices that build resilience in
families work. Two broad questions are explored: first, what are the forms of expertise required in practices
that effectively build resilience through partnership?; and second, how can some of the challenges
practitioners experience when working in partnership be addressed?
Design/methodology/approach A theoretical approach is taken, framing partnership as collaborative
knowledge work between practitioners and clients. Concepts of relational expertise, common knowledge
and relational agency are explored as means to understand the forms of expertise involved in partnership.
An empirical example is provided from practices guided by The Family Partnership Model, an approach that
has been widely implemented.
Findings These concepts help to address three key challenges experienced by practitioners:
client readiness for change, maintaining focus and purpose and using specialist expertise in partnership.
This approach elucidates features of partnership practice that distinguish it from expert-led models, while
highlighting diverse forms of expertise in play.
Originality/value The framework presented in this paper is distinctive and can be used to identify how
practitioners can avoid common dilemmas, even in challenging circumstances with vulnerable families where
practitioner-client relationships may be perceived as fragile. It counters the idea that partnership work dilutes
professional expertise. Instead, an enriched and augmented view of professional expertise is presented.
Keywords Resilience, Outcomes, Partnership, Effective practice, Relational expertise
Paper type Conceptual paper
This conceptual paper explores partnership between practitioners and clients as collaborative
knowledge work. It uses Vygotskian theory to highlight the mind-expanding nature of partnership
and the agile use of concepts as tools that change how both professionals and clients understand a
problem and the possible responses to it. Three concepts relational expertise, common knowledge
and relational agency show how such an approach can cast useful new light on common dilemmas
experienced by practitioners seeking to build resilience in families through partnership.
Services for children and families play a crucial role in helping our youngest and often most
vulnerable citizens and those caring for them. The aim of much work in health and social care
intervention is to work with service users to secure improved outcomes through promotion and
Received 25 August 2015
Revised 7 December 2015
Accepted 7 December 2015
The empirical example in this
paper draws from data gathered in
research funded by the University
of Technology Sydney (UTS) and
approved by the UTS Human
Research Ethics Committee.
We wish to acknowledge the
support of staff and clients of
Karitane in that study.
The conceptual development work
was part of an Australian Research
Council funded project,
DE150100365. The contributions
of the Centre for Parent and Child
Support and University of
Oxford Department of Education
are also acknowledged.
DOI 10.1108/JCS-08-2015-0027 VOL. 11 NO. 2 2016, pp. 111-123, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1746-6660
PAG E 11 1

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