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Updated to reflect additional research on the topic. The bibliography has been expanded and updated.

Updated on 23 May 2019. The previous version of this content can be found here.
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date: 20 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

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

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