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

Nick Hopwood (School of Education, University of Technology Sydney, Australia and Department of Curriculum Studies, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, South Africa)
Crispin Day (Kings College London, London, UK)
Anne Edwards (Department of Education, Oxford University, Oxford, UK)

Journal of Children's Services

ISSN: 1746-6660

Article publication date: 20 June 2016




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?


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.


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.


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.



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.


Hopwood, N., Day, C. and Edwards, A. (2016), "Partnership practice as collaborative knowledge work: overcoming common dilemmas through an augmented view of professional expertise", Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 111-123.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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