Collaboration, cooperation, symbolism, inter-organizational relations, social policy


The human service literature suggests that the concept and outcomes of inter-organizational collaboration are not well understood. Nonetheless, inter-organizational collaboration has emerged as a statement of direction for social welfare policy and professional practice. In light of an unclear understanding of collaboration, this analysis suggests the concept has powerful symbolic qualities, which perpetuates its continued use. While the general notion of collaboration is promising, human service administrators and stakeholders must couple critical thinking and action to clarify the meaning, intent, application, and outcomes of inter-organizational collaboration. This article raises the question as to whether the popularity of inter-organization collaboration is grounded in its proven efficacy as a means of achieving specific human service recipient outcomes or symbolism and ideology.

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