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August 2016Vol. 17, No. 6Outcome-Focused Academic and Agency Research Partnerships

A brief from the National Association of Social Workers' (NASW's) Social Work Policy Institute is designed to promote research-based principles that will yield more effective and outcome-focused partnerships between academic social work programs and child welfare agencies. NASW partnered with Casey Family Programs and an advisory group of public, private, academic, and nonprofit stakeholders to craft the guidance, Creating and Sustaining Effective and Outcome-Oriented Child Welfare University-Agency Research Partnerships.

The brief cites several components as central to successful partnerships, including:

  • A unified purpose
  • An interdependent relationship
  • Negotiated and clear-cut roles and responsibilities
  • Shared authority
  • Mechanisms for resolving conflict
  • Ongoing evaluations and improvement

The brief identifies several challenges to sustaining partnerships, including:

  • Academic and agency staff turnover
  • Lack of control over external funding sources
  • Conflicting priorities and organizational values
  • Compressed agency time frames conflicting with longer term academic timelines
  • Lack of professional social work credentials among child welfare workers compared with their academic counterparts
  • Costs of maintaining partnerships

Elements for an effective research partnership include:

  • An ongoing working relationship
  • Appreciation for, and understanding of, different cultural contexts
  • Strategic planning for leadership transitions
  • Defined parameters for project timeframes
  • Protocols for confidentiality and for sharing research and data access
  • Attention to the academic realities of tenure, promotion, and the pressure to publish
  • The creation of a continuous training, research, and practice loop

The brief can be accessed at (399 KB).