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Jim Poulter Author of Books on Aboriginal Culture and Child Protection
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The Theory and Ethics of Collaboration and Advocacy

- Defining four modes of collaboration and five styles of brokerage and advocacy

Presented at the AASW Victorian Branch Ethics Forum, May 2011, Parkville, Melbourne.


Building on the analysis in the previous paper on the systematic relationship of social work values, the paper defines the theoretical base to collaboration. A brief analysis of theory paradigms is first conducted and four traditional paradigms of theory and practice defined, being the Constructivist, Constructionist, Structural and Positivist paradigms. This enables four modes of collaborative alliance to be identified, the therapeutic, emancipatory, ameliorative and remedial alliances, with each of these modes of alliance having the role of integrating theory from that paradigm seamlessly into the heuristic paradigm. In other words it is the social work value base that acts as an ontological metatheory that ensures the consistend application of all theory to practice. Each of the remedial, therapeutic and emancipatory alliances are briefly discussed, with a more in depth discussion being undertaken in relation to the ameliorative alliance, which is focused more on systemic issues external to the client. Five strategies undertaken with clients within the ameliorative alliance are identified, being brokerage, case advocacy, case to cause advocacy, project advocacy, and cause advocacy. Ethical issues attached to the use of these five strategies within the ameliorative alliance are also discussed closely.


This paper is also contained within the brief text ‘Reflective Value Based Ethics in Social Work’ as Paper Five. This paper has in turn been drawn from various chapters in my extensive text ‘An Integrated Theory of Practice in Social Work’. The table of contents of this text can be viewed on the website and there are a number of chapters relevant to this paper. For instance chapter two undertakes a detailed discussion on theory paradigms with the next five chapters undertaking a detailed analysis of each paradigm and forty-odd theories within these paradigms that are relevant to social work practice. This exercise and the subsequent chapters show that the application of all theory is guided by the practitioner’s professional values, rather than the values imputed to the theory itself. Ultimately the threads are all drawn together in Chapter Twelve, which details ‘Collaborative Theory’ as the integrative metatheory of social work practice.

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