Interorganizational Relationships between Schools of Social Work and Field Agencies: Testing a Framework for Analysis

By Bogo, Marion; Globerman, Judith | Journal of Social Work Education, Spring-Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Interorganizational Relationships between Schools of Social Work and Field Agencies: Testing a Framework for Analysis


Bogo, Marion, Globerman, Judith, Journal of Social Work Education


      Factors associated with effective interorganizational relationships
   between a school of social work and field agencies were explored in a
   survey of 62 randomly selected field educators. The study examined the
   relationships between three categories of agencies and the university on
   four dimensions: commitment to education; organizational supports and
   resources; interpersonal relations; and collaborative and reciprocal
   activities. Findings revealed that agencies with formal agreements with the
   university had more complex student programs and more reciprocal activities
   than other types of sampled organizations. Strengths and distinctive
   contributions of the different types of organizations to the university and
   to field education are illuminated.

FIELD EDUCATION IS a critical component of social work education, particularly in the role it plays in helping students integrate and apply theory, research, and practice knowledge to real-world practice situations. An intricate relationship exists between the quality of field education and the quality of social work service delivery, for in field education social work students develop the professional competence that forms the basis for their future practice.

Social work field education depends on the collaboration of service organizations and universities. University field education programs rely on the voluntary participation of organizations who are willing to accept students for field education and provide educational resources, especially social workers as field instructors (Bogo & Power, 1992). Furthermore, most agencies do not reduce social workers' workloads when they take responsibility for student education (Bocage, Homonoff, & Riley, 1995; Bogo & Power, 1992; Lacerte, Ray, & Irwin, 1989; Rosenfeld, 1989). Field education, therefore, depends upon the commitment and voluntary participation of social workers and the organizations' support for this commitment.

It is surprising, given the importance of the field educational component, that no studies exist that illuminate the factors that motivate organizations to collaborate with universities. Many educators have identified the need for universities to develop effective models of interorganizational collaboration to ensure quality field education programs, as well as to identify critical social issues for applied research (Epstein & Grellong, 1992; Fellin, 1982; McMahon, Reisch, & Patti, 1991; Raskin, 1994; Schneck, 1991). Only descriptive and anecdotal accounts of the exchange of resources between universities and organizations exist, such as examples of faculty members conducting research and offering consultation or workshops in the organization, and organization-based social workers holding academic appointments and offering lectures in university courses (Cassidy, 1982; Cohen, 1977; Fellin, 1982; Frumkin, 1980; Hess & Mullen, 1995; Jarman-Rohde, McFall, Kolar, & Strom, 1997; Rosenblum & Raphael, 1983; Tropman, 1980).

Based on a review and analysis of this literature, four key components of interorganizational relationships emerged. These components are discussed in an earlier article (Bogo & Globerman, 1995) and form the conceptual framework for this study. Commitment to education, the first component, was found to be a necessary factor for an organization to provide field education. The second component, organizational resources and supports, includes the means to incorporate and nurture field education. The third component, effective interpersonalrelationships between the organization and the university, includes the necessity for communication and cooperation. The final component examines the nature of collaborative relationships and reciprocal activities between the university and the organization.

Organizational theory provides a useful perspective for understanding these relationships, as it proposes that organizations must be studied within their context, paying attention to the inter-relationships between elements in their environment (Buckley, 1967; Scott, 1987). …

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