Power and negotiation in practice: from problems to solutions

Cooper, Barry (2015). Power and negotiation in practice: from problems to solutions. In: Cooper, Barry; Gordon, Jean and Rixon, Andrew eds. Best Practice With Children and Families: Critical Social Work Stories. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 141–152.

URL: http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/best-practice-...


The stories of practice in this section of the book illustrate some of the shifting patterns of power and negotiation in social work. In many ways these can appear to be 'hidden concepts' in practice as they are often tacit or unspoken about. In talking to practitioners for this book it was noticeable that, although the use of power and the processes of negotiation were rarely named as such, they nonetheless influenced the courses of events that were being described in subtle and complex ways. These links between power and negotiation are placed into perspective by examining another ever-present and debatable pair of concepts, that of problems and solutions. The reset of this chapter introduces these three themes to further explore and explain why the use of power is an inescapable aspect of social work. I will argue that although the purposeful use of power and negotiation is under-recognised in social work, these are not ends in themselves. The constructive, ethical and expert use of professional power and negotiating skills are only the means through which social work addresses the reasons for its involvement: identifying problems and finding solutions to those problems. The three stories of practice in this section and the narrative comments that accompany each story will help to ground these ideas in three very different practice examples.

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