A specialist's perspective on the value of generalist practice : a qualitative network analysisA specialist's perspective on the value of generalist practice : a qualitative network analysis
Faculty of Social Sciences. Sociology
Centre on Inequality, Poverty, Social Exclusion and the City
Journal of social work. -
16(2016):5, p. 610-626
University of Antwerp
Summary Social work practise is increasingly confronted with the dilemma of specialisation versus generalism. This article embraces the idea of a network that combines the strengths of specialist and generalist service organisations. We focus on the role of generalist service providers in a network of specialist organisations. We conduct 25 interviews with social workers in a network of service organisations in a single district in Antwerp, Belgium. Social workers (n = 15) from specialist service organisations are interviewed to determine how they perceive collaboration with social workers from generalist service organisations. We also include the perspectives of 10 respondents affiliated with generalist service agencies. Findings The results show that generalists facilitate interactions between specialists and their clients. Their holistic perspective on the complex problems of very vulnerable clients allows them to fulfil critical functions such as brokering information and mediating when conflicts arise. Application Our analysis provides a better understanding of the role of generalist organisations in a network of specialist service organisations. This article concludes that further research on the importance of collaboration, networks and generalist practise is necessary to further develop a research agenda that focuses on how social work is able to address the complex problems of vulnerable target groups.