Branka Vasilic
Supporting interprofessional collaborative practice through relational orientation

by Branka Vasilic
Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Albany Campus, Aotearoa New Zealand

Relational processes in the context of interprofessional collaboration are understood mainly in terms of individual action. This study argues that focusing on individual action limits our understanding of some of the most successful relationship-based collaborative practices. To shift the focus from individual action to co-action, this study investigated co-action oriented practices in multi-agency teams working with children and young people identified as living with High and Complex Needs (HCN). The methodology used in this study combined a relational research orientation with the principles of narrative theory, in order to engage HCN practitioners in dynamic conversations. Through dialogue, the HCN practitioners investigated their valued collaborative practices. These practices were then further explored in terms of how collaboration could shift from individual to co-action.

The outcomes of the study highlighted a number of successful relationship-based collaborative practices that are often overlooked. These range from simply having small talk, being personal and flexible, to addressing more complex situations that might otherwise be avoided. Appreciative exploration was identified as a way to step outside of one’s own beliefs and become curious about how contradictory views might be valid within a community of understanding. Finding a respectful way to approach what we want to avoid holds arguably most potential for positive change.

The study concluded that three aspects were critical to the engagement of practitioners in collaborative co-active practice: (1) paying attention to the process of relating; (2) acknowledging values, interests and concerns of practitioners in their daily practice, and (3) respecting current practices. Engaging with co-active practices in this way energised practitioners and fostered an innovation-seeking attitude and collective learning. As the practitioners in this study demonstrated, relational orientation opens up possibilities to shape co-action, and offers a unique tool for transforming collaborative practices. Put simply, the relational shift shows what we achieve together, we cannot do alone.