Jones, Helen M.F. (2000) Partnerships: a common sense approach to inclusion? In: Researching "Inclusion." Papers from the Annual Conference of the Standing Conference on University Teaching and Research in the Education of Adults 2000. SCUTREA, Boston, Lincolnshire, pp. 182-188. ISBN 1-85041-091-7

There is an increasing emphasis on inter-agency, inter-professional, multi-agency and multi-professional partnerships as a means of nurturing social inclusion. Both compulsory and post-compulsory education are central pillars in the UK’s ‘battle’ against exclusion. Existing professional and service divisions are seen as creating barriers: a source of further exclusion for the disenfranchised. ‘Joined-up solutions’ mean educators from higher, further and community education are called upon to work with welfare agencies, regeneration projects and voluntary organisations. The proliferating inter-agency, inter-professional collaborative approaches have gained the status of being regarded as the common sense approach; the joined-up solution to the joined-up problem. Such discourse has popular appeal and has achieved hegemonic status, going largely unchallenged, widely welcomed and subjected to scant unbiased analysis. Specialised, compartmentalised professions were once ‘common sense’ but now staff are required to work together to ensure co-ordination, avoid duplication, share knowledge and information and to create new approaches through drawing creatively on a widened range of techniques. The merit of this approach tends to be assumed: Richards and Horder note that ‘few voices are heard arguing against collaboration’ (Richards and Horder 1999: 45) although Thompson warns that ‘partnership’ has become a ‘buzz-word’ and thus ‘runs the risk of being dismissed as a fad or fashion, and its significance as a practice principle lost in the process’ (Thompson 1998: 212). Little research has been conducted into the aspects of inter-agency work which are conducive to success or otherwise. However, people currently involved in partnerships are interested in identifying the elements which contribute to success in achieving the identified aims in order to transfer the learning. Whether, in the longer term, partnerships will be established as the new orthodoxy or eclipsed by some new trend, its current ascendancy calls out for further academic interrogation.

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