Models of University-Agency Collaboration


Professor Irwin Epstein, Hunter College of School of Social Work
Dr. Bruce Grellong, JBFCS


Dr. Amy Kohn, JBFCS

This workshop explored actual and possible models of collaborative research programs. Questions addressed in the workshop included: What are the purposes of research collaboration between a university and an agency setting? What is the hierarchy of val ues implicit in these purposes, and how may they differ between academic and practice orientations? What are the various structural models that flow from the answers to these questions, and what are the benefits and strains associated with a particular st ructural arrangement?

A number of practical directions were explored in the ensuing discussion. Goals of various collaborative models discussed included research experience for social work students, the agency agenda where a university based researcher assists in the develo pment of practice-specific research, the cooperation of agency and university in response to federal funding initiatives, and the center model where the agenda is determined by the mutual practice, educational goals and interests of both partners. As a re sult of this discussion, the participants suggested that the concept of model might better be replaced by the concept of goal. For example, is expanding the knowledge base the goal for the agency or is developing research skills the goal for the universit y? While both institutions are clearly enriched by university agency collaboration, it is the process of determining the balance of practice-based research and research based practice that marks the actual goal of collaboration, and can lead to genuine br idging of the gap.