Session: Service User-Provider Relationships in Human Service Organization (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

164 Service User-Provider Relationships in Human Service Organization

Friday, January 17, 2020: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Marquis BR Salong 13, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Organizations & Management (O&M)
Symposium Organizer:
Sunggeun (Ethan) Park, PhD, University of Chicago
Jennifer Mosley, PhD, University of Chicago
The relationship between service users and providers is at the heart of human service organizations' activities. From medical encounters to welfare eligibility assessments, users rely on providers' services to maintain and/or improve diverse aspects of wellbeing. At the same time, service providers heavily depend on the user's compliance and cooperation to provide services in an efficient and effective manner. Thus, users and providers are in a reciprocal relationship, often described as “partnership”.

However, the degrees of user-provider partnership may vary and different collaboration mechanisms may exist across human service fields and circumstances. First, some organizations may not value a partnership relationship with users, because other actors (like government and foundations) provide critical financial and political resources. Second, organizations may discount users' experiential knowledge and expertise in an environment emphasizing scientific evidence and professional expertise. Third, organizational constraints—such as an extremely hierarchical structure or overworked staff—may also hinder organizations' and providers' efforts to build and maintain a partnership with users. Fourth, some users may not desire a partnership with service organizations and providers. Therefore, there will is a wide range of service user-provider partnership relationship continuum across the health, social, and human service fields.

This symposium is an attempt to demonstrate the importance of service user-provider relationships in social work practice and showcase current studies on this topic. The first study uses qualitative data from managers and direct service providers of sex worker serving nonprofits to understand their perspective on user-provider partnerships with this stigmatized population. The second study explores the strengths and limitations of user-provider engagement mechanisms implemented in the substance use disorder treatment field on organizational service availability and utilization patterns with a nationally representative data of addiction treatment clinics in the United States. The third study compares counselor and student perspectives on key elements of their relationships, using data from a mixed-methods year-long study of high school programs in Chicago that provide extended counseling to support low-income young people's transitions to college. The fourth study examines how frontline work can be a site for political education and discussions, using data from an ethnographic study of two community-based organizations that combine service provision with community organizing.

This symposium makes important conceptual and empirical contributions by discussing how and why service users and providers engage and partner with and what happens when they collaborate in diverse service settings and fields. Beyond renewing social work scholars' attention to this topic and encouraging practitioners' critical assessment of their daily user engagement activities, our goal is to promote a core mission of the social work profession—restoring distributive justice through ensuring self-determination opportunities of vulnerable and stigmatized groups.

* noted as presenting author
Co-Production and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Clinics' Service Output Patterns
Sunggeun (Ethan) Park, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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