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 constraintssuch as an extremely hierarchical structure or overworked staffmay 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 professionrestoring distributive justice through ensuring self-determination opportunities of vulnerable and stigmatized groups.