Social work in Hong Kong was established in the mid-twentieth century and remains emergent. Within human service and healthcare settings, multidisciplinary collaboration is often impeded by medical dominance, professional stigma, and rigid hierarchical structures that can result in social workers experiencing disempowerment and low morale. How social workers in Hong Kong successfully navigate the challenges of multidisciplinary settings and the practice-wisdom that they hold are understudied. This study aims to explore worker perspectives on social service management in Hong Kong to identify effective strategies for social workers that can enhance multidisciplinary collaboration and effectiveness across micro, mezzo, and macro levels.
Six semi-structured focus groups were conducted via video conferencing with social service professionals from frontline and management levels in Hong Kong. A sample of 34 professionals was drawn from one large social service agency using convenience sampling and their demographic information was collected. The sample was predominantly female (85.3% female; 14.7% male) and social workers (73% social workers and social work supervisors; and 27% tangential professions). Interviews evoked participants’ practice-wisdom and experiences in multidisciplinary collaboration and supervision. The transcripts were thematically coded and analyzed using a grounded theory approach.
Need-driven strategies surfaced as the major theme to facilitate the positive growth in multidisciplinary collaboration across micro and mezzo levels. For micro level, need-fulfillment support, equal spaces and peer-learning opportunities are the need-driven strategies that developed therapeutic alliance and encouraged the dedication of social workers to their roles. The application of these strategies, in both formal and informal supervision, allows supervisors to respond to frontline workers’ needs to affirm the supervisee’s strengths. This therapeutic alliance stimulated positive growth in the mezzo level by creating a trustful and harmonious work environment based on need-driven strategies as the common language, and drove the team to develop unifying and non-hierarchical communication platforms, such as case conferences and informal professional discussions. This also helped social workers co-create family-centered interventions through exchanging clinical experiences and professional perspectives. These changes on the micro and mezzo levels encouraged growth on the macro level, in which both social workers and other healthcare professionals developed a sense of belonging to the agency through a supportive work environment, need-driven strategies, and non-hierarchical discussions.
Conclusion and Implications:
The application of need-driven strategies facilitate growth in social work practice across micro, mezzo, and macro levels. An equal, accepting, and supportive working atmosphere encourages therapeutic alliance in the organization, which effectively responds to the diverse needs of social workers and other professionals through the development of common language in multidisciplinary collaboration. This research provides implications for social workers working in multidisciplinary teams, suggesting more comprehensive interventions that foster collaboration for integrated teams. By discovering and leveraging the strengths of other professionals, need-driven strategies can be applied to facilitate empowerment and improve morale within Hong Kong social service management, offering directions for social work organizations to address the challenging social conditions of an increasingly complex world.