Working with what is there: a systems psychodynamic framework for inter-agency collaboration

Morgan, J 2009, Working with what is there: a systems psychodynamic framework for inter-agency collaboration, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Health Sciences, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Working with what is there: a systems psychodynamic framework for inter-agency collaboration
Author(s) Morgan, J
Year 2009
Abstract An increasingly complex world requires organisations to work together to achieve desired outcomes. Much of the literature on collaboration does not translate into effective practice and many collaborations fail. Difficulty in explaining such failures may be because much of the literature focuses on the superficial, rational aspects of human behaviour and does not take into account the fact that collaboration is a complex relational process that requires sophisticated, mature working relations. This thesis uses a systems psychodynamic perspective to examine inter-agency collaboration. Systems psychodynamics brings together the disciplines of psychodynamics, group relations theory and systems theory and offers a significant heuristic opportunity to study inter-agency collaboration through an understanding of the powerful unconscious processes that may derail collaborative efforts. The study centres upon two organisations working together to implement a problem solving initiative in the Victorian Magistrates court. Based on a single case study, the research utilises clinical methods including, participant interviews, workplace observation, keeping a journal, using a working note, a research reflection group and insider researching. The data which data is presented through the examination of a number of critical social events which are analysed through the simultaneous use of action, reaction and interpretation streams. A number of working hypotheses are elucidated. The working hypotheses are utilised to develop a two part framework for inter-agency collaboration. The pre-collaborative phase, (part 1) describes two groups working on a joint task as separate entities. The groups are embedded in the wider system and the strong system forces cause anxiety and the dominance of basic assumption behaviours to defend against paranoid and depressive anxieties. There is little correspondence between the sentience and task systems because the groups maintain strong allegiance to their parent organisations. The only factor that holds the two groups together is the importance of the task to the wider system. The emergent collaboration phase (part 2) focuses on the conditions necessary to facilitate the emergence of collaboration and argues in support of a central hypothesis that a safe reflective space needs to be created where the collaboration itself can be reflected upon. This reflective space needs to facilitate the emergence of a ‘good enough’ container where the two groups can examine the positive and negative aspects of the collaboration and facilitate the formation of the group-as-a-whole. Participation in relational activities leads to new ways of working together and trust. Working ‘in the presence of the other’ then facilitates collaborative learning. The emergence of a new task group is characterised by alignment in the sentience and task systems, increased allegiance to the new group, a collaborative state of mind and joint leadership. The new group becomes a new system contained within new boundaries which . provide a holding environment where the new group can define group membership and identity, contain anxiety, experience new relatedness and new authority relations. Within a ‘good enough’ holding environment, the experience of the group-as-a-whole facilitates emergence of a potential space within which creativity and innovation is possible.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Health Sciences
Keyword(s) inter-agency
systems psychodynamics
reflective space
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Created: Fri, 26 Nov 2010, 09:23:24 EST
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