Nordic School of Public Health NHV

Collaboration between organizations works only if staff and management deals openly with conflicts

Press release   •   Dec 06, 2012 04:13 EST

Collaboration between organizations has become an increasingly common strategy to develop welfare and manage problems in the welfare systems. A new dissertation reveals fundamental problems at the level of interaction, such as lack of communication and defensive handling of conflicts.
– Conflict is best regarded as a natural part of the human interaction and need to be handled openly in order for collaboration to be effective, says Ingela Furenbäck, Head of Department of Health Science 2 at Kristianstad University. She is defending her thesis at the Nordic School of Public Health NHV on the 13th of December.

Collaboration has become a trend, but one associated with research and experiences that point to difficulties in making it a lived experience. In the thesis collaboration is studied as social and interpersonal phenomena, with focus on social aspects, such as communication and managing conflicts.

The study has been conducted through participatory action research within health care, where stakeholders from regional and local government have been seeking to develop cooperation to thereby provide better care.
– Conflicts between decision-makers and practitioners were handled defensively, also there was inadequate dialogue, says Furenbäck.

Collaboration efforts were found to be interwoven in a complex relationship with different levels of communication and interests that affected both interactions between persons in different positions and their affiliations with an organization.
– It was discovered that a weak link between management and those working on collaboration in practice limited practitioners' freedom of action, which in turn created obstacles to the development of cooperation between organizations, says Ingela Furenbäck.

She believes that dialogue and transparent management of conflicts between decision-makers and health professionals is central to the development of cooperation between organizations. The research design used, participatory action research, was used to deal with the tensions emerging. Organized dialogue sessions between managers and employees and between the region and municipality were part of the design.
– This meant that participation was strengthened, conflicts were visualized and processed and that a common dialogue about goals and means developed, which promoted the development of cooperation in the health care system, says Ingela Furenbäck.

Title: Development of collaboration – A participatory action research project within Swedish health care
Author: Ingela Furenbäck
Telephone: (+46) 0708-556754 (mobile), (+46044-204003 (work)
Email: ingela.furenback@hkr.se

For half a century Nordic School of Public Health NHV has been a meeting place for Nordic Public Health Science, as one of the oldest and largest institutions under the Nordic Council of Ministers. With the student in focus and a high level of scientific quality and public relevance, NHV conducts research and delivers teaching and ensure public health now and in the future.