Integrating complexity theory and social work practice: a commentary on Fish and Hardy (2015)

Aaron Dominic George Pycroft, Mike Wolf-Branigin

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This is a commentary on Fish and Hardy’s paper on the application of complexity theory to social work practice and which raises some important questions about the relevance and ultimate efficacy of complexity theory within social work. We address some of the issues raised and argue that (1) complexity is but the latest iteration of the tradition of systems thinking in social work, and that the theory and practice of social work flourishes when it is open to a wide range of perspectives (2) their paper would have been strengthened by utilising a complex adaptive systems paradigm to provide greater clarity on the differences between complicated and complex, and the nature of non-linearity (3) this paradigm then helps us to understand the relationship between the parts and the whole and the necessity of understanding through reflective practice the context of decision-making and the processes that enhance or diminish their effectiveness. We conclude that it is at the level of the team that reflective practice becomes more significant and effective in working with complexity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-72
Number of pages4
JournalNordic Social Work Research
Issue number1
Early online date29 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • complexity theory
  • complex adaptive systems
  • reflective practice


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