The concept of creative marginality refers to the process through which researchers in academic fields move away from the mainstream and toward the margins of their fields and look toward the margins of other fields that may overlap with and fill in gaps in their fields. This interaction, occurring outside of disciplinary boundaries, promotes intellectual cross-fertilization, and it is often the site of innovation. This article examines the links and interactions between the academic disciplines and practices of social work and conflict resolution. The article describes the different theoretical frames and practical approaches of both social work and conflict resolution, and discusses the ways in which these are parallel in both fields.

Theorists and practitioners in social work and conflict resolution are engaged in debate around three key concepts related to self-determination, empowerment, and professional ethics. The newer and emerging frames of both fields are situated at parallel positions on the continuum of approaches to these key concepts, in their respective professions. These frames favor elicitive rather than prescriptive approaches and increased client or party self-determination, a focus on transformation and empowerment rather than on problem-solving alone, and a stance of engagement and advocacy towards intervention, rather than neutrality and impartiality. The authors argue that increased interchange between the two fields has the potential to contribute to the development of innovative approaches to transforming social conflicts and promoting positive social change.

Author Bio(s)

Jay Rothman is Scholar-in-Residence at the McGregor School of Antioch University, teaches in its Management and Conflict Resolution Programs. He is also Research Director of the Action Evaluation Research Institute. Dr. Rothman is the author of several books.

Randi Land Rothman is a clinical social worker and has worked with individuals, families and groups, particularly around issues of loss and change. She has led workshops and trainings in both social work and conflict resolution settings and as a journalist has published a variety of articles in newspapers, magazines and journals.

Mary Hope Schwoebel is has twenty years of experience in the fields of humanitarian assistance, international development, and conflict resolution. Her research interests include, peacebuilding and development, gender and conflict, culture and conflict, and peacekeeping operations.


conflict resolution, creative marginality, identity, intellectual cross-fertilization, mediation, resource frame, social work

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