Supporting multidisciplinary networks through relationality and a critical sense of belonging

three ‘gardening tools’ and the Relational Agency Framework

Iris Duhn*, Marilyn Fleer, Linda Harrison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article focuses on the Relational Agency Framework (RAF), an analytical tool developed for an Australian review and evaluation study of an early years’ policy initiative. We explore Anne Edward’s concepts of relational expertise, building common knowledge and relational agency to explore how Edwards’ concepts, which she refers to as ‘gardening tools’, and the RAF work together to support early years multidisciplinary networks. We argue that early childhood professionals who come together in a multidisciplinary network develop their collective capabilities through relationality and a focus on belonging. The RAF embeds Edwards’ relational concepts and enables the exploration and articulation of how network participants’ individual, discipline-specific knowledge and expertise augments to support collectively transformative practice within their network, their place and wider community. We conclude that a sense of belonging is foundational to the emergence of such relational agency in networks. Tools such as the ‘gardening tools’ and the RAF offer possibilities for addressing the challenges of how to support collaboration between government, early years professionals and communities to work holistically in the best interest of all children and their families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-391
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Early Years Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • multidisciplinary networks
  • professional learning
  • sense of belonging
  • Relational Agency Framework
  • policy review and evaluation

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