Last in a Multipart Series on the Past Decade's Health and Human Services Journey.

Author:Evans, Tracy Wareing
Position:President's memo - American Public Human Services Association - Column

As a membership organization committed first and foremost to people and public service, we continue to work in concert with our networks to achieve our shared vision for thriving communities built on human potential. Informed by members, partners, and staff, APHSA's Strategic Playbook serves as our collective guide that keeps us focused on that North Star, helping illuminate our way forward.

Reflecting on our most recent history, I'm struck by two areas of emphasis in the Strategic Playbook that are proving to be game-changers:

* The heightened focused on the wellbeing of the H/HS workforce and

* What it means to be part of an opportunity ecosystem operating through a race equity lens

The Well-Being of the H/HS Workforce

The H/HS workforce has been a long-standing pain point for the field. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the opportunities for achieving our vision together require that we focus not just on recruitment and development of the workforce but on its overall well-being. Leaders across the country are focusing more intentionally on what it means to support the H/HS workforce through the generative lens of the Human Services Value Curve. (1) When we see and engage the human services workforce as helping unlock and ignite human potential--we both energize and honor our workforce and create an important mindset shift about its role in partnership with families and communities.

Recognizing that the workforce is part of the community in which it lives and works is also the key to building trust both internally within the agency and in partnership with people served. The knowledge and insights of the workforce as community players themselves has been undervalued for too long, and we must find ways to lift up those natural connections. Hiring staff with lived experience can be a catalyst for the required practice and organizational cultural shifts required to see the workforce in this way. When people who have participated in the system become employees of the agency, practice and policy changes inevitably follow. These are the connections that bring "lived experience" to life as an organic, yet powerful form of what works.

Learning Through the Study of Ecosystems

As I combed through our leadership communications over the past decade, I was surprised to find the first mention of ecosystems in an article Howard Hendrick and I co-wrote as far back as 2013, following a Harvard Health and Human Services Summit. (2) While it served as a useful metaphor for our thinking at the time, we had no idea about the spark it would ignite today--when we are in the midst of a national ecosystem movement.

It is worth reflecting on how we've defined an "opportunity" or "healthy" ecosystem:

A strategic, action-oriented, dynamic, and enduring environment formed by people and partners, aligned by a shared purpose and set of values that allow everyone in that community to live well and thrive. In bringing this definition alive, our learning partnership with the Kresge Foundation Human Services Team has been a game changer. We share the belief that an opportunity ecosystem must be fueled by the people who live there, along with multiple networks contributing value through distinct vantage points, and collective impact efforts aimed at addressing systemic barriers. Through eight place-based ecosystem sites, we are helping distill the resiliency factors at play in each site. Our aim is to support on-the-ground capacity by advancing whole-family approaches and achieve social and economic mobility for all people through a race equity lens.

In 2019, we doubled-down on our role in helping identify and address systemic and structural inequities. Through our recent Call to Action, (3) we are actively seeking to illuminate disparate outcomes and paying disciplined attention to race and ethnicity while analyzing problems, looking for solutions, and defining shared success. In collaboration with families and community leaders, as well as our many partners across sectors and systems, we are working to understand the environmental and structural root causes preventing social and economic mobility and health and well-being for all races. Within our national context and point in history, APHSA is committed to being an accountable actor and consistent ally in systematically eliminating racial inequity.

2020 and Beyond

Entering a presidential election cycle and year three of the Playbook, last fall we reconvened a group of leaders from across our membership to develop an action plan specific to 2020 and take a closer look at what at the forefront of our work would be ripe for action both in policy and practice extending beyond the calendar...

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