Magazine article Policy & Practice

Our Do'ers Profile

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Our Do'ers Profile

Article excerpt

In Our Do'ers Profile, we highlight some of the hardworking and talented individuals in public human services. This issue features Robert Fersh, President and Founder of the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution.

Name: Robert J. Fersh

Title: President and Founder, Convergence Center for Policy Resolution

Years of Service: I've worked on human services issues at the national level for 40 years. My first job out of law school, and a favorite one, was actually with APHSA (then the American Public Welfare Association). I staffed committees and task forces of state and local administrators in areas like Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TANF's predecessor), food stamps, and welfare reform generally. This experience grounded me with appreciation for those who actually run public human services programs.

My career path for many years related mainly to poverty and hunger in the United States. I served on the staffs of three congressional committees, held a political appointment at the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and later led a national anti-hunger organization (Food Research and Action Center) for a dozen years.

I started Convergence in 2009 to build a new approach to challenges of national consequence. We call our approach "dialogue-leading-to-action." We convene diverse and often conflicting groups, help them build relationships of trust over time, and then help them find common ground and form unlikely alliances for action. APHSA is at the table for two of our current projects on Economic Mobility and on the Federal Budget Process. We have had success on other issues such as K-12 education, long-term supports and services for elderly and disabled Americans, and nutrition and wellness.

Rewards of the Job: I find it immensely satisfying to get people who never thought they could talk to each other to collaborate to make a difference in people's lives. The ultimate pay-off for me is that these transformed relationships often lead to groundbreaking solutions on important national issues. I hope this will prove true in our current project on Economic Mobility, which has a mission central to the concerns of the public human services community. Our diverse stakeholder group--business, labor, advocacy, workforce experts, human services leaders, and more--seeks ways to improve economic opportunity, especially for low-income Americans, by creating new approaches to workforce development, quality job creation, and increased financial security. …

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