Magazine article Policy & Practice

Pivotal Summit Motivated Us in Time of Change and Uncertainty

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Pivotal Summit Motivated Us in Time of Change and Uncertainty

Article excerpt

A special thank you to all of you who attended the 2017 APHSA National Health and Human Services Summit in partnership with the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. As always, I leftthe Summit energized and motivated to continue our collective work. Many members and partners expressed a similar sense of renewal in the belief that together we can create thriving communities that allow all of us to live to our full potential. From inspiring and thought-provoking general sessions to content-rich breakout presentations to hallway conversations that sparked new ideas and partnerships, this year's Summit is one that history will record as a pivotal event at a time of change and uncertainty in our nation.

While it is impossible in a short column to capture the many insights shared at the Summit, the convening as a whole was an opportunity to go deep into what it takes to do cross-sector work on the ground and simultaneously move systems-level change. For anyone who questions whether the social-serving sector, public systems, and private industry can work together to create this kind of impact, the Summit quickly dispelled that notion with dozens of examples highlighted from across the nation.

Through the lens of the Human Services Value Curve, we heard from leaders across the nation that if we are to become more integrative and generative we must focus more on social norms and networks, understanding how social capital or "connectedness to our community" relates to achieving economic mobility, being healthy, and living well. We must integrate health (including public health), education, and economic outcomes in tandem, not as separate issues. If, as one speaker said, we are "to let families-not programs-be the drivers of service design and delivery," we must recognize that where we live, learn, work, and play matters greatly to our life trajectories.

The built environment and community in which we live makes a difference to the things we see possible for ourselves and for our families. Where we are raised creates expectations for what we believe is possible and not possible. If your daily environment never allows you to believe something can happen (i.e., being safe in school; getting a stable job; putting money in a savings account), how effective can social programs and services be? As I heard author J.D. Vance say at an event earlier this year, "It is incredibly powerful to grow up in a place where you believe you have opportunities. If you grow up in a place where you see despair every day, it is very hard to see yourself with success. …

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