Boldly Leading through an Ever-Changing Human Service Landscape

By Evans, Tracy Wareing | Policy & Practice, February 2016 | Go to article overview

Boldly Leading through an Ever-Changing Human Service Landscape


Evans, Tracy Wareing, Policy & Practice


The theme of this issue is one of my personal favorites because it shines a spotlight on what it takes to lead our field in transformation, and illustrates the complex context within which health and human service leaders operate daily. The issues we face are not linear, simple, or predictable. They do not fit neatly into electoral cycles or grant timelines. They involve many fluctuating actors, conditions, and norms.

Despite these complexities, health and human service leaders across the nation are boldly leading their agencies through transformative changes. Leaders within our field are asking themselves:

* How do we move from managing people to managing networks?

* How do we move from managing programs to managing resources and systems?

* How do we shift focus from program delivery focused on a single presenting issue to a prevention and population-based health lens that addresses risks before they lead to problems?

At APHSA, I have the honor of working with these transformative leaders every day. I am humbled by the stamina, spirit, and smarts that our members and partners bring to the table. As we enter a pivotal year marked by a presidential election and national debate around the growing income divide, we do well to keep the insights of these leaders at the forefront of our thinking. Below, I've highlighted just a few ways in which the talented leaders within this field are steering our collective work:

Framing Matters. Framing is critical. As APHSA Board President and Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services, Dr. Raquel Hatter, has noted: "How we speak about our work matters. We have to speak strategically and artfully, creating a degree of cognitive dissonance that gets people to think differently about something that they have believed in for a long time."

Fortunately, the new research from Frameworks Institute (1) offers tested values and metaphors that show great promise in changing mindsets. By leading with the value of Human Potential, Frameworks research illustrates how we can help people recognize that human services benefit us all. Through the metaphor of Construction, we can better explain what "well-being" is and how it is shaped for all of us. Effective framing is not easy. It will take our collective effort as a field to apply the tested research and resist our old ways of communicating. You can read more about the latest Frameworks research in this issue and at http://www.fmmeworksinstitute.org.

North Stars and Roadmaps. With Pathways (2) continuing to set the desired future state for human services, our value proposition strategies have evolved in ways that strengthen how APHSA can support our members on their transformation journey.

Most notably, the Human Services Value Curve (3) is a viable frame that works as a developmental model that can be built on without losing its underlying simplicity or meaning. At the local level, it has resonated particularly well with policymakers. In state-supervised, county-run structures it is serving as a common frame for accountability across jurisdictions. State systems have also found the Human Services Value Curve and our associated self-assessment tool to be valuable guides in grounding the workforce in a common goal.

Our National Collaborative and Organizational Effectiveness teams will continue to work closely with leaders who are applying the Human Services Value Curve in a multitude of ways. …

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