We are starting to plan this event again.... So excited with who will be coming to bring us the best ideas in social science relevant to system redesign at all levels. Click on the logo to link to the video below to get a sense of what 2018 was like.
In the last few years, its become clear to me that we need to have a clear way to focus attention in public services reform activities. The complexity that has developed over time, as good people try to respond to mandates from the federal, state and county level is extraordinary.
At Future Services Institute, we are using a methodology of human centered design in most of our projects. And we've been increasingly framing our work in relation to how to change the service experience for whole families - not making them bifurcate themselves to interact with 'support' systems. We are lucky to partner with the state of Minnesota in the 2-Gen Policy Network. Future Services Institute runs workshops and we have just entered into a new 5-year joint partnership to support design of new service approaches with eight community organizations, using their experiences as learning labs to leverage administrative and policy change at the state level. The road to systems improvement is long....but step by step we will get there.
As part of our work with two counties to redesign the service experience of families struggling with low-income who turn to the government for support, we've been trying to create some new tools to support more effective frontline practice. We have taken quite a journey.
We began by looking at all of the assessment tools that were out there, trying to get a read on the needs of the whole family. Most of them were very technical. And off putting for case workers.
So we began to work closely with county social workers who try to engage families and build their trust in working with the system. Over many months, we developed the Integrated Services Assessment Tool (ISAT) and field tested it, made refinements, tried it again. We have completed one round a validity tests and are in the midst of a second round. But here is a recap of the story (just click on the image below).
For more information see www.futureservicesinstitute.org/assessment-tool
I started my academic career with a study of the welfare system; my dissertation focused upon frontline conditions in public and nonprofit organizations in 1996 during the national debates about welfare reform. Once the entitlement to cash assistance was eliminated and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant implemented, there was not much national attention to what actually happened. My national fellowship with the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation allowed me to turn my attention to understanding current welfare policy and practice.
In fact, the origins of the Future Services Institute come from that work. Re-engaging with social policy analysis helped me to see more clearly where we were stuck, and how support for innovation and reform was necessary if we were going to move to the next level. Well, we just finished a policy report about conditions in the welfare system. But we've also been working with county government to create a app to improve communication among service providers and families. And there is an academic publication that came from that project as well (see the 'Library' part of this website.
In the 21st century, public engaged scholarship has to have many distinct products if we want to be part of what helps improve public services.
In the last few months, we've been working with the Future Services Institute Advisory Council and staff to create a clear way of expressing our Theory of Action. This has been fun, creative, and a bit challenging because during the last few years, we have tried to respond to the needs we see in the human services system in Minnesota and nationally. Our work clusters into three areas: Leadership Development, Research and Evaluation, and Innovation support. And they are all interconnected as we lean into our desired goal: an effective, equitable and efficient human services system. The Future Services Institute web-site provides more details about the projects and products of this journey so far. I'm honored to be leveraging the resources of a world-class public university to support my field. Click on this entry to see our visual representation of the Theory of Action so far.
We've been working hard on developing more knowledge about human-centered design's application to social welfare programs innovation. As the video below highlights, it is a powerful set of tools when you are trying to introduce innovative ideas without a lot of existing social science research - it allows the knowledge of families' experience, frontline staff, and managers to be central in the redesign process
Interested in using this video with others? My Consortium colleagues at Mathematica created a nice User's Guide that frames up some questions. You can also use it to find other videos by the other great scholars in the Consortium who focus on material hardship, fatherhood programs, and the spatial realities of poverty today.
This summer, we are engaged with two county governments in an intensive human-centered design project. In it, we are exploring how local government could change its operations to focus on serving holistically families in need of support. This work is a fundamental redesign, trying to advance a 2-generational service model. It is also an honor to be exploring a 'big idea' in our field - What if we stopped merely implementing categorical programs and redesigned services with people in need at the center?
In many ways, I am drawing on lessons learned 20 years ago in my dissertation in this project. But I'm now equipped with a range of tools to carry out creative design processes and backwards mapping analysis. I'm grateful to be working with my talented Future Services Institute colleagues, Sook Jin Ong and Robin Phinney.
So happy to share this video that represents just a bit of the magic that happened at last months Summit for Whole Families. We focused on the research-policy-practice linkages and benefited from amazing scholars. For more information about the event, policy briefs, and speaker videos, see our web-site.
This week, we at the Future Services Institute hosted our first National Summit on Whole Families Redesign. We brought together some of the best minds doing research about family circumstances and enabled them to have frank and honest conversations with people working in county and state government, nonprofit organizations about what it takes - and what gets in the way - of having systems work for families. Want to know what happened? Check out the Harvest site.
Last week, I was invited to an international gathering of Art of Hosting practitioners who are interested in harvesting conversations that matter, developmental evaluation, and research. It was a great gathering in Nova Scotia, called and hosted by Monica Nissen, Tuesday Ryan-Hart, Tim Merry, Brave Space and others.
During the session I did about research, a colleague recorded it in video. If you are interested, it can be found here on Vimeo.
Can't wait to gather again with like-minded leaders in the field.