Future Search The Method

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Human Services Overview

Challenges in the field of Human Services

Human Service agencies face a complex challenge - how to provide for the well being of the people they serve in a time of increasing social, economic and regulatory stress. Over the past few years, many agencies have taken on a new role. They are looking to build healthy communities as a key to supporting healthy individuals. In fact, the most frequently asked question among the human service non-profit agencies is, "How can we find ways to engage our clients, service providers, funders, business partners, community members and regulators in building partnerships for more efficient, effective and sustainable delivery systems?"

Here are two stories of how these human services agencies successfully sought an answer to this question:

A Future Search in Papua, Indonesia, "Anak dan Ibu (Women and Children)"

On the island of Biak in Papua, Indonesia, a group of women, children, fishermen from outlying islands, traditional leaders, health workers, educators, leaders of NGOs, and local elected officials met to discuss the future of women and children. In the Bahasa language, anak dan ibu are the words for women and children. But Bahasa wasn't the only language spoken in the room. Biak, a local dialect, was also used as well as some of the other 250 distinct languages that are spoken in the islands of Papua. This diverse group of people, with their many languages, were meeting, with the sponsorship of UNICEF, to plan for the future of women and children in their district for the next five years.

UNICEF/Indonesia had decided to take a lead from the communities it served and use future search for program planning. UNICEF brought in members of the Future Search Network to train 40 Indonesians. In turn, the Indonesian facilitators ran future searches in 41 districts across Indonesia. The conference in Biak was one of the first led by local facilitators and the outcomes included a series of action proposals for implementing the shared vision for women and children. The action steps opened up the opportunity for local people to partner with UNICEF to build a future together.

Future Search for the Whole Child

In another future search titled "Linking Possibilities for the Whole Child", service consumers and providers explored opportunities to meet the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing children with emotional and behavioral challenges. They agreed to an action plan for implementing a "wraparound model" of more child-focused, community-based services that potentially could be reimbursed by existing state agencies, once the red tape was unraveled. Two months after the future search a follow up group uncovered a pilot project opportunity within an existing community services program, as well as several funding sources for the implementation project.

How Future Search Can Help

Future search can be used help Human Service agencies engage a diverse group of stakeholders in planning and implementing community service goals. It empowers participants through collaborative solutions. It builds the kind of deep capacity that results in lasting change. Future search works because it enables people, regardless of their cultural difference to discover their common ground.

Some of the Ways Future Search can Serve Human Service Agencies:

  • Building community-wide solutions to complex problems such as homelessness, low income housing, AIDS, safety, etc.

  • Creating integrated service systems among employment, mental health, financial assistance, education and substance abuse services.

  • Empowering communities members through participation.

  • Implementing client-based service delivery models.

  • Strengthening partnerships among agencies.

  • Strengthening partnerships with the community.

  • Creating effective continuum of care for special populations.

  • Designing for community assets instead of deficits.

Some Communities and Regions in which Human Service Agencies have used future search:

Yolo County, California: Used a future search to design a merger between Yolo County Department of Social Services and a non-profit called the Community Partnership Agency.

Seattle Human Services Coalition: Used future search to create an advocacy agenda to meet basic human needs and address institutional racism in King County, Washington.

Colorado Foundation for Families and Children: HOPE Worldwide, South Africa: Used future search in communities throughout South African to strengthen their local abilities to care for orphans due to HIV/AIDS

Countries of Nigeria, Ethopia and Phillipines used future search to address the issue of adolescent reproductive health.







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