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
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.
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.