by the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance
Going on a road trip without a map is a little bit like planning to provide social services without knowing much about the people providing those services. Just like you need to know the roads, distances and locations in order to drive to a new destination, decision makers need comprehensive data on the social service workforce in order to adequately address a population’s need for social services. And they need to pair this with stories and analysis of people’s travels along the way to have evidence of whether the map is functioning effectively.
Data on the workforce assists decision makers in understanding employment trends and workforce needs and in identifying the policies, budgets and training systems that need to be in place to produce a well-planned, developed and supported social service workforce. This data helps to build the roadmap for the journey that will need to be undertaken in order to have the right people with the right skills in the right place to meet current and future needs of vulnerable populations.
Once the roadmap has been charted and the journey begins, stories and analysis of the travel need to be assembled to ensure the map is accurate and useful, as well as if any changes need to be made. This is where building a growing evidence base comes in and forms an important part of refining the journey to a strengthened workforce.
The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance aims to bring together people across its membership, including policy makers, academics, donors and practitioners, to help identify needs for data collection and develop tools and resources that can inform decision-making on social service workforce investments and programming. Along those lines, we have embarked on several projects in recent years.
State of the Social Service Workforce Reports
The Alliance has compiled annual State of the Social Service Workforce Reports to highlight social service workforce strengthening data and approaches by examining and analyzing unique initiatives in particular countries and identifying common challenges and trends evident across locations.
- The first State of the Social Service Workforce 2015 Report explores the diversity of the social service workforce within and across 15 countries in different regions of the world, recognizing the variety of functions, titles and types of education and training in both government and nongovernment work settings. It also reviews the availability of professional associations and councils to support the workforce. It takes a more quantitative approach to collating information on the workforce, combined with worker profiles and stories of change.
- The State of the Social Service Workforce 2016 Report: A review of five years of workforce strengthening highlights the workforce strengthening efforts that have taken place since 2010 in eight of the countries that participated in the Cape Town Conference. It takes more of a qualitative approach, aiming to tell a story about initiatives undertaken over the past five years, using the framework of planning, developing and supporting the workforce, and identifying some key themes across the various countries.
While data is critical, evidence of what is working is also important. The Evidence Base on the Social Service Workforce: Current Knowledge, Gaps and Future Research Direction report reviews the current state of evidence on strengthening the social service workforce around the world. This report, along with The Evidence Matrix for the Social Service Workforce, are a culmination of a process undertaken by the Building Evidence for Social Service Workforce Strengthening Interest Group (BEIG) of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance. They hoped that by organizing the current state of evidence, we can all better understand what data is available in what locations and what more is needed in order to improve the map of the way forward.
Having a good road map requires collecting the data points necessary to guide the future journey. It also allows you to look back and see how far you’ve come. As Maury Mendenhall, USAID, wrote in her blog for our first annual SSW Week in 2014, “My hope is that in the very near future, we will be swimming in data. We will have the evidence we need to make a case for increasing investments in the workforce and workforce strengthening - and we will be able to target investments, to achieve the impact that we desire.” As we look at the work of our many members in more than 86 countries, we are all, indeed, a few steps further on that journey.
In what ways do you think data and evidence could best inform workforce strengthening initiatives? What data and evidence about workforce strengthening can you add to the evidence matrix?
- Add your feedback by posting on the discussion board or in the comment box below. Share your reports or research with others by sending it here.
- Tweet to show your support for the social service workforce. Some sample tweets you can use today are:
- It’s a long journey to strengthen the social service workforce. We need a good map. #workforce2030 #SSWWeek
- Improved evidence of what works = an improved social service workforce. #SSWWeek