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Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Full speed ahead to a stronger social service workforce

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by Global Social Service Workforce Alliance

Read blogs from other days during Social Service Workforce Week

This week, during the third annual Social Service Workforce Week, we’ll review how the social service workforce is a vital component of making the social service system not only function but generate the best possible outcomes for vulnerable children and families. The social service workforce is the vital group of competent, caring workers who provide desperately needed services to the most vulnerable. They are the heart and the brains of a system responsible for supporting families and reducing violence against children.

To strengthen the social service workforce, it is necessary to look at the workforce within a systems context. The workforce is a micro-system nested within the larger system that requires its own set of interventions and support. At the same time, the workforce plays a key role at the macro, mezzo and micro levels and acts as the ever-important glue between the various components of the system, including legislative and policy environments, national institutions and structures, community and family support systems, financing and budgeting systems, programs and interventions. Their role in ensuring smooth linkages, collaboration and coordination between and among system components strengthens the system as a whole.

car without wheelsWhen Jini Roby spoke at the Alliance’s 2nd Annual Symposium in June 2015, she compared the workforce to the tires on a car. While you can have the fanciest, most expensive engine and make of car, if you don’t have wheels, you will go nowhere. You also need to have the right number of wheels, with the right tire requirements for the vehicle and the right amount of air and ensure that they are well-maintained. Yet, if the garage and the mechanics you rely on are not competent and well trained and supported, you can end up with tire problems that make it impossible to drive that wonderful car. Similarly, without investing in filling open positions, providing quality training and retaining workers by providing supportive supervision and high quality work environments, the social service system as a whole will be riding on deflated tires.

Within the social service workforce, there are many cadres that must work in synergy. Particularly at the national and global level, it is important to come together for a unified, coherent vision of strengthening the workforce in order to strengthen the entire social service system. Collaboration is vital. If the front tires want to go forward and the back tires want to go backward, we’ll be stuck in the same place. All four tires are dependent on each other, just as all cadres of the social service workforce rely on each other. By working together, our advocacy efforts and investments will help us to go full speed ahead. Our blog on Friday will highlight how and why we must be better self-advocates.

The car’s many other micro-systems must also be in good working order to move the car forward. Without making investments in routine maintenance, one part breaks and the whole car is no longer drivable.

Similarly, cars operate most effectively when in alignment with other dynamic components of transportation systems. The social service workforce operates within a social service system that consistently affects and is effected by developments in health, justice, education, gender, community development, immigration, labor and humanitarian sectors to name a few. With committed investments, however, we can grow and move forward, or to build on the analogy, ensure we have the sleekest design and newest technological advances that are maintained and work in coordination in all future year’s models.

When it comes to ensuring that our systems work for children and families, we must all commit to being drivers and not simply passengers in the car. When all parts work together, including the very important tires, we’ll reach our destination of strong, healthy families in a world truly supportive of children.

Discussion Question
Why do you think the social service workforce is a vital component of making the social service system function and generate the best outcomes for vulnerable children and families? I invite you to share promising practices as well as challenges you’ve faced on our discussion board.

Get Involved- Social Service Workforce Week 2016
Today kicks off the week’s celebration of social service workers. Each day will be launched with an e-mail to our members and mailing list and include a blog, links and sample tweets. Tomorrow, on Day Two, we will highlight the development of competency frameworks for community workers who help to prevent and address violence against children. On Day Three, we will feature the importance of data and evidence to build a strong case for workforce strengthening. Day Four will focus on case management approaches and ways groups are strengthening the workforce to better support families. Friday will focus on ways that we can all be better advocates for the workforce.

We encourage you to get involved through the following methods:

  • Become a member
  • Share promising practices as well as challenges you’ve faced on our discussion board
  • Join the conversation this week on Twitter! Use #SSWWeek, tweet the messages below or tweet us @SSWAlliance to tell us about your programs. 
  • Post a message on our Facebook page on your Facebook page using the message below.
  • Review the range of documents on the Alliance resource database
  • Send your recent reports or documents to contact@socialserviceworkforce.org with a short description to add them to the resource library and disseminate them to this network.
  • Share the daily blogs and emails with your network.

Drafted Social Media Posts
Below are some social media posts you can share on your Twitter and Facebook pages to help promote today’s blog and Social Service Workforce Week:

  • A strong #socialservices system requires a strong workforce. Join us & @SSWAlliance in celebrating #SSWWeek. /social-service-workforce-week
  • Social service workers are the intervention to #ENDViolence against children! #childprotection #SSWWeek /social-service-workforce-week
  • Today @SSWAlliance launches Social Service Workforce Week #SSWWeek. Social service workers are the tires that make the social service system go! These competent, caring workers provide desperately needed services to the most vulnerable people, including strengthening families & reducing violence against children. Read how in today’s blog: http://bit.ly/1gYsnem

Thank you for joining us this week as we celebrate the work of those who have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of others. We look forward to continuing to exchange promising practices and innovative ideas in the shared spirit of strengthening the social service workforce.