You are here


Anonymous's picture

Roundtable Discussion on Faculty Recruitment and Retention on September 23

Roundtable Discussion on Faculty Recruitment and Retention

Social Service Workforce Strengthening Webinar Series

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

8:30 AM – 10:00 AM (Washington), 2:30 – 4:00 PM (South Africa), 7:30 – 9:00 PM (Indonesia) 

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, in partnership with the Monmouth University School of Social Work and through funding from the US-based National Association of Deans and Directors, has conducted a review of challenges and promising practices associated with social work faculty recruitment and retention. Engaging and retaining high quality faculty is a key workforce topic that spans schools of social work across the globe.  This will be an informal discussion held with social work deans, directors and faculty from multiple countries. We anticipate a lively conversation rather than long presentations and we invite you to listen in and participate by offering your questions, ideas and opinions. 

Discussants include:

  • Mr. Charles Kalinganire, Lecturer, Social Work, Department of Social Sciences, School of Social, Political and Administrative Sciences, University of Rwanda
  • Dr. Abu Mvungi, Rector, Institute of Social Work, Tanzania
  • Dr. Kanya Eka Santi, Head of Bandung College of Social Welfare, West Java, Indonesia
  • Dr. Vishanthie Sewpaul, Professor, School of Applied Human Sciences, University of KwaZulu Natal; President, Association of Schools of Social Work in Africa; Vice-President, IASSW
  • Dr. Karen Sowers, Dean and Professor, College of Social Work, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The discussion will be moderated by:

  • Dr. Robin Mama, Dean, School of Social Work, Monmouth University
  • Dr. Jim McCaffery, CapacityPlus, TRG, and Chairperson of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Steering Committee

Please use this link to access the webinar any time after 8:15am EDT on Sept 23:

Please note that after completing the short registration form, you will need to click on or copy a link from the page and paste it in your browser window to access the webinar.

To calculate what time the webinar will be held in your part of the world, use this link:

To learn more about this webinar series and to access the series’ archives, please visit:

This webinar series is supported by:

Amy Bess's picture

Social Service Workers Address Ebola’s Widespread Social Impacts

By Amy Bess, Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, and Alex Collins, IntraHealth International

Social Impacts of Ebola on West Africa becoming more evident

Social Workers in Sierra Leone help in the fight against EbolaThe number of confirmed cases of Ebola is quickly climbing past 6,200. On September 20, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the historic U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), underscoring how a comprehensive, multisectoral response will be ever more critical as Ebola’s far-reaching health, security, political, economic, and social impacts on West Africa become more evident.

For every person infected, many others are affected—family members lose loved ones, children lose their parents, students lose teachers, employers lose key staff and scores of responders have witnessed extreme suffering and work in exceedingly stressful environments.

Who is addressing the social impacts of Ebola?

Fortunately, skilled social service workers are helping prevent the spread of the disease and addressing its wide-ranging social impacts.

Social service workers are those who contribute to the care, support, promotion of rights, and empowerment of vulnerable populations. All functional levels of this workforce have vital roles to play in West Africa’s Ebola response, including:

  •  Those who provide direct care and services to children and families, such as social workers, para-social workers, community caregivers, child and youth care workers, and child protection committee members
  • Those who mobilize communities, organizations, or groups, and facilitate connections between government systems of care and community-based systems of care, such as community development officers, child protection officers, and district social welfare workers
  • Those who engage at a more macro level, setting policies, standards, and guidelines and carrying out research and evaluation. This includes positions such as directors of children’s affairs, ministers of social welfare, professional association leaders and university staff.

Importance of the social service workforce in awareness raising and child protection

Social service workers are trained community mobilizers and trusted community members. They help to build awareness and combat myths about Ebola in an intense environment of fear and stigma. They recognize that stigma further isolates people and blocks access to care and support, which in turn contributes to the continued spread of the disease.

For example, social workers from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and nongovernmental organization staff in Liberia have been trained by the International Committee of the Red Crossand are carrying out awareness-raising and sensitization campaigns in communities, marketplaces, and homes. Others are organizing educational dramas, carrying out home visits, and staffing hotlines with responders trained in psychosocial support.

In Sierra Leone, Social Workers Sierra Leone is working among homeless youth in Freetown, a population not included in the government’s home-to-home Ebola education campaign during the country’s three-day lockdown. They also visited other marginalized communities that would otherwise not receive basic care and information.

And in neighboring Guinea, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is working with the Red Cross Society of Guinea, the Ministry of Health, World Health Organization, and Medecins Sans Frontiers to manage the epidemic, raise community awareness, and provide psychosocial support to affected families.

Social service workers also help to ensure that children made vulnerable by Ebola are protected from further harm. According to UNICEF, when parents die of Ebola, their children are sometimes found roaming the streets without parental care, proper shelter, health care, or nutrition. This can be a result of stigma and rejection, as the children are seen in their communities as sources of infection. Typical systems of care are interrupted and those who would typically take children in refuse to care for them due to fear of contamination.

Social service workers are part of a rapid child protection response including identification of and care for separated and unaccompanied children, family tracing and reunification. UNICEF is also supporting alternative forms of care such as safe or half-way homes staffed by social service workers. Community mobilization and sensitization campaigns also serve an important role in preventing family separation.

Social service workers charged with addressing mental health and psychosocial support

Ebola brings with it not only physical suffering for those infected, but also feelings of panic, shock, loss, grief, shame, suspicion, and anger to both victims and survivors. Increased challenges and stressors faced during such an emergency--such as food insecurity, loss of family income, interruptions in schooling and access to health care—make matters worse.

Mental health and psychosocial support have long been key components of coordinated emergency response. For example, the Inter Agency Standing Committee Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) in Emergency Settings, were developed in 2007 to establish a set of minimum multisectoral responses to protect, support, and improve mental health and psychosocial wellbeing in the midst of emergencies.

To assist social service workers responding to the Ebola crisis, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ briefing note on Psychosocial support during an outbreak of Ebola virus disease provides targeted information on psychosocial issues related to Ebola, key messages, and recommendations for providing psychosocial support. And the World Health Organization has adapted a handbook on psychosocial first aid to focus on the Ebola crisis.

In Liberia, UNICEF is sending mental health specialists to Ebola treatment units and holding centers to provide psychosocial support to patients and their families.

Specially trained social service workers help Ebola responders—including health workers, body removal teams, volunteers, and government and NGO staff—manage stress, self-care, grief, and loss.

The unsung heroes of the Ebola epidemic

Social service workers are some of the unsung heroes of the Ebola epidemic. They work around the clock to help prevent the spread of the disease and address its widespread social consequences. As more and more countries commit the support of their trained health professionals to treat an increasing number of patients, so too must we recognize the importance of social service workers and the many roles they are playing—from raising community awareness to providing social support to patients and survivors—in the midst of this epidemic.

Anonymous's picture

Join us for a webinar on July 30: The Role of Local Government Staff in Coordinating and Overseeing Social Services

 WEBINAR: The Role of Local Government Staff in Coordinating and Overseeing Social Services


Wednesday, July 30, 2014 8:30am – 10:00am, Washington DC

2:30pm Harare, 3:30pm Kampala

This webinar will explore the role of government workers, particularly those at the district or sub-national levels, who play a key role in supporting community systems to enhance the delivery of quality services and support to vulnerable children and families. Speakers will address the way in which the social service system as a whole can be strengthened by reinforcing the technical and leadership skills of local government staff to coordinate, lead, monitor and evaluate services and support in their region. Experiences from the Bantwana Initiative in Zimbabwe and the SUNRISE-OVC Project in Uganda will be used to illustrate the key involvement of government staff in these countries. Speakers will also address the results and impact of having strong staff at the sub-national level. They will discuss inputs that have led to increased coordination with community structures, better workforce planning and skills development, strengthened referral systems and case management systems, stronger monitoring and evaluation systems, improved annual planning and budgeting for social services, and ultimately, stronger services for children and families.  During the webinar, participants will also have the opportunity to discuss the implications of this type of work in their countries.


Ms. Patience Ndlovu, Zimbabwe Country Director, World Education/Bantwana Initiative  

With a Master’s in Policy Studies, Ms. Ndlovu has worked for over 17 years in development and emergency relief efforts largely focused on assisting vulnerable children and addressing women’s protection and rights issues. She is currently the Country Director for WEI/Bantwana in Zimbabwe providing technical and management oversight and leadership for 3 large national programs - the Vana Bantwana project offering comprehensive support for vulnerable children and their families affected by the HIV epidemic funded through USAID; an innovative systems strengthening program with the Department of Social Welfare that has developed a national case management program supported by UNICEF and USAID; and the Second Chance Learning program for children who have dropped out of school supported by UNICEF and OSISA.  Before joining Bantwana, Ms. Ndlovu managed the OVC program for Capernaum Trust Zimbabwe, specifically marshaling efforts in policy formulation and model designs. Previously under World Vision International Zimbabwe, Ms. Ndlovu provided technical support to the National Director in strategic planning, policy development, negotiations, proposal writing, reporting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all country programs. She was also instrumental in the design of the USAID/WFP-funded Food Aid Program.

Ms. Grace Mayanja, Chief of Party, Uganda SUNRISE-OVC Project

Grace Mayanja  has 20 years of leadership and management experience at grassroots, national, regional and international communities. She is one of Uganda’s top social development specialists with expertise in social policy development and implementation, human and economic development, gender analysis and planning, development management, child development and rights. She holds a First Class Division Honors of the Master of Science Degree in International Development Studies, University College Dublin, Ireland. She also studied Master of Arts in Gender and Development Studies, and also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management. Grace has been instrumental in leading and working with teams that have developed various child development and related frameworks for Uganda and other African countries. She was the civil society lead person on the National Steering Committee that spearheaded the first National OVC policy and Strategic plan development for Uganda as well as other OVC related guidelines, standards, systems, technical tools and strategies. She is currently International HIV/AIDS Alliance'sChief of Party for USAID SUNRISE-OVC project in strengthening Uganda’s local government responses for OVC in 80 districts.  Previously, Ms. Mayanja was Chief of Party for the USAID CORE project in supporting and building capacity of Uganda Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to lead and coordinate the national OVC response. Her other experience includes working with World Vision as technical advisor for OVC and HIV/AIDS Models of Learning global Hope Initiative Program.

Please use this link to access the webinar any time after 8:15am EDT on July 30:

You will be asked to complete a short registration form and then copy a link to the webinar.

To calculate what time the webinar will be held in your part of the world, use this link:

 Please visit

to learn more about this webinar series and to access the series’ archives.

 This webinar series is supported by:


Anonymous's picture

Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Symposium: Experts discuss how to strengthen workforce

This article appeared in the June 2014 edition of the NASW News:

Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Symposium: Experts discuss how to strengthen workforce

By Rena Malai, News staff

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance held a symposium in April that brought together experts to discuss the importance of strengthening the social service workforce worldwide.

The NASW Foundation was one of the co-hosts of the event, called “Supporting Families, Building a Better Tomorrow for Children: The Role of the Social Service Workforce.” NASW is also part of the alliance’s steering committee.

“The symposium brought forth many important issues, including the importance of building a stronger social service workforce to support the needs of children and families around the world,” said Susan Rubin, assistant director for the NASW Foundation.

Three panels presented at the symposium, with each addressing a different area on how to build a stronger social service workforce. The first panel — “How Social Service Workers Support Families to Promote Healthy Development and Well-Being of Children” — included NASW member Nathan Linsk, professor of social work in family medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago and founder of the Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center.

Linsk spoke about developing training and a workforce for paraprofessionals in other countries who serve vulnerable families and children. The term stands for those who are not necessarily trained social workers, but who carry out social services.

“Coordination is key,” Linsk said. “With Global Alliance as a resource for idea sharing and networking, advocating can happen to use paraprofessionals in suitable roles.”

Amy Bess, Global Social Service Workforce Alliance coordinator, said social workers comprise a key component of the social service workforce, and they are often called on to coordinate and collaborate with other disciplines in order to provide comprehensive social services. She said the symposium was an opportunity to highlight the importance of the social service workforce, which plays a critical role in promoting healthy social service systems and improving the lives of vulnerable children and families.

“The symposium, as well as the work of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance in general, offered an opportunity to bring people together to identify effective workforce strategies at the micro, mezzo and macro levels,” Bess said.  “At the end of the day, this will mean stronger support and services to children and families who need it most.”

The symposium had more than 100 attendees, and was held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The NASW Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) provided funding for the event.

The mission of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance is to promote the knowledge of evidence, resources and tools, and political will and action needed to address key social service workforce challenges, especially within low- to middle-income countries. USAID partner CapacityPlus also helped implement the symposium.

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance hosts a Social Service Workforce Webinar Series. The webinars are free, and NASW members are encouraged to attend, said Susan Rubin, assistant director for the NASW Foundation.

“I encourage anyone who is interested in getting involved in this kind of work to become a member of the Global Alliance network as it provides a great connection to an international network and shared information,” she said. “There is no cost to join. The Global Alliance sends out notices to its members and provides them access to a wealth of information.”

For more information on the NASW Foundation, visit©2014 National Association of Social Workers. All Rights Reserved.

Anonymous's picture

Happy Birthday - Today the Alliance is 1 Year Old

Thank you to all who have shared your creative ideas for building a platform to connect with one another, learn and share resources.  The Alliance came to life one year ago and is helping to strengthen the social service workforce.

At the Social Welfare Workforce Strengthening Conference held in Cape Town, South Africa in 2010, 150 participants from 18 countries recommended that we find a way to continue the inspiring dialogue that the conference stimulated.  As a result, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance launched one year ago to generate the knowledge and evidence, resources and tools, and political will and action to address key social service workforce challenges around the globe.
What do members do?
The Alliance vision is to work toward a world where a well-planned, well-trained and well-supported social service workforce effectively delivers services that improve the lives of vulnerable populations. To realize this vision takes members like you to join and to engage with leaders and colleagues to advance knowledge, explore shared issues and promising practices and be strong advocates to help strengthen the workforce.
Over the past year, members have been involved in:

  • Sharing tools, resources, models and best practices; contributing to the resource database and E-Updates; and learning about creative initiatives being undertaken by others
  • Participating in webinars, events and a Symposium
  • Participating in and taking leadership on interest groups to connect with others and contribute ideas and best practices to address workforce challenges in specific thematic areas
  • Being part of a global movement to strengthen this key workforce, through initiatives such as Social Service Workforce Week.

Who are the members?
Since our launch on June 6, 2013, we have had 354 individuals join from 52 countries, including staff from NGOs (34%), universities (26%), government (10%), UN agencies (10%), professional associations (5%) and corporations (5%).  Membership is free and open to anyone who is:

  • Involved in the area of social service initiatives or interested in learning more
  • Interested in supporting and promoting the aims and principles of the Alliance
  • Committed to interagency collaboration.

Thank you for joining!  
We would like to thank everyone who has joined this emerging network to share information and make use of the excellent resources related to strengthening the social service workforce and promoting the protection, development and well-being of children and families.  In case you are not yet a member, you can sign up for free membership here.  

More about us  
Are you interested in learning more about who the social service workforce is, why they should be supported, and ways that organizations are working to strengthen this workforce that provides critical care, support and services to vulnerable populations? Take a look at this background information on the workforce on our website.
Read more about the history and leadership of the Alliance here.
The Alliance receives core funding from PEPFAR/USAID and periodically receives funding for priority activities from other donors. IntraHealth International, the lead partner of CapacityPlus, hosts and acts as fiscal sponsor for the Alliance.
Contact Amy Bess, the Alliance Coordinator, at abess@ with any questions or ideas.
We look forward to your continuing involvement in this important initiative to strengthen the workforce and improve lives.  And we look forward to celebrating more Alliance birthdays with you in the years to come.
The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Steering Committee

  • Dr. Bernadette J. Madrid, MD, Executive Director of the Child Protection Network Foundation, Inc.
  • Dr. Catherine Love, PhD, Trustee, Taranakai Whanui Iwi Authority (WTT/PNMR)
  • Dr. James McCaffery, PhD, Senior Advisor, Training Resources Group and CapacityPlus
  • Ms. Joyce Nakuta, Deputy Director, Namibia Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Directorate Child Welfare Services, Division Child Care
  • Ms. Kendra Gregson, MSc, BA, CYW, Senior Advisor, UNICEF
  • Ms. Maury Mendenhall, MSW, Senior Technical Advisor, OVC, United States Agency for International Development
  • Dr. Nathan L. Linsk, PhD, Professor of Social Work in Family Medicine, Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Dr. Natia Partskhaladze, MD, MSW, Chairperson, Georgian Association of Social Workers and Iv. Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Georgia
  • Mr. Patrick Onyango Mangen, Country Director, TPO Uganda
  • Dr. Robin Sakina Mama, PhD, Professor and Dean, Monmouth University School of Social Work, US
  • Ms. Susan Rubin, MBA, MA, Assistant Director, National Association of Social Workers Foundation, US
  • Mr. Ummuro Adano, MSc, Senior Principal Technical Advisor, Management Sciences for Health, US
  • Ms. Zenuella Sugantha Thumbadoo (Zeni), Deputy Director, National Association of Child Care Workers – South Africa
Anonymous's picture

Takeaways from April 29 Symposium: Supporting Families, Building a Better Tomorrow for Children: The Role of the Social Service Workforce

Submitted by guest blogger, Chiedza Mufunde

On April 29, 2014, the Alliance hosted a symposium, Supporting Families, Building a Better Tomorrow for Children: The Role of the Social Service Workforce in Washington, D.C. The symposium, attended by professionals working to promote resilience through child and family-centered interventions at the micro, meso and macro levels featured panelists working in South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, Philippines and Zimbabwe. Some of the major highlights included discussions on workforce training, role of community assets, and the importance of coordination and integration in service delivery.  

In the keynote address by UNICEF’s Chief for Child Protection Programmes, Dr. Susan Bissell underscored the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family. Families are the first port of call for children and they play an essential role in development. Sadly, in many places around the world, this port is broken due to violence, conflict, HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty. The social service workforce is the supply in working to protect children in these dire situations.  Dr. Bissell also noted the importance of training and coordination of the workforce to avoid doing harm, even when there are good intentions.  While there are many challenges—certification, resources, supervision, attracting professionals, burnout—in the training of social workers, there is evidence of increased partnerships to train and retain frontline workers in communities.  In her opening remarks, Dr. Caroline Ryan, Deputy Coordinator for Technical Leadership, US Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, underscored PEPFAR’s support and sponsorship for social service workforce strengthening and programming.

Dr. Nathan Linsk discussed the project training para-professionals in Tanzania in collaboration with the Institute of Social Work and the AIHA Twinning Center. Para-professionals fill in critical gaps in identifying needs and providing support. Kendra Blackett- Dibinga presented findings from a recent study by Save the Children indicating the critical role of community caregivers on children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS in Cote d’Ivoire. According to the study, The Impact of Community Caregivers in Cote d’Ivoire: Improving Health and Social Outcomes through Community Caregivers in Cote d’Ivoire, households that received community caregiver support were about 12 times more likely to receive care and had better clinical and social outcomes. In South Africa, the Isibindi model implemented by the National Association of Child and Youth Care Workers is evidence of the role of community-based child and youth care workers trained to provide child-care services that are family- centered.  Zeni Thumbadoo captured the essence of the role of social service workforce in direct service provision at the micro level: “The core of Isibindi is translating care into action by using everyday life events—ordinary human interactions—that transcend basic needs and foster resilience.”  

Community ownership featured prominently among panelists working at the meso level through community caregivers and case care workers. As Mike Wessells stressed, studies indicate that there are spontaneous, homegrown child protection mechanisms that are often sustainable and effective within communities. Mapping out these assets and resources through connecting the formal and non-formal actors is only achievable when the workforce engages the community as co-learners. Reflecting on positionality relative to local people is essential in cultivating community ownership. Patrick Onyango Mangen presented on work in remote areas of Somalia and Uganda.  He emphasized the need for social workers to develop the ability to navigate dual worlds and respect local traditions without romanticizing or judging them. Social service workers can and are harnessing local strategies that have the potential to improve outcomes for children and families.

Engagement with the community sets the stage for successful integration and coordination at the macro level. Patience Ndlovu elaborated on the case management program with Bantwana Initiative in building the system of the Department of Social Services in Zimbabwe. Through this cadre of volunteers, case care workers ease the burden of social workers and meet the needs of children. Joyce Nakuta of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Namibia also echoed the need to promote an integrated service delivery system in establishing a continuum of care; it is important for governments, and non-governmental actors to embrace partnership as key to building and strengthening national systems. Based on the experience of establishing child protection units in the Philippines, Dr. Bernadette Madrid stressed the need to advocate at all levels to ensure sustainability and institutionalization of child protection laws.  All panels highlighted close collaborations with various universities in integrating curricula on child protection: Bantwana Initiative collaboration with University of Zimbabwe and Women’s University in Africa social work programs; Makerere University in Uganda and TPO Uganda; UNICEF and Harvard School of Public Health and University of KwaZulu-Natal; and Institute of Social Work, Tanzania and PEPFAR. These collaborations build capacity of institutions in training a movement of social workers and para-professionals who embody the core principles and values of social work.

Overall, the symposium fostered a stimulating conversation among professionals committed to developing and supporting a workforce that keeps children and families at the heart of the work. My biggest takeaway from the symposium: It takes humility for all players to effectively engage and coordinate actions that inspire breakthroughs in protecting children. Many thanks to the Alliance for organizing the event!


Chiedza Mufunde recently received an MSW from Boston College Graduate School of Social Work specializing in global practice and policy.


Anonymous's picture

SSWWeek Day Five: Making Sure the Workforce Has the Support it Needs

By Dr. James McCaffery, PhD, Senior Advisor, Training Resources Group and CapacityPlus

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, who once said ‘out of clutter, find simplicity,’ I would adapt it to say ‘out of diversity, find strength.’  And the social service workforce is wonderfully diverse. 

Consider the broad range of job titles that exist – social worker, social work assistant, community based care giver, social welfare extension worker, community based psychosocial worker, child and youth care worker, and so on.  In addition, there are other roles from related sectors that deliver some aspect of social service work within their areas or responsibility, including people like teachers, probation officers and community health workers.  To add to this complex social service workforce picture, there is a broad range of government and non-government organizations that hire and support workers, and these exist in some form at both the national and local level, and include formal as well as non-formal (and traditional) community groups and mechanisms. 

I use the term ‘wonderfully diverse’ in the first sentence just to acknowledge that there is definitely space for many to contribute in this area, and there is a certain strength in this organizational and workforce diversity that should be celebrated.

Given this picture, however, there is a key challenge – what kinds of actions can this broad range of organizations take to make sure they are supporting the various components of the workforce that they are responsible for?  What options do they have to motivate a plethora of widely different kinds of workers?

Drawing from the Support component of the Social Service Workforce Strengthening Framework, there are two important areas that leaders at every level – and in any type of organization -- can use to choose appropriate interventions or strategies that fit their context and needs. 

1)                  Develop or strengthen systems to improve and sustain social service workforce performance.  Probably most important, organizations can improve the kind of supportive supervision that they use with front line workers, and to seek out any special mechanisms that may be needed for community based caregivers.   Another key area that would support workforce performance is to develop or agree on standard operating procedures for more coordinated and comprehensive services between national, district and community based organizations providing support for children and families (e.g. better tracking and documentation of services, making certain the referral system is actually working, and identifying how well the different players are working together to provide ongoing support for children and families).

2)                  Develop or adapt tools, resources, and initiatives to improve job satisfaction and retention.  It is important to start in this area by soliciting and implementing ideas from social service workers for improving workplace conditions aimed at enabling them to carry out their responsibilities more effectively.  Just the act of asking for input will be motivating to workers (assuming of course that something is done as a result).  It is also important to consult with social service workers and community based care givers to identify ways to acknowledge achievements or incentives and (merit-based) promotions to provide for individuals who stay with organizations for longer periods of time. Finally, it is useful to engage in on-going monitoring to measure progress in the areas of job satisfaction and retention interventions and to make appropriate changes based on evidence.

I should also add that there is an Alliance Interest Group working now on exploring and consolidating perspectives and key considerations concerning the role of para professionals in the social service workforce.  As part of their work, they are developing a series of guiding principles for developing and supporting the workforce, which will also be a valuable resource once it is complete.

As we consider these kinds of leadership actions to support the social service workforce, we are also fortunate to have profiles of leaders who are doing just that. 

I encourage you to read these profiles as they are excellent examples of a very important social service cadre, that is, leaders and managers who are responsible for creating an enabling workforce environment.  Also take a look at a story about the way that community volunteers are supported through intensive training provided by the USAID-supported Yekokeb Berhan Program for Highly Vulnerable Children in Ethiopia.

For those leaders interested in taking action to support their workforce, the Alliance website has many useful resources on supporting the workforce that can be adapted and applied to fit different contexts.  For example, there are different tools or training courses that can be used to develop or train supervisors.  There are studies about how best to compensate primary and secondary community based caregivers.  There are country profiles that described workforce strengthening progress in Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi and Namibia.  There are resources aimed at improving staff retention, one that describes how important the supervisor’s role is in retention and identifies supervisory competencies that increase retention and another – borrowed from the health sector – which provides tools to solicit input from workers about packages of incentives to best facilitate retention

The Alliance has also hosted a number of webinars related to supporting the workforce, including:

I encourage you to go on the website and look around, and I think you will find it a rich resource.  And our hope is that you will share your documents or insights about your own initiatives in this area so that others might profit as result of your work.  You email documents to us with a short description and we will help you to disseminate them.

And to return for a moment to our Einstein quote – we may not easily be able to find simplicity, but we can make every effort at the workforce level to make the diversity a strength by supporting all kinds of workers better.




Anonymous's picture

SSWWeek Day Four: Understanding the Workforce - Who are they, what do they do and how can we help them do it better?

By Maury Mendenhall, MSW, Senior Technical Advisor, Orphans and Vulnerable Children, US Agency for International Development

As a social service worker, I got into this business because I wanted to change lives for the better. For a long time, I thought that my good intentions were enough. But at some point, perhaps we all wonder “Am I making a difference? Is the difference that I am making positive?”

Lately, I have begun to ask the same question about social service workforce strengthening.

Everywhere I go, the people that I meet at Social Service Ministries, Non-governmental Organizations, in villages, regret the lack of social service workers – the implication being that if we only had more social service workers, we could deliver services more effectively.

I have begun to wonder if that is true. It’s not that I doubt the logic. It is hard to argue that a ratio of 1 social service worker to a population of 155,000 is sufficient.

But what do we hope to achieve by increasing the workforce – improved job performance? Better outcomes for vulnerable children and other populations? What do improved job performance and better outcomes for children look like? Are there are other things that we can do to make better use of the social service workers that we have? Which of these strategies are most cost-effective? Do we even know how many social service workers are out there? Where are they? What are they doing? These are some pretty fundamental questions.

I have a love/hate relationship with data collection and research. On the one hand, good useful research and information systems are expensive and it is hard for me to justify diverting funds from much needed social services. On the other hand, I want to be certain that the social services we support with our limited resources are the services with the greatest potential to change lives for the better. And I now realize that we need to apply the same rigor to monitoring and researching the impact of our investments in social service strengthening.

Although it may have taken me a while to reach this conclusion, I am encouraged to know that social service workers and other researchers and information managers all over the world have been asking these big questions for some time. Efforts supported by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and others to map workforce in Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe Kenya, Malawi and Ethiopia have begun to provide us with a better understanding of what the workforce looks like – right now – so that we have a baseline for future workforce strengthening initiatives.  PEFPAR and USAID have also sponsored Human Resources Information Systems in Malawi and Tanzania to help to track the workforce and identify gaps in specific regions or areas of practice.  These initiatives were highlighted in a recent Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Webinar titled “Using Human Resources Data to Improve Social Services: Experiences from Malawi and Tanzania.”  During the April 29, 2014 Alliance Symposium in Washington, DC, funded by PEPFAR, USAID and the National Association for Social Workers Foundation, Kendra Blackett-Dibinga from Save the Children shared with us the results of a study on the Impact of Community Caregivers on OVC in Cote d’Ivoire, which looked at the effects of casework on access to services and retention in Anti-retroviral Treatment for HIV+ patients. At another recent Symposium on Building the Evidence:  Measuring the Social Service Workforce co-hosted by the Alliance and the Child Protection in Crisis Learning Network in New York on February 19,  2014, Joan Levy Zlotnik from the US National Association of Social Workers Social Work Policy Institute highlighted growing evidence indicating that effective supervision is critical to promoting child welfare staff retention, positive organizational culture and climate, culturally competent practice, transmission of evidence-based practices, and child and family outcomes. At the same Symposium, Dr. Mark Preston from the Columbia School of Social Work discussed the interactive effects of task complexity, instrumental feedback, and task control on worker well-being.

The individuals involved in these efforts are heroes. These are not easy tasks. You can read about a few of these workers in the profiles below:

I find these individuals and their work extremely inspiring.

Within the last few weeks, Mark Canavera from the Child Protection in Crisis Learning Network, Mari Hickman from Futures Group and I began co-chairing a new Interest Group under the Alliance to help to build the body of evidence to support workforce strengthening and monitor the impact of workforce strengthening efforts. The group is still in the early stages of planning but our hope is that we might engage a range of academics, practitioners, evaluators, information managers, and others to begin to address some of the areas of enquiry listed below:

  • What sort of impact do we ultimately hope to achieve through workforce strengthening efforts and how are we currently measuring this impact? 
  • What frameworks, indicators, and other tools exist to support this measurement? How might we refine or improve the way in which we articulate and measure impact?
  • What might be some appropriate and/or common workforce strengthening input, output and impact indicators that could be measured across social service workforce strengthening efforts to compare impact or monitor efforts at the global level?
  • What evidence is already available to demonstrate the impact of workforce strengthening efforts – including evidence on social service workforce strengthening efforts in low income, middle income and high income countries, as well as evidence from related workforce strengthening efforts (such as the health workforce, the education workforce, etc…)?
  • What are the most critical evidence gaps and what potential research questions or studies might help to address those gaps?
  • What are potential research opportunities – including funding, available research teams, etc… - and how can the Alliance and its members be engaged in these opportunities?

If you are interested in joining this group or have any research or data that you think might be helpful to this group, please feel to contact us. You can learn more about this Alliance Interest Group and join our group by becoming a member of the Alliance and then following this link to subscribe to the interest group.

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, with laser precision.

Too optimistic? Perhaps … But you have to admire my intentions, right?


Anonymous's picture

SSWWeek Day Three: Leading the Way to the Future- Preparing Future Social Service Leaders

By Dr. Nathan L. Linsk, PhD, Professor of Social Work in Family Medicine, Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center, University of Illinois at Chicago

Social service workers and those from related fields provide help and support to those who cannot support themselves due to their own limitations or vulnerable situations.  As social service workers, we take on functions that individuals, families, or communities usually perform, when those resources fail or simply are not present.  We are the natural helpers whose training and highly developed skills bridge the gaps that get in the way of growth, development and quality of life.  We advocate for changes that enhance the well-being and productivity of people and their communities.  Although we focus on strengths, we also address problems through our own interventions as well as by linking our “clients” to other resources.

So how do we move from informal helping to a workforce providing systematic structures of ongoing support and personal empowerment at local, regional, national, or even global levels?  A corps of leaders must emerge who have not only the preparation to enrich these structures but also the financial, legislative, and public support to develop well-staffed programs that empower individuals and families and communities in a given context.

A small explosion of college- and university-based social work and related programs have emerged recently at bachelor and master degree levels throughout the developing world.  Institutions are moving beyond offering diplomas and certificates to establish accredited degree programs at diverse levels.  The International Association of Schools of Social Work has established Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training that are utilized by many schools throughout the world to support their growth and development. 

In Tanzania, the American International Health Alliance Twinning Center has established a consortium of up to sixteen schools working to realize social work degree programs called the Tanzania Emerging Schools of Social Work Education Program (TESWEP) as part of its HIV/AIDS Twinning Partnerships in Tanzania.  To date several bachelor degrees and three master degree programs have been established.  However, there are ongoing challenges: setting up these programs stretches limited resources; funds for student tuition and related expenses are scarce; and finding qualified faculty to prepare these students for leadership is difficult.

A greater problem is what these graduates do after completing the programs.  Too often students who complete post-secondary education programs in social work or community development find that social service or social welfare jobs, if they exist, do not help them to realize their goals. Barriers to obtaining jobs in the social service sector include poor pay as well as restrictive requirements for service.  As a result many students who graduate from social service educational programs leave the field altogether for jobs in business, telecommunication, or travel.  In other words, if we set up programs, students may come to the field of their dreams, but when they finish their training their dreams may be forced to bow to a reality that makes them migrate to another area.  And as a result, the field has too few leaders.

At the same time, individual, family, and community needs continue to burden the most vulnerable in society and those who hope to help them. One approach to meeting those needs is to engage community-level workers as para-professionals to both fill the gaps and provide an entry-level opportunity for new workers.  The Alliance has launched its first Interest Group on Para Professionals to share best practices at the para professional level as well as distill some guidelines, competencies, and principles in that regard. Para professional involvement at the community level needs further development and evaluation; however, it does allow for the development of strong services at the local level.

Creating strong training and leadership development opportunities requires long-term engagement.   Donors, demonstration projects, and international conventions can encourage, pilot and evaluate approaches, generate interest, and identify the best directions. However, for ongoing successful leadership to emerge we need to advocate for the social service system as critical to the social development of the country.  For example, the Social Work 2014 Conference recently held in Kampala, Uganda was designed to promote the visibility of social workers as change agents and important players in social development.

The Alliance provides the opportunity to engage in dialogue about these issues through webinars and sharing of resources through our data base, particularly those resources on developing the workforce.  This issue is also addressed in the Framework for Supporting the Social Service Workforce which covers workforce development.

The Alliance intends to promote opportunities for further development of education and leadership activities and vehicles for leaders from various sectors to support each other.  Generating leadership will begin at the local level--by working together we can promote recognition for emerging leaders for a hopeful future.


Anonymous's picture

SSWWeek Day Two Blog: It Takes a Team - An example of integrating systems of care for abused children in the Philippines

By Dr. Bernadette Madrid, Executive Director, Child Protection Unit Network, Philippine General Hospital, University of the Philippines

Often, the biggest challenge for multidisciplinary teams is how to put together members of the team who belong to different agencies and encourage them to work together as one team under one roof.  It would be so much easier if all the members of the team belonged to just one entity such as a hospital or law enforcement agencies.  However, the needs of abused children and their families go beyond what one agency can provide. There are many different ways to put together these complementary services.  The relationships of the different “pieces” can range from simply constructing a referral system where the different services operate independently from one another to an integrated system where all the “pieces” are under one managing unit.  The latter is the most difficult to achieve and to scale up. 

Government agencies and hospitals are generally rigid structures that operate independently from one another. Asking them to share financial and human resources to form an independent team is attempting the “impossible.”  However, one can never underestimate political will.  A partnership between the Advisory Board Foundation, University of the Philippines, the Department of Health and the Philippine National Police was forged with a memorandum of agreement to form a Child Protection Unit (CPU) at the Philippine General Hospital. Each one provided the pieces: physician, social worker, police, mental health professional and budget. 

The challenge was not only found in creating the partnership structure, but also in putting it into practice.  Key questions had to be addressed. How can the members work together as a team?  How does one build trust among team members?  What are the boundaries between the professions so that each remains distinct even as they function as part of a team?  What kind of training is needed?  When is the case closed?  What are the measures of success?  What is the relationship with other social service workers in the communities?  What is the relationship with shelters?  Who is the case manager?  How long is the follow-up?  Each of these questions took some time to be answered and the answers needed to be revisited several times.  The first five years of the team’s development was about getting it right or as near as it could get.  As the saying goes “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Outcomes that were monitored included, among others: re-abuse rates, physical and mental health and keeping the child in school. 

To learn more about the role of workers engaged in this process, read the following social worker profiles that we are featuring during Social Service Workforce Week:

The next challenge is how to scale up.  Can the whole program be replicated?  What kind of delivery structure can be institutionalized?  Should it be in health? Social welfare? Law enforcement?   The health care delivery system was chosen as the main vehicle since the CPU was started in a hospital.  This needed a change in paradigm, an acceptance that child maltreatment is a public health problem.  The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study done in the Philippines (Ramiro, Madrid, Brown, 2010) was pivotal in showing the link between child maltreatment and health. 

In scaling up the CPU, a laddered approach was taken, as described in the CPN annual report 2012.  The pieces can be put together in steps:  Level 1 is the physician and social worker together; Level 2 is physician, social worker and police or mental health worker and Level 3 is a training center with all the necessary personnel.  There are now 62 CPUs in 35 provinces and 7 cities in the Philippines.  The Department of Health came out with the Administrative order on the establishment of Women and Child Protection Units in government hospitals with the description of the training, the budget source, process for setting up the standards and accreditation.  

With the functions of health and social welfare devolved to local governments, advocating for establishment of CPUs by local governments is an attractive option that can immediately yield a level 2 CPU.  Legislative action at the local level can ensure sustainability independent of the national government.   This is by no means a finished product but this has gone a long way from when the first CPU was a pilot project!

If you’re interested in learning more, take a look at Webinar 12 in the Alliance’s webinar series, entitled:  Strengthening Social Service Systems through Cross-Sectoral Collaboration: Multidisciplinary teams in communities and local health facilities.