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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?


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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.

Zeni Thumbadoo's picture

SSWWeek Day One: Supporting Families, Building a Better Tomorrow for Children

by Zeni Thumbadoo, Deputy Director, National Association of Child Care Workers, South Africa

The indigenous African philosophy of Ubuntu, expressed in isiZulu as ‘Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu’ means that people are people through other people. Bishop Desmond Tutu said that this is the gift that Africa will give the world. Ubuntu speaks to walking the extra mile for the sake of others. Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton widely promoted the philosophy of Ubuntu in the well know quotation "it takes a whole village to raise a child". On the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, as we contribute to its motto of "building the smallest democracy at the heart of society," we applaud and acknowledge social service workers across the globe. The social service workforce represents a diverse range of workers working in different contexts; working at different levels - local, national, regional, and international; working as professionals and paraprofessionals; working with different methodologies; and working together to serve the best interests of families. In this ' village,' diverse social service workers are working together to ‘raise’ children, families and communities. Strengthening the resilience of families to cope with their unique challenges in a changing and diverse global world is the role of social service workers. 

In reclaiming our unity in diversity as social service professionals, we strengthen our multi-disciplinary teamwork. All social service workers – social workers, child and youth care workers, youth development workers, community workers and others – come together to put families at the center of integrated service delivery. Together this united yet diverse social service workforce contributes to promoting the inherent strengths of families and their capacity for self-reliance.

We recognize that families are diverse in their forms and functions and that it is this uniqueness, the diversity of individual preferences in their special societal conditions, that allows a society to grow and expand. We celebrate in our work the diverse family forms – the extended family, the nuclear family, the single parent family, the same -sex parents family, the child-headed family – some of these stretching the traditionally known paradigms and creating space for innovative engagement from social service workers.

Social service workers promote the inherent strengths in families through services that are child centered, family focused and community based. In this, we honor the teachings and lessons of the past, the opportunity for innovation and creativity in the present and the vision of an inspiring future. We have learned that families need diverse capacities to support them and respond to their unique needs. They require us as social service workers to grow and innovate as we respond to the changing world in which we all find ourselves. We acknowledge that now is the moment to demonstrate integrated services involving all social service workers in organized and well-coordinated service delivery. We celebrate the opportunities that are open to us in this committed partnership for families.

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance is committed to promoting a well-planned, well-developed and well-supported social service workforce on this 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family. The global 'village' of social service workers is connected in the spirit of Ubuntu which speaks to caring for others in order to promote interconnectedness and a spirit of belonging.  Ubuntu acknowledges both the rights and the responsibilities of every citizen in promoting individual and societal well-being.

We invite you to read more about the work of this diverse workforce and the ways in which it puts families at the center of its work.   For example, a number of documents on the Alliance resource database highlight the role of community workers.   You can also read about the specific experiences of a number of members of the workforce, such as A Technical Brief on Child and Youth Care Workers in South Africa.   

We are also featuring worker profiles today that shine a spotlight on various tasks and training of different types of workers in southern Africa. They offer personal reflections on what motivates them to do this challenging work. Please take some time to read these worker profiles on our website:

We have also compiled for today a number of social service worker success stories:

And we invite you to review the webinars on Working with Community Members and Workers in the Social Services and Deinstitutionalizing the Alternative Care System for Children: Implications for the social service workforce with learning from Rwanda and Moldova.

We believe that social service workers around the world in all their proud diversity promote the spirit of Ubuntu in their service to children and families. It does take a village to raise a child does take a 'village' of social service workers to protect, support and service families. The smallest democracy in society, the family, is celebrated during this social service worker week, with deep respect and care. 

Amy Bess's picture

Save the Date - Webinar on Using Human Resources Data to Improve Social Services - Experiences from Malawi and Tanzania - March 6


This webinar has already occured. Please visit here for the webinar summary and recording. 

Social Service Workforce Strengthening Webinar Series


Using Human Resources Data to Improve Social Services: 

Experiences from Malawi and Tanzania


Thursday, March 6, 2014 8:30-10:30 a.m. (EST)

Better data can mean better outcomes for children and families.  Having the right number of social service workers with the right skills in the right place helps to ensure better access to services and stronger care and support systems.   Preparing for and implementing human resources information systems (HRIS) is a process which helps to identify and define different cadres of the workforce, as well as track the current number of workers, where they are deployed, what their skill sets and salaries are, and where vacancies exist.  While the field of social service workforce information systems is generally in an emerging state, efforts are underway in Malawi and Tanzania to adapt HRIS for health workers to the social service workforce.  

In this webinar, participants will learn from the experiences of these two countries—Malawi and Tanzania—in adapting iHRIS, an open-source set of software applications, to manage the social service workforce. Originally developed for traditional health care cadres such as doctors, nurses, and midwives, the iHRIS suite can be customized to track any type of worker and assist governments in accessing data for decision making on a routine basis.

Speakers will focus on the process undertaken to modify and launch a human resources information system, as well as how data gathered using this system is helping them make decisions on how best to plan, develop, and support social service workers as they care for vulnerable children and families.

Questions to be addressed during this webinar include:

  • Why is workforce tracking important?
  • How would a country get started with adapting iHRIS for the SSW?
  • How much effort does it take to adapt and launch?
  • How much does it cost and is it worth it?
  • What have the experiences of some countries been in developing this system and what has the data been used for to date?

 Webinar Presenters are:

  • Evelyn Kamote, Principal Social Welfare Officer, Department of Social Welfare, Tanzania
  • Norah Kaaya, M&E Consultant, NIRAS and former M&E Specialist for IntraHealth International’s Tanzania Human Resource Capacity Project’s para social worker program (2011-2013)
  • Hilal S. Mohamed, Senior Systems Administrator, University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
  • Benjamin Kayala, Ministry of Gender, Children, and Community Development, Malawi
  • Dr. Nertha Nyirongo, HRIS Consultant, IntraHealth International, Malawi
  • Bakari Bakari, HRIS Consultant, IntraHealth International
  • Dykki Settle, HR Information Systems Team Lead, CapacityPlus and IntraHealth International



The Social Service Workforce Webinar Series is supported by:

PEPFAR, USAID and CapacityPlus


Anonymous's picture

Registration Now Open for Feb 19 Symposium - The Social Service Workforce and the Practice of Working with Vulnerable Children


The CPC Learning Network and the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance will be co-hosting the following event on February 19, 2014 in New York City. 

For more information, please click here. To register, please contact 


Jim McCaffery's picture

Useful Resources for Conducting Social Service Workforce Gap Analyses

by Jim McCaffery, Senior Advisor, CapacityPlus and Training Resources Group

In a sector with constrained resources, it is imperative to make sound, evidence-based decisions about social service workforce strengthening interventions. In order to do this, good workforce data are needed to help inform those decisions and address questions like the following: in a particular country, who are considered to be part of the social service workforce, what are they called, where are they, how many are there, how are they educated, trained and supported, what services are they providing, and that gaps are there with respect to any of these questions? While the state of data availability can be best be described as ‘emerging’, it is encouraging to note that there has been progress in this area with an increasing number of workforce gap analyses being undertaken over the past three to five years.

While much work in this area remains to be done, the gap analyses already completed have produced at least two useful outcomes. First, it has allowed the beginnings of meta-analyses by examining results in several countries. A good example of this is a chapter that has been produced for an upcoming World Bank publication on the social service workforce as an under recognized cadre of the health workforce, with a special focus on sub-Saharan Africa. This paper includes sections on workforce definitions and functions, stock and distribution, planning and strategy, education and training and career advancement, the state of professional associations and some recommendations about future workforce strengthening intervention areas. While this focuses on sub-Saharan Africa and is based on a limited number of country-level gap analyses, it still provides useful beginning workforce descriptions and trends.

The second outcome of these country-level workforce gap analyses is that there is now available an increasing number of protocols that can be used or adapted or streamlined by practitioners in other countries who are interested in undertaking a similar gap analysis. The following are a few examples:

  • Assessing the Human Resource Capacity for Implementation of the National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children 
    This is a process description and a tool library that gives “…coordinators, stakeholders, and implementers a process, methodology, and tools…” to carry out a participatory social service HR gap analysis. It is drawn from work done in Namibia and Malawi originally, and has a range of questionnaires, interview guides, meeting agenda descriptions and other tools. One of the strengths of this resource is that it describes well how to make the gap assessment more participatory in nature, which will make the results more accurate, the recommendations more realistic and increase the likelihood of ownership of the report and outcomes.
  • An Assessment of the Public Sector Social Service Workforce in Ethiopia 
    This is the final report of the Ethiopia SSW gap analysis completed in June of 2013. In addition to some overall descriptions of orienting data collectors, sampling, data processing, and ethical considerations, it contains an extensive set of questionnaires, guidance for interviews, FGD protocols, and other tools.
  • Human Resource Assessment and Gap Analysis of the Zambian Social Welfare Workforce
    This document – finalized in November of 2013 – is a complete SSW gap analysis protocol. While the background, context, goal and objectives and literature review are very Zambia specific, I am including it because it provides a good context for the a) overall HR assessment design and analysis, b) steps to be used in the gap analysis and c) the tools and data collection methods. In terms of tool examples, there is an overall information sheet to be used when engaged in data collection, protocols for individual interviews, group interviews, a web based survey to collect quantitative data, and sample consent sheets.
  • Protocol Framework for Social Service Workforce Gap Analysis
    This is a different type of document that is intended to provide a guide for an overall social service workforce gap analysis. As such, it contains key questions broken into four key areas:  Identifying, planning, developing and supporting the workforce. This aligns generally with the Framework for Strengthening the Social Service Workforce and would help practitioners by providing the kinds of questions they should be asking if they choose to look more in depth in particular areas. This document should be viewed as a quasi-library and one can pick and choose questions based on what seems most important or compelling given the country or local context. Then, once the overall guiding questions are chosen, it is likely that there will be tools from some of the other resources included in this blog that practitioners could use or adapt to provide data to address the questions.

I hope these examples are useful, and that leaders and practitioners can find material from one or more of the resources that could be adapted appropriately.  

For more information and resources on social service workforce gap analyses and mapping, please visit the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance resource library.

I would also like to invite you to contribute additional examples of protocols or even a single tool that you might have used or seen applied. You can do so by completing this simple form here once you are signed in as an Alliance member.

This work of mapping the SSW and determining key gaps is critically important, and making these tools widely available should make it easier for people to undertake an analysis as they do not have to start from scratch.