Local human services directors in the State of California are joining the growing ranks of those keen to imagine new ways of working within their communities.

Though a number have already been experimenting in their respective jurisdictions, a group of directors recently met to co-learn and build a common language for what this shift entails.

Jann Donnenwirth, program director with the Center for Human Services at UC Davis, co-organized the gathering as part of a larger training program for the state’s local human services agencies.

Aerial photo of the UC Davis campus.

Aerial photo of the UC Davis campus.

It’s becoming increasingly critical for California’s human services agencies to explore new ways of working. Federally run, administered at the state level, and delivered locally, the discipline in California is seeing decreasing government support, both material and, in some senses, philosophical.

This does not mean that need does not still exist. The crossroads at hand is between the need and who responds to that need.

The promise these directors and others are seeing is in how communities as a whole might work together to respond to human needs.

Government-funded programs can still play a role, but they need others in the community to help. For instance, how might human services agencies partner with actors in the community such as churches and schools to help young dads connect with their children?

The challenge is finding and cultivating effective and efficient community partnerships.

This is where the recent UC Davis session was especially helpful.

Jann was thrilled to see this opportunity made possible and eagerly embraced by the directors. Most of them are trained in social work or public administration. In contrast, the recent session consisted of exploring together and learning more about community development.

Business coach and facilitator Charles Holmes, who hosted the session, brought a singular gift in that he modelled how the directors and their teams might convene a roomful of people with a common interest but don’t necessarily work together day to day. Charles exemplified the approach and explained the why behind it and the context in which it is useful.

The directors also walked away with a shared language and experience from which to build on this work going forward.

Jann looks forward to how this gathering ripples out into change in communities across the state. “I think it will go much further than we had imagined,” she says, noting participants had a strongly positive reaction to Charles and the ideas he introduced.

The best she sees happening is that people share a growing degree of responsibility for each other “and for where we live, for the well-being of all of us.”

  • More to Come

Writer: Michelle Strutzenberger

Editor’s Note: Click here to read about Axiom News’ partnership with Charles Holmes Consulting and the intent of the stories in this series.