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Five dynamics of convergence in human services

See why convergence is a challenge—and opportunity—for human services leaders worldwide.

Convergence is happening in human services, creating a world of intense and relentless change and disruption. If leaders fail to respond, government outcomes decline, public service value decreases and the legitimacy of democratic governance collapses. However, if leaders embrace the power of convergence, they can develop transformative human services solutions.

To help human services leaders understand and examine the dynamics of convergence, Accenture and Leadership for a Networked World shared a survey with participants at the 2014 Human Services Summit held at Harvard University. Respondents offered their perspectives on these five dynamics of convergence.

  1. Systems and structure

    When health and human services align with education, workforce development and public safety, it can yield new paths to sustainable, population-based health and well-being. Summit participants commented that “opportunities to leverage funding” and “executive sponsorship” were the most significant factors to enable adaptation to this dynamic.

  2. Platforms and engagement

    The convergence of technology platforms, mobile applications, analytics and social networks allows new ways for human services organizations to engage with citizens, evaluate programs and customize services. Summit attendees felt that “coordinating across agencies and organizations” and “sharing cross-agency data” could pose significant barriers to adaptation.

  3. Capital and investment

    The intersection of demand for preventive services with public and private investment will improve and increase the use of financial mechanisms such as Pay-for-Success and Social Impact Bonds. Summit attendees identified “potential impact,” “potential cost savings” and “cross-sector partnerships” as the most significant enablers to adaptation. “Organizational capacity,” “identifying investors,” “establishing appropriate outcomes” and “structuring agreements” were cited as significant barriers.

  4. Behavior and design

    As ideas in behavioral economics merge with evidence-based program design, it will set new standards and methods for how policy and programs are developed, how outcomes are valued and how impacts are measured in human services administration. Participants cited “belief in a better way” and “transforming services” as significant enablers, with barriers including “identifying proven interventions,” “calculating return on investment” and “organizational capacity.”

  5. Mindset and models

    The blending of new research in brain science with human services practice models will inform intervention designs and empower families to succeed. Participants identified “executive sponsorship” and “transforming services” as significant enablers. “Limited expertise,” “calculating return on investment” and “organizational capacity” were cited as the most significant barriers.

Preparing for convergence

Human services is in the midst of convergence, and leaders must understand that they are not alone. Participants at the 2014 Human Services Summit shared convergence-related challenges from across the globe and discussed how they will seek new opportunities to harness the power of convergence to transform their organizations.

While a bold vision and strategy are needed, organizations do not need to start from scratch. There are a variety of tools and strategic models that show early signs of success and great potential for responding to a variety of convergence dynamics. By sharing best practices across the human services community, agencies can learn and ultimately lead their organization into the exciting future.

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