...in the age of viral disruptors...
Trends in the Future of Social Services & Social Work
The Covid-19 Coronavirus has been a sudden lesson in societal disruptors via modern Complexity and the Community Service Boards have not been immune. In fact, rapid adaptation has been the constant mode of daily proceedings which has presented us with seemingly endless daily changes.
When the state of emergency was declared and citizens were ordered to stay home (shelter in place), all but our essential core services were temporarily skeletonized (Emergency Services, Pharmacy etc. remained open with most offices closed to the public and minimally staffed). That led us into a situation where contact was initiated via telephone, clients were screened via teleconference and meetings took place via video.
Global Complexity is not receding and increased climate change is only making things easier for novel pathogens to spread and flourish. There may be more global pandemics in our future. Certainly the present conditions are a solid indication of broad vulnerabilities in our supply chains and social systems, which would support intelligent preparations for potential disruptors by development of robust alternatives during this current event.
Enjoined with some of the adjustments we’ve made in the current crisis, and building on with foreseeable others, we might envision a future of social work to incorporate some of the following:
- Work from home: as much as possible, a great deal of the paperwork and telephone contact can be affected from the social worker’s home office. Utilities and transportation expenses are greatly minimized and hours are more efficient.
- Displacement of workforce to independent contracts. A new echelon of social worker may spring up: the freelance social worker.
- Severe Managerialization of Case Management. Since Managers are considered interchangeable across industries, Case Management may become commoditized. This paves the way for the outsourcing of Case Management and its eventual automatization via computational software components.
- Extreme Marketization of direct services. Already, there is competition from third party service providers. This is likely to increase, with expanding markets and start-ups playing the part of local and regional disruptors. Third party providers in the form of start-ups are nimble and dynamic while large comprehensive providers are slow moving and vulnerable. Expect to see fierce competition for low margin returns.
- Conversion of physical edifice to Community Space. As mundane tasks are contracted to freelancers and with third party Marketization bleeding away physical services while at the same time Managerialization becomes a software application, the physical edifices owned and operated by legacy services will become vacant and present a drain on operating expenses. They will need to be sold off or converted to other uses. Many will carry large mortgages from the expansion phase of only a few years back. Those that are not repurposed for commercial rental and real estate will become Community Spaces and Convention Centers for Training and Workshop events.
- With economic conditions thus set by the foregoing, Community Engagement and Social Architecture will become crucial to the continued solvency and survival of the Community Service Board legacy model. Active, Dynamic, and effective Outreach, Engagement and Recruitment will be essential to capture the market share of tomorrow’s social welfare consumer.
- Virtual Services and Platform Apps: many if not most services will become virtual, and every service contractor will have their proprietary apps. Whoever gets there first with the best apps and most attractive, least clunky UI, will become the most popular and succeed. The consumer ratings and community sharing media will very much make this a popularity contest.
All of the foregoing points to a couple of sweeping innovations that will redefine and revolutionize the scope of Social Work and Community Services in the very near future. Two major game-changers are already on the horizon:
- New Comprehension of the role of Community Services (the New Social Work). Social Work as currently practiced is shaped by massive federal interventions that are still defined by the Great Society models of the 20th As such, they are designed to address inequalities in distribution, trauma and urgencies, and Institutional bias. As such it was conceived to address particular populations and demographic targets foremost, with rhetorical parities shoring up the legislative legalities.
The New model will be Inclusive, Comprehensive, and Informed. Post Modern awareness of the Holistic Integral Connectivity of Complex Adaptive Societies will redefine the scope and magnitude of the Great Society Concept to include all aspects of Health and Wellbeing. These will include not only Psycho-biological fullness and its nurture and nutrition but Economic opportunity and access to plenitude and expansion. Community integration and expression of Dignity and Connectedness are also essential. And a new model of enlightened Social Work will quickly evolve to fulfill these needs.
- Because of the Digitalization of the Community Services platforms and the enormous complexity and customization of services and consumer selected service-apps, Big Data will enter in to this massive equation in all aspects at all levels and frames of reference and no one will be able to talk about Community Services without the sociometrics to back it up. Data will be aggregated from millions of seamless interfaces, from personal health monitoring apps to numerical I.D and facial recognition and retina-scans –every aspect of the consumer’s life will be databased. These millions of data-points will be aggregated and Machine Learning will prune the noise, making it suitable to collective analytics, creating whole societies of virtual consumers each modeling its analog component in the real world.
- The Community Service Board will have then evolved into the most important Institutional agency in every citizen’s life.