Community Engagement Initiative (part 1)

Legacy Conditions

Community Service, from the perspective of the Community Service Board, is a study in irony. This statement, controversial as it appears, will be intuitively understood by those who are tasked with its administration. 

Historically, the administration of Community Service has been largely a matter of ‘what is available’ and then the logistics of implementation according to that. This is a top-down approach and it has been the only approach. Much of the bureaucracy associated with this approach is due to large-scale Federal funding, a context which has monopolized the very heart of Community Service, even as a concept.

Essentially a command and control format based upon military deployment efficiencies, much progress has been achieved in the humanization of its public-facing interface, while back-stage the regulatory machine is chewing up workers and spitting them out wasted and burnt. Young workers are fighting for every last dollar on behalf of their clients but a mere few years in the trenches leaves them dull and shelled. This is neither a sustainable, fulfilling career nor an environment of excellence.

While struggling with the monolithic legacy cost has drained the human capital of the Community Services Agencies, the need for services has only grown greater and more urgent. Societal disruptors have newly emerged which threaten the very core of our commitment to our citizens. ‘What is available’ is becoming increasingly more difficult to procure or administer. Future projections are looking even more grim. The Social Work revolution is overdue.

A Better World

The foregoing describes the old model, with all of its mechanical juggernaut, in light of its top-down, command and control regulatory policy. Old models are based on old concepts and world-views which reify linear systems. Linear systems are vulnerable to sudden collapse at the threshold of liminal states and tipping points, which may result in catastrophic disruption. Catastrophic disruption paralyses linear systems and renders them defunct.

New World systems are Dynamic and Fluid. They are based on non-linear models of Adaptation and Complexity. Complex Adaptive Systems are capable of change; they learn and evolve, making adjustments according to the changing conditions of their interconnected environment (of which they are a harmonious part). Creative innovation emerges organically from the bottom up because information flow through the system is communicated constantly and easily through conduits of feedback and feed-forward. Data-flow is networked and transparent: it is built into the very foundation and essential to the core functioning. Organization is Holarchical and bureaucratic snafu is minimized.

Organic Complexity is built from the ground up and the Social Services Consumer is an Integral part of a dynamic networked  system. The Community administrates the Social Services because they are the system and the system is them. No more command and control: as needs emerge, emergent solutions are generated. Community Services then becomes Generative via Collaboration. The Whole is Collective.