Agency Creation: Iteration Two

In Iteration One, we saw human services agencies are the end product of a complex process, starting with the action of the First Mover who sees people potential clients experiencing difficulty coping with their day-to-day circumstances. The First Mover recruits the Initiators who pursue auspices and associated resources through the Authorizers. The Implementers then develop the elements needed to create a human services agency where appropriate supports and services are available to the people who need them. The Providers then encourage use of the services by appropriate clients. If all goes well, potential clients are reclassified as clients, service provision proceeds, and the Helping Triangle is closed.

The First Mover and the potential client are at point “A” on the Helping Triangle. If developing a human services agency were not the preferred outcome, the First Mover could simply talk with the potential client and then do something they both thought might help. Instead, the First Mover turns away to enlist the assistance of the Initiators shown along the left side of the triangle. Even if potential clients participate in the Initiator group, and they frequently do not, there is a serious, potential misfit between the person/problem and the problem/solution. …

Pause to consider: Create a Human Services Agency

As an exercise, develop a brief sketch showing the key elements of the Helping Triangle you might use to create a human services agency. For this exercise, answer the questions below, limiting your answer to each question to a paragraph. Here, a brief sketch will suffice.

What is the name of Your-New-Agency?

Who are the Potential Clients for Your-New-Agency; why do they need human services?

Who will you recruit to join you as Initiators for Your-New-Agency; who will help you get and keep authorization for the agency and why do you think they will help?

What entity will be Your-New-Agency’s primary Authorizer; what entity or organization do you expect to provide primary authorization, auspices, and resources for the creation and operation of the agency and why do you think it will support your initiative?

Who will be the Implementers for Your-New-Agency; which people and organizations will be actively involved in the implementation phase following authorization?

Once Your-New-Agency is opened, who will be the Providers; who will deliver the agency’s services and what other personnel resources will be needed to operate the agency?

How will you assure Your-New-Agency successfully connects with Potential Clients; what strategies will you use to make sure the people needing help actually receive the help they need?

Bonus: Management Excellence

All management is based on guiding principles; and the effectiveness of management derives from those principles. This is true whether the principles are appropriate or inappropriate, reasonable or unreasonable, consistent or inconsistent. Similarly, the derivative nature of management holds whether the guiding principles are vague or well-defined, followed faithfully or haphazardly, applied day-to-day by managers who are highly skilled or fundamentally incompetent. Effective management, then, is a product of:


  • Guiding principles that are appropriate, reasonable, and consistent;


  • Managers who clearly understand the guiding principles, faithfully adhere to them, and who are fundamentally competent.


It follows from this that the effectiveness of an organization’s management is a product of the Principle/People equation:


  • Principles + People = Outcomes. …

Agency Creation: Iteration One

As a project transforms from an ad hoc initiative by a concerned group of people to a mature human services agency, there are many points at which things can and often do go astray. These range from the relatively minor and inconsequential to points where the process shifts significantly off the intended track. What the Initiators intend is only more or less realized. At times, the result has little but a vague relationship to the original intent. Let’s explore the creation process for human services agencies and see how things go right and how they go wrong. …

The Helping Triangle

The Helping Triangle developed in this chapter is what
Legerton and Castelloe 1999 call an organic model, “…one developed primarily through active participation in social life e.g., primarily through practice rather than independence from social life e.g., primarily through academic reflection.”  In the Introduction, we saw how people helping people represents human services at their most basic level. You see someone in distress and decide to do what you can to help. Perhaps you recruit a few of your friends to pitch in and help too. Usually this ad hoc human services provision works fine and you and your friends move on with your lives. Sometimes though, this generous level of help is insufficient. There are more people needing help than you and your friends can manage, you have other priorities, you do not have the resources needed to provide the help people need. Instead of just walking away, you decide to create a human services agency with sufficient resources to provide the needed help on an ongoing basis. Help will be there for the people who need it, when they need it, for as long as they need it.

Perhaps this does not seem like anything you will do or can do. If asked If not you, then who? You answer They will. This clearly puts you with the majority. Most people do not notice the distress of others and most of those who do simply walk away. The good news is a few people do notice and a few of those who notice choose not to walk away. If you are among those who choose not to walk away, understanding the Helping Triangle as explained in the iterations below and in later chapters enables you to create a human services agency that can and will provide the help the people in distress need. The model is a product of many years of trial and error; it is an organic model known to work in real world situations. It will not help you decide if you will stick around and help; but if you do, understanding the Helping Triangle makes it likely you can do what needs done. With this assurance in mind, let’s consider how human services agencies are created. For alternative perspectives and approaches, see Brueggemann, 2006 and Netting, Kettner, & McMurtry, 2008. These authors focus on macro social work which is generally inclusive of the concepts and processes incorporated into this organic model. Additionally, Fauri, Wernet, & Netting, 2008, provide a thoughtful collection of case examples highlighting macro practice within a variety of situations and contexts.

How Do Human Services Agencies Develop?

Even though a group forms with the intention of providing supports and services for people experiencing a defined cluster of problems or issues, a human services agency likely will not develop For most service provision, an agency is neither appropriate nor needed. We can think of this basic delivery strategy as ad hoc service provision. This may happen somewhat spontaneously when a few concerned people see an individual or family is experiencing difficulty and struggling to manage. Everyone just pitches in and helps, contributing whatever resources and expertise they can bring to the specific circumstances. …

What Are Human Services Agencies…?

As we saw for human services themselves, there is not unanimity about exactly what a human services agency is. There is consensus about the basics such as its being an organization providing human services for an identified group of people and about its providing those services at no cost or at least an affordable cost to the recipients. “Most human services agencies are entirely or partially funded through grants from local, state, or federal government. Many others are private nonprofit groups often sponsored by religious denominations that raise money from fees, public appeals, and from philanthropic foundations. A smaller but fast growing type of agency is the private profit making one.” (Mandell & Schram, 2003, page 11) Our focus here is on the first two but not the third. We are interested in government or nonprofit funded human services agencies. The agency services may be provided by paid staff or volunteers, may include material items such as food and clothing, may include professional services such as medical or legal, may include resources such as housing or transportation, and may range from help with completing tax forms to child care, from a furniture bank to after school tutoring, from counseling to summer recreation. If the organization provides accessible services, resources, and opportunities to people who would otherwise not have access to them, it qualifies in the present context as a human services agency. A human services agency enables the delivery of human services, regardless of its governmental or non-governmental status, the specific services being provided not withstanding. The same holds for its particular affiliation or source of support. …

What Are Human Services?

“It would be helpful to provide an official or generally accepted definition, but there is no such thing.” (Burger & Youkeles, 2008, page 8) Defining human services is not simple. The term has evolved over many years and has no specific meaning on which everyone would agree. In general though, services are things some people do to help other people. It is no more complicated than that. If you do something to help me, you are providing a service. The question is then, What is a human service? …