A week ago, I along with about 200 other representatives from various social services organizations and activists, were invited to Richmond to attend a Social Services Sector Forum to help to define collaborative engagement to advance the work of the social services sector and to hear about the latest work of the Social Services Sector Roundtable (SSSR). You might remember the roundtable of a similar name - the Social Services Sector Innovation and Sustainability Roundtable - under the previous provincial government.
The new SSSR, which was formed last spring from my understanding, has been tasked with addressing some of the bigger challenges facing social service providers in the province and have recently been discussing staff recruitment and retention, pay in-equities, procurement and contracting, and what is needed to help organizations remain sustainable. Click here
for the SSSR terms of reference and here
for the SSSR priority issues for community-based agencies.
The forum brought together a larger reference group to support the work of the SSSR and those in the room, as demonstrated at my table, were funded by many different ministries and funders. (Photo from L-R: Donalda Beeson (Robson Valley Community Services, Laurie Kohl (North Shore Family Services), Lydia Kang (Family Support Institute of BC), Amanda Bains & Lisa Schmidt (Ksan House Society), Janet Morris-Reade (ASPECT BC). Missing from the photo, but also at the table, Raj Hundal (PICS).
The Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Hon. Shane Simpson, who's ministry is responsible for the SSSR, addressed the room talking about the challenges of enacting the government's progressive agenda and how collaborative engagement was needed to reimagine how services are provided in the province.
Our table groups were then tasked with discussing answers to questions: What does successful collaborative engagement look like? What can get in the way of successful engagement? and What specific steps can we take to support collaborative engagement over the long term?
Of course, our table came up will all the best answers! Ha-ha. Everyone in the room earnestly discussed these questions and although there weren't any silver bullet ideas, we all came away with a greater understanding of the complexity of the challenge.
Minister Simpson circled the room and I was delighted to have a frank discussion with him. We discussed the boutique versus big box service delivery models and the deterioration of social capital amongst service providers in the sometimes cut-throat procurement process. We also discussed that because of this competitive environment, service providers are not always comfortable sharing best practices for fear of giving away a competitive advantage.
Again, no clear solutions were gleaned but we all appreciated being able to have the conversations. Thank you to Minister Simpson for making this happen.
I will keep you abreast of further updates on this very complex initiative.