Blog by Mike Hyland, Venture President & CEO
The notion of providing help and support to people in this country who require assistance is practically as old as the nation itself. Hundreds of years ago, churches and civic organizations took responsibility for helping people in need and they did this as a fundamental part of their own identity. While such organizations still exist today, the actual landscape of what has become the human services industry only dates back as far as the early 1960s when academic institutions began to move toward professionalizing a workforce committed to providing structured and measurable services to those in need. After some 50 years of continual growth in the industry, it is important to be clear about identifying our responsibilities as a profession in the 21st century.
First and foremost, we all have an obvious and complete responsibility to the people and families we support. They rely on us, they trust us, and we have a duty to honor these expectations with innovative and comprehensive practices that always ensure dignity and respect. However, as a fully professionalized industry, we also have responsibilities that extend beyond the actual services we provide.
All agencies that receive money from government departments are in fact stewards of the public trust. We need to ensure that we operate efficiently and transparently, and prove that our efforts have a measureable impact on society as a whole. We have the same responsibility to our donors. People who write checks to help fund the vital work we do need to be certain that their dollars are being used to support a global mission of helping others remain safe and protected. We also have the same responsibility to our employees. Those who provide the direct services to people in need must be assured that professional agencies operate and make decisions with employees’ best interests front and center. We have a never-ending responsibility to advocate for the type of funding that allows our employees to do this work for meaningful wages. After all, they are the professionals that people in need of support rely on every day.
This industry and the agencies that comprise it also have one more not-talked-about-enough responsibility: we have a responsibility to constantly take on new challenges. There are literally thousands of non-profit agencies in Massachusetts and yet there remain too many people who need help and can’t get it, simply because it just isn’t available. It is our responsibility to continue to expand for the sake of stretching the safety nets that allow individuals and families to safely grow and achieve as much as they possibly can. We have a responsibility to do this through innovation, clinical expertise, professional education, advocacy, and partnerships with each other. As long as an unmet need exists somewhere, it is the responsibility of the industry to find a way to move the needle and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to grow and move toward independence. This is why we are here.
These responsibilities are admittedly daunting, but they are in fact ours.