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Jul 5, 201811:41 AMOpen Mic

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Unlocking the power of human services to build strong families and communities

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Enabling individuals to reach their full potential means providing access to the building blocks that sustain wellbeing — supports like early childhood development and education, preventive health and behavioral health services, affordable housing and transportation, workforce training, services for older Americans, and more.

Human services organizations like Family Service Madison Inc. work on a local level, in partnership with government and the philanthropic sector, to provide those supports that enable healthy, equitable communities.

Despite these tangible impacts, human services community-based organizations (CBOs) like ours are facing challenges and threats to our capacity to do all that’s needed to build strong families and communities and contribute to the economic health of both Madison residents and this nation.

These are the conclusions of a groundbreaking new report commissioned by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA). “A National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America” examines the economic and social impact of CBOs and provides a call to action for the human services sector, government, and the philanthropic sector to strengthen and preserve the role of CBOs in the greater human services ecosystem.

As a nonprofit community partner, we are part of the backbone of a human services ecosystem that touches the lives of an estimated one in five Americans, according to the report. Collectively, the human services sector employs more than 3 million Americans and generates in excess of $200 billion per year in economic activity nationwide through spending on wages, rent, fuel, and all the other inputs necessary to run organizations and deliver services.

While human services CBOs are providing clear value today, our potential value is much greater than what has been realized so far. Against the backdrop of an increasing need for human services, driven by poverty rates, income inequality, an aging population, and the challenge of the opioid epidemic, the financial stability of the human services sector is increasingly tenuous, which will make realizing our transformative potential and contributions to a healthy society and strong economy difficult.

According to the study’s findings, too many CBOs operate under persistent deficits, have few or no financial reserves, and lack access to capital to invest in technology and modern data sharing tools. Addressing these complex and interrelated challenges will require a comprehensive response by human services CBOs, government, and the philanthropic sector.


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