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Message from the Executive Director

CalSWEC has spent the past year and a half reflecting on our past and framing our future through strategic planning.  

In 2015, we observed our 25th anniversary. We were pleased that so many of CalSWEC’s leaders, past and present, were able to join us in September for a reception celebrating our unique partnership that is dedicated to improving the education and training of social workers for the state’s publicly supported social services.

While honoring its rich and remarkable legacy, it also seemed entirely fitting that CalSWEC look to its future. In July 2014, we initiated our strategic planning process, a disciplined effort to review where the organization is now and, more significantly, to determine where it wants to be. 

CalSWEC is nearing the end of that strategic planning process. While some have expressed concern with this long, exhaustive, and exhausting process, we are confident that the hard work, thoughtful input, and tireless dedication of everyone—Board and committee members, CalSWEC stakeholders and constituents throughout the state, and CalSWEC staff—will be manifested in a sound, insightful, and useful roadmap that will lead this organization to a preferred, sustainable future, where our resources are aligned to and able to support our priorities.

We expect to disseminate a draft of the Strategic Plan to CalSWEC’s Board of Directors by the second week of January.

Restructuring for Responsiveness
The strategic planning process brought into sharper focus CalSWEC’s priorities. This is crucial because identifying and articulating these priorities will get us all on the same page working toward the same goals. These priorities will be detailed in the draft Strategic Plan.

At the same time, the many discussions and exercises we engaged in enabled me to reflect on what my priorities are as CalSWEC’s executive director. Specifically, I identified the following:

  1. To develop a new Strategic Plan for CalSWEC for 2016 and beyond that reflects growth and embraces new trends and initiatives;
  2. To support the long-term stability and growth of CalSWEC;
  3. To increase CalSWEC’s value to UC Berkeley and the School of Social Welfare in particular so that the organization is a more relevant and esteemed partner; and
  4. To identify opportunities for resource development involving CalSWEC’s university partners statewide.

The strategic planning process made it abundantly clear that restructuring CalSWEC is essential to its survival. Its governing body and its administrative arm need to do business differently from how they have been operating for so long. To be more efficient, effective, and sustainable, the Board of Directors, its committees, and CalSWEC Central need to reject any redundancies and reduce the siloing of its initiatives and activities. Instead, they need to actively promote greater integration, innovative coordination and planning, and sharper communication.

Some of the structural changes will take effect immediately. For its February meeting, the board and committees will meet for one day only—not two, as in the past—on Thursday, February 4. Under this revamp, the six committees (possibly three) will meet in the morning, and the full Board of Directors will meet in the afternoon. The board and committee agendas will be determined by and disseminated to participants in advance of the meetings. Other recommended structural changes affecting board membership and by-laws are described in the draft Strategic Plan.

These changes should also help CalSWEC become more responsive to new or emerging trends in education, training, and community needs. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, changes in state financing of local needs through realignment, and the growing pressures on public agencies to create more effective, efficient, and integrated services, CalSWEC must respond in kind.  It is important for CalSWEC to have meaningful and more extensive discussions about how we can support our university and county partners in education and training and in enhancing skills and knowledge among the workforce. With emerging trends in demographics, service innovation and delivery, and community needs (e.g., chronic poverty, social justice), CalSWEC can—and should—play a larger role in pioneering new approaches in addressing those needs with our partners.

Improving State-University Relations for Stability
Since its inception in 1990, CalSWEC has grown considerably, with broader initiatives, more partners, and greater financial and administrative risks and obligations. For 25 years, it has depended entirely on UC Berkeley and the School of Social Welfare to front the millions of dollars that fund its subcontracts with its consortium of social work schools statewide and to waive the indirect cost rate. However, faced with recent fiscal challenges, UC Berkeley campus-wide has implemented revenue strategies and developed greater accountability expectations across campus, which led to a critical examination of its fiscal relationship with CalSWEC.

I have been with working the California Department of Social Services on measures that would improve this relationship by providing some benefit to the university. My goal is for the state to give the university an acceptable indirect cost rate, which would help to ease its revenue challenges somewhat and encourage UC Berkeley to continue its relationship with CalSWEC. The measures would also provide stability for CalSWEC and its central staff. Guaranteeing that staff would remain within the University of California system has been a driving concern of mine. I hope to have a better idea of where CalSWEC stands within a year.

Expanding CalSWEC’s Value as Collaborator
I have also been seeking other avenues where we could increase CalSWEC’s value, particularly to the School of Social Welfare.  I identified an excellent opportunity for CalSWEC to collaborate with the school in a three-year, $617,114 workforce development training grant that we obtained from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration. The grant began in September 2014, with the school’s Director of Field Education Greg Merrill and Dr. Elizabeth Horevitz serving as project consultants. CalSWEC Research and Evaluation Director Sandhya Rao Hermón will lead the project’s evaluation component.

Recently, CalSWEC obtained a grant with Thailand’s Thammasat University on the UNICEF project “Situational Analysis of Social Work in Thailand.” CalSWEC, with Berkeley Social Welfare Dean Jeffrey Edleson serving as principal investigator, will serve as technical consultant to the project lead, Thammasat University. 

Such collaborations with the school’s faculty and students on projects and grants—whether local, national, or international—are important both programmatically and fiscally for CalSWEC and the school. I enthusiastically support any efforts to cultivate these opportunities because they would tap into CalSWEC’s programmatic and research strengths that could result in wide-ranging benefits for the school, CalSWEC, and our common stakeholders.

Developing Resources for Sustainability
Another priority of mine is resource development, which is essential to beginning and sustaining new initiatives, such as aging, mental health, and the Affordable Care Act. Successful resource development could also support and enhance our current initiatives and programs.

Most universities have a resource development function within their campuses; I would like to create a similar function within CalSWEC as well. My goal is to coordinate system-wide efforts for CalSWEC and consortium campuses to seek out opportunities to collaborate around research and demonstration projects. For example, collaboration on grants could occur between smaller universities and larger universities or among universities within a region. I believe such collaborations could enhance the chances for obtaining grants for CalSWEC and its university partners, and I would like to develop a protocol and methodology to facilitate this. 

Moving Forward
Like all of you, I look forward to returning to the work we were engaged in prior to initiating strategic planning. For some new board members, strategic planning is all they know of CalSWEC, and becoming acquainted with and engaging in agendas and discussions focused on other subjects and issues relevant to CalSWEC on a deeper level would be welcome.

I hope that you, like I, appreciate our concerted and determined efforts to develop an enlightened roadmap for our preferred future that will ensure that CalSWEC not only survive, but thrive. While we have many challenges ahead, we can also look ahead toward exciting times as we implement the Strategic Plan.