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A Message from the Executive Director: The Future of CalSWEC

Executive Director Rodger Lum puts CalSWEC's latest strategic planning efforts into perspective.

Achieving any milestone is often an occasion for celebration and a time for reflection. As CalSWEC fast approaches its 25th anniversary in 2015, we can be proud of its growth and accomplishments. Since its founding in 1990, CalSWEC has expanded its scope from focusing solely on child welfare training and education, with 10 accredited schools of social work, to now include the fields of aging and mental health and 21 schools in a consortium that continues to grow. 

In light of the changing landscape of social work practice and the challenges facing the field, CalSWEC is launching a strategic planning process that will reflect on the organization’s accomplishments, strengths and areas for improvement, as well as map future strategies to adapt to current and emerging challenges.  

RELATED: CalSWEC's  history
RELATED: CalSWEC’s Strategic Planning process

One pressing challenge is the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). With this massive undertaking, state and local governments and health care providers are looking at effective ways to enroll and serve newly eligible recipients in need of health care coverage. Public social services are playing an increasingly important role in support of their health care partners. Social workers are frequently called upon to be more familiar with cross-disciplinary services in primary care, public health, mental health, substance abuse, and aging, besides traditional social work practice. This is abundantly apparent as primary care settings adjust to the greater influx of patients with behavioral health care problems. Accredited schools of social work are also gearing up for these changes by incorporating additional course work in integrated behavioral health or by strengthening dual degree programs in public health and social work.

Organizational Development
As any organization matures, over time departmental silos can develop and be reinforced by many factors, such as funding streams and requirements, patterns of staff interaction, the functioning of Board of Directors and committees, as well as the overall organizational culture. Without efforts to change these tendencies, organizations can deepen those silos, causing their ways of doing business to become habit forming. Fortunately, both CalSWEC’s staff and Board members recognize these tendencies and, using the strategic planning process, are committed to seeking modifications to compartmentalization and addressing related issues. They recognize that a less compartmentalized organization with greater flexibility is more capable of effectively responding to: “What is the right approach for the right problem at the right time?”

A constant challenge is the lingering effects of the economic recession that necessarily focuses on how best to manage with fewer resources and funding. In such a climate, programs must be even more cost effective and efficient as managers and leaders are being held to higher standards of accountability. Workforce development efforts need to prepare students for these expectations while providing current employees additional skills and tools to succeed on the job. These are only some of the many challenges affecting social work practice and training.

Looking to the Future
Using the strategic planning process, CalSWEC is positioning itself to be more adept and nimble. It will be examining possible “futures” wherein strategic thinking anticipates where the organization needs to be over the next 3 to 5 years, and beyond. Of course, it is impossible to be totally accurate in forecasting these scenarios. However, with the use of short-range trend analyses and projections and expert guidance from CalSWEC’s stakeholders, there is a greater certainty of what the long view of CalSWEC’s preferred future might be. Based on how CalSWEC has responded to past challenges, there is little doubt that its Board and staff will succeed in developing an effective, visionary strategic plan.