Taking the Lead: The Need for a Strong, Collective Voice for Human Services

Capture 4We are in an era where ideology trumps legitimate problem solving; where unsubstantiated perceptions trump facts, and where unwise decisions are made as a result. This is an era where our human services programs are being cut in the name of austerity to eliminate our budget deficits and to reduce our debt. In 2011, our human services field accounts for just 13% of the total budget, and yet it remains the target of many “debt reduction” efforts and policies.


Human services programs are not discretionary spending, or “charity.” They provide opportunities for citizens to become fully functioning and contributing members to society. Whether they are programs targeted at children, youth, elderly, or persons with disabilities, these programs ultimately strengthen and support our families and communities.

The human services sector leverages irreplaceable community support and volunteerism, and is supported by state and federal dollars in order to provide services that the government recognizes are better delivered by these private organizations. In these last few years, the narrative has turned from human services being a network of supports, to being a budgetary burden.


While there are advocates within the field for specific programs, the field as a whole lacks a clear, powerful voice to advocate collectively for these programs. The National Human Services Assembly recognized this need in a 2011 piece titled, “Putting Human Needs on the National Radar Screen.”  The piece also marked the start of a 3-year long project with the Frameworks Institute to study and develop ways to reframe the conversation around human services in order to garner greater support for the field, and to better leverage the field’s collective impact. The Assembly is excited to share the results of this effort starting this week and through the end of the month through a series of webinars and the official release of the final report.

  1. Read “Putting Human Needs on the National Radar Screen” here.
  2. Learn more about NHSA’s reframing effort here.

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