History

Human Services Integration Project:
History and Activities

The Human Services Integration Steering Committee was formed in 2006 as a joint initiative of the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association (OMSSA) and the Service Manager Housing Network (SMHN). In April 2008, the committee was expanded to include a new partner, the Social Housing Services Corporation (SHSC).

The committee was mandated at the outset to begin to develop a solid understanding of human service integration so that it could initiate dialogue with Consolidated Municipal Service Managers (CMSMs) and District Social Service Administration Boards (DSSABs) across Ontario.

The committee has representation from all partner organizations and was originally supported by consultant Jody Orr.

A First Year of Learning

In its first year, the committee began a research and learning process which was intended to result in a discussion paper that would inform the service integration efforts of CMSMs and DSSABs across Ontario.

This effort quickly became a journey of shared learning during which the committee was confronted with some fundamental challenges: the lack of a shared vocabulary; the need to think systemically; the requirement to become person-centred in service planning and delivery; and—the compelling imperative—the need to evaluate efforts at all stages along the way. The committee knew that if its own efforts at working in an integrated fashion around the table were challenging, that these challenges would be replicated in CMSMs and DSSABs moving along the integration path.

While this shared learning was going on, a parallel literature search turned up significant agreement among those who have studied integration, indicating that there are no easily portable models that can be replicated from one organization to another. There are dominant, repeating processes and organizational forms, but how these are introduced from community to community is deeply shaped by organizational and community history and culture. Each community will develop integrated structures and integration processes that are unique. The literature search also indicated that evaluation efforts in the area of human services integration are, as yet, not very comprehensive.

As a result of the committee’s own experience and its failure to locate clear models (as they are usually understood), it decided that as its first major offering to CMSMs and DSSABs it would publish a paper that encouraged readers to facilitate a parallel learning journey in their own organizations as a first and critically important step to initiating integration processes and structures.

Spring Leadership Seminar 2007: Seeking Feedback and Testing Key Approaches in the Discussion Paper

Key approaches and principles that the paper intended to explore were tested in the spring of 2007 at OMSSA’s Spring Leadership Seminar. This conference brought together human service managers from CMSMs and DSSABs across Ontario.

The event was as a series of large group presentations and small group dialogues focused on aspects of service integration. A highlight of the event was presentations from two resource people with extensive experience in the process of service integration.

Susan Hallett, the Program Administrator from the Office of Community Partnerships and Innovative Practices (CPIP), Arizona Department of Economic Security, led off the conference on the first evening by sharing in her keynote address her learning from Arizona service integration efforts.

James Fong, from Fong Consulting, who has examined and analyzed service integration efforts in a wide variety of jurisdictions throughout the United States, joined the participants electronically on the first morning to share his theoretical framework for understanding service integration.

Over two days of facilitated discussion, the general directions intended for the paper were validated through participant discussion. In addition, the committee received substantial feedback on the integration resources which CMSMs and DSSABs were seeking in the form of a report from the OMSSA Spring Leadership Seminar.

Based on these discussions and feedback, the committee spent its next few months developing and fine tuning its first discussion paper.

Publication and Launch of “A Guide to Thinking about Human Services Integration”

In September 2007, the committee released A Guide to Thinking about Human Services Integration: Making a Greater Difference for People and Communities. The paper was launched at a major presentation during the Forum on Social Housing and Homelessness for service managers, shelter providers and front-line staff, a conference jointly hosted by OMSSA, SMHN and the Ontario Association of Hostels.

The printed version of this guide has been printed multiple times and has been well received by readers throughout Ontario.

2008 - 2012

Policy

OMSSA continued to develop the policy and practice thinking for human services integration, including releasing papers and hosting a forum on Integrated Human Services Planning shortly after the Provincial-Municipal Service Delivery Review was completed.

This in turn led to the development of OMSSA’s resources for CMSMs and DSSABs for integrated early learning and child care planning and working with their communities. As well as the development of some early work in defining and promoting excellence in service system management as a means to support HSI.

OMSSA also hosted in both 2011 and 2012 a new policy conference focussed on the policy and practice of HSI. Many provincial and community partners attend these conferences and 2013 saw another one in December 2013. 

Training

A range of training opportunities were developed. The first of these—Human Services Integration 101—was piloted at the OMSSA Fall Training Seminar in 2007, subsequently modified and is now available as an intensive one day on-site workshop.

Additional training sessions were developed that address systems thinking, evaluation of human services integration and promotion of human services integration in a community.

Consultation

CMSMs and DSSABs interested in specific issues related to human services integration, seeking more detailed information or looking for support for their efforts should contact Diya Gill, Manager of Education at OMSSA at dgill@omssa.com.

2013 to Present

OMSSA continues to host the Human Services Integration Task Force and draw on its members to inform our policy and advocacy work. 2012 and 2013 also included the active work of our Privacy, Information and Technology Task Force looking at the role of these issues in moving ever more towards integration.