NAME=”T1″>How are human services agencies

In Iteration One, we saw human
services agencies are the end product of a complex process, starting with the
action of the First Mover who sees people – potential
– experiencing difficulty coping with their day-to-day
circumstances. The First Mover recruits the Initiators who pursue auspices and
associated resources through the Authorizers. The Implementers then develop the
elements needed to create a human services agency where appropriate supports
and services are available to the people who need them. The Providers then
encourage use of the services by appropriate clients. If all goes well,
potential clients are reclassified as clients,
service provision proceeds, and the
Helping Triangle is closed.

The First Mover and the
potential client are at point “A” on the Helping Triangle. If
developing a human services agency were not the preferred outcome, the First
Mover could simply talk with the potential client and then do something they
both thought might help. Instead, the First Mover turns away to enlist the
assistance of the Initiators shown along the left side of the triangle. Even if
potential clients participate in the Initiator group – and they frequently do
not – there is a serious, potential misfit between the person/problem and the

The Initiators develop a
problem definition only more or less coinciding with the unique needs,
problems, or vulnerabilities with which the individuals at point “A”
are struggling to cope. Let’s refer to this potential misfit as problem drift. The Initiators in turn
develop a strategy for helping with the needs, problems, and vulnerabilities
included in the problem as they define it. Given the noted problem drift, the
proposed solution has a tendency to shift away from what might actually help.
Refer to this as initiation drift. It is tempting to argue skilled
people would never let problem drift and initiation drift happen. The fact is
neither is fully preventable. Both are, to a more or less extent, unavoidable.
The challenge is to introduce meta-processes minimizing their extent and

Once the Initiators settle on
their definition of the problem and their proposed solution, they take their
proposal to the Authorizers at point “B”. There the proposal is
further shaped to better fit the requirements, expectations, perceptions, and
preferences of the Authorizers. Additionally, the Authorizers add restrictions
and requirements consistent with their interests and judgments about what
should be done and how it should be done. The result is only more or less what
the Initiators requested. We can refer to this reframing as authorization drift.

The Implementers then proceed
to follow through with the project as authorized. They will move the process
along, conforming to a more or less extent with the Authorizers’
specifications. Their goal is to put the agency in place at point
“C”. The movement of implementation away from the vision held by the
Authorizers is what I call implementation
. The resulting agency and its surrounding structures and connections
are never quite what the Authorizers have in mind when they approve the

Along the bottom of the Helping
Triangle are the Providers. They connect points “C” and “A”
through the supports and services envisioned by the First Mover, the help the
First Mover would have offered had he simply talked with the potential
client and then done something they both thought might help. There is only a
more or less match between the services delivered and the help to which the
potential client and the First Mover would likely have agreed. Refer to this
disparity as services drift.

The cumulative process is
apparent. Problem drift combines with initiation drift that in turn combines
with authorization drift. That then combines with implementation drift and
eventually with services drift. An exact match between help needed and services
received is at least unlikely and more probably, not possible. Let’s refer to
this cumulative mismatch as outcome drift,
understanding it is the cumulative affect of problem, initiation,
authorization, implementation, and services drift.