The Dynamics of Convergence

A Report from the 2014 Human Services Summit

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One common theme in the human services world is the intense and relentless pace of change and disruption. Fueling this turbulent environment are the dynamics of convergence – a once-in-a-generation phenomenon in which societal goals, value measures, technological platforms, market incentives and operating models align in profound ways. What’s imperative now is that human services leaders understand how to shape convergence in order to create newfound capacity for the future—solutions to pressing challenges, the outcomes that people need and the legitimacy that society demands.

To move forward, human services leaders must examine and appreciate how the dynamics of convergence will play out now and in the future. Based on insights from previous summits and research, we can forecast greater alignment and new partnerships between health and human services, education, workforce, and public safety to create pathways to community well-being. We anticipate that advances in technology, social media, and analytics will generate entirely new ways of engaging with citizens, evaluating programs, and customizing services. New financial models will open channels for investing in long-term solutions. Ideas in behavioral economics and evidence-based budgeting will alter how policy is developed, how outcomes are valued and how impacts are measured. And new research on behavior and executive functioning will shape better interventions.

To help leaders examine convergence dynamics and build capacity for the future, the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, Leadership for a Networked World, and Accenture, in collaboration with the American Public Human Services Association, hosted The 2014 Human Services Summit: The Dynamics of Convergence. This fifth annual Summit, convened in late October at Harvard University, brought together the world’s foremost human services practitioners, industry experts, and Harvard faculty and researchers to explore these topics.

Report Insights

  1. Converging on Outcomes in the State of Ohio

    Governor of Ohio John Kasich took office in 2011, determined to resolve the state's alarming budget shortfall using a fiscally conservative approach while simultaneously improving the government safety net. To propel this agenda, he formed the Office of Health Transformation (OHT), a small leadership team possessing the skills and experience to formulate a successful transformation plan, which the Governor empowered them to implement.

  2. Transforming Systems and Services in Ireland

    Streamlining operations is a universal imperative in the health and human services industry, but myriad possibilities exist for how to tackle it. Deciding on the best approach demands a keen understanding of the convergence dynamics that shape the operating environment. At the national level, and in the midst of economic crisis, convergence becomes even more complex. Such was the state of affairs in Ireland beginning in 2008.

  3. Translating the Value Curve into a Vision and Plan in Dakota County, MN

    Leaders in Dakota County, Minnesota, recognizing the Human Services Value Curve's potential, embarked on a journey of vision and strategic planning. The resulting transformation integrates services provided by the county as well as those provided by partnering nonprofits—like 360 Communities—to create a circle of programs and services that promotes community-wide self-sufficiency.


What is a human services leader like you to do in the midst of convergence? Where do you see convergence happening in your world? What are you doing to prepare?

First, recognize that you’re not alone. Participants at the 2014 Human Services Summit shared an array of convergence-related challenges shaping their environments—environments in which they continue to seek new opportunities for transforming their organization. Their contributions at the Summit helped reaffirm and refine several, vital considerations for any leader in human services.

From a strategic view, convergence can be a source of potential peril, but also of promise, depending on how you respond. If leaders don’t develop a constructive response to convergence, the likely result will be a decline in outcomes, public value, and government legitimacy. But if leaders across government sectors can harness convergence—guided by a bold vision and comprehensive strategy—transformative solutions can, and do, appear.

From a tactical view, convergence will likely change your organizational mission, your operating model, and your outcome and impact goals. Convergence will also change the demands and expectations of your stakeholders and especially your clients, including what services they want and need, how they consume services, and how they measure your success.

From a readiness view, be prepared to work on multiple fronts. Not only will you have to respond to the policy, system, and organizational changes driven by convergence, you’ll also have to help people in your organization adapt to new roles, gain new competencies, and embrace new responsibilities. Essentially, you’ll be moving your organization, workforce, and stakeholders through a major change in purpose and identity.

Fortunately, you needn’t start from scratch. The Summit showcased tools and strategic models which show early signs of success, and which hold great potential for responding to a variety of convergence environments. In Ohio, we have seen how a small and nimble leadership team can leverage resources across agencies to modernize Medicaid and improve health system performance. In Ireland, we have seen transformation in the midst of a national recession, by way of consolidation and the creation of citizen-centric programs. In Dakota County, Minnesota, we have seen how the Human Services Value Curve was incorporated into a vision of integration that aligned goals within the community and enabled a circle of programs that promote self-sufficiency.

We have also seen new evidence-based strategies that are changing how we design programs and measure outcomes, and new models for behavioral intervention based on the latest research on poverty and cognitive functioning.

The Executive Leadership Group

Leadership for a Networked World, and the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard would like to thank the Executive Leadership Group for their vision and ideas that aided the development of this Summit.

Uma Ahluwalia
Montgomery County (MD) Department of Health and Human Services
Kim Hood
Executive Director
Utah Department of Administrative Services
Tracy Wareing Evans
President and CEO
American Public Human Services Association

Hosted by

Leadership for a Networked World’s applied research, student innovation challenge, and on-campus summit programs are an initiative of Dr. Antonio M. Oftelie, Innovation Fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH), part of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. TECH is a hub for students, faculty, alumni, and government and industry leaders to learn together, collaborate, and innovate. LNW accelerates these efforts by connecting leaders across sectors and developing cutting-edge thought leadership on innovation and organizational transformation.

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