Creating the Future of Outcomes and Impact

A Report from the 2017 Health and Human Services Summit

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Challenging and uncertain times have always been a catalyst for looking at problems in novel ways, inventing fresh solutions, designing new organizations, and delivering better results and value. Now is no different. For leaders in health and human services, today’s challenges are bringing an unparalleled opportunity to create the future of outcomes and impact.

Creating a better, brighter, and more impactful future will require developing new forms and new levels of outcomes for individuals, families, and communities. This form of change and innovation will increasingly require health and human services leaders to build a “generative ecosystem” – a set of interconnected organizations, machines, and services that can coproduce new solutions that address and solve the root causes of individual, family, and community health and human services challenges.

To help health and human services leaders with these challenges, the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, Leadership for a Networked World, and Accenture, in collaboration with the American Public Human Services Association, convened senior-most leaders for The 2017 Health and Human Services Summit: Creating the Future of Outcomes and Impact from September 22 – 24 at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This eighth annual Summit provided an unparalleled opportunity to learn from and network with the world’s foremost human services practitioners, Harvard faculty and researchers, and select industry experts. Summit participants gained membership to a community of peers and experts, and left the Summit prepared and poised to advance ecosystems to deliver generative outcomes and impact for individuals, families, communities, and society.

What is the Human Services Value Curve?

Learn more about the framework being adopted in the Health and Human Services field >

A letter from the Executive Director

Dr. Antonio Oftelie, Executive Director of Leadership for a Networked World, reflects on this year's summit and it's implications.

Read his letter here. >

“This Summit is about bringing together leaders to shape the future of health and human services.”
Rafael López
Managing Director, Accenture

Report Insights

  1. Addressing the Opioid Epidemic in Kentucky

    In 2015, 1,307 people died from opioid overdoses in Kentucky, resulting in Kentucky having the third-highest overdose mortality rate in the country. What’s more, of the approximately 50,000 babies delivered in Kentucky that year, more than 1,000 had Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. , As Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin said, “We don’t have the luxury of pretending there isn’t a problem. Every life is worth saving. There is not a person we would not want to see redeemed and removed from this addiction, and it is up to all of us to work together and find solutions.”

  2. Building a Thriving Community: The Case of Live Well San Diego in 2017

    In 2008, Walt Ekard, the Chief Administrative Officer for San Diego County, asked Nick Macchione, the newly-promoted director of the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, to address a complex and significant question: “How do we help San Diego become a healthier region for the entire county, representing more than three million residents?” Macchione responded by engaging his staff and an array of county, city, and community partners to develop a health strategy, which elected officials used as a launching point for what would become Live Well San Diego, a multi-pronged “vision for a region that is building better health, living safely, and thriving.” To achieve these goals, the county team planned to employ a variety of core strategies, including strengthening the service delivery system, effecting policy and environmental change, supporting positive choices, and improving the culture from within one’s organization. They also identified areas of influence (e.g., health and knowledge) to be measured by a set of key indicators. Above all, the fate of this initiative would hinge on the ability of the county team to establish trust and build an ecosystem that spanned organizational and jurisdictional boundaries, moving beyond politics. Macchione emphasized, “It’s about relationships. It’s about beliefs. It’s about integrity. It’s about legitimacy. It’s all about improving lives.”

  3. Creating an Outcomes-Focused System at Lutheran Social Services

    In fall 2014, Mark Stutrud was fishing for salmon in Michigan’s Pere Marquette River when a colleague introduced an intriguing but fraught proposition: interviewing to become the CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI), the largest statewide social service agency in the state. As Stutrud cast his line, he considered the challenges: low morale, a looming state fiscal crisis that could imperil LSSI’s funding, and a litigious environment that had led to 80 consent decrees. “My first question,” recalled Stutrud, then the President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, “was, ‘Why, God, would you ever call me to this situation?’”

“We need a lot more people inventing new service delivery programs.”
Jeffrey Liebman
Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University


As health and human services leaders strive to develop ecosystems that generate outcomes and impact, they face a number of challenges and opportunities. One significant obstacle is that some groups may not fully commit to ecosystems because they are unwilling or unable to subordinate their short-term interests to that of the long-term, greater good. Another major difficulty is the uncertainty over what the future holds. As the Human Services 2035: Reflections from the Futures panel established, the combination of economic, social, and environmental shifts—not to mention the growing demands on health and human services—makes it very difficult to project how the field will look in 20 years. At the same time, these changes create exciting opportunities. Health and human services leaders will have a chance to utilize new technologies—ranging from artificial intelligence to advanced analytics to machine learning—to provide services more efficiently. What’s more, the recognition that the world and this field are changing so rapidly has created an intense focus on the need for health and human services to evolve and the opportunity to innovate and take risks that accompanies it. From Lutheran Social Services in Illinois to Live Well San Diego to officials in Kentucky, leaders across the country are exploring ways to create innovative ecosystems that can tackle some of the largest health and human services issues of our time.

The dialogue at The 2017 Health and Human Services Summit: Creating the Future of Outcomes and Impact pointed to three critical steps that health and human services leaders can take to continue scaling the Health and Human Services Value Curve and develop outcome-driven ecosystems:

This points to a broader insight: the importance of being ambitious. Health and human services leaders should not shy away from the biggest challenges or the hardest solutions; rather, they should look at all of the progress we have made over the past eight years with the Health and Human Services Value Curve and now see an opportunity to create ecosystems and generative outcomes that will help to propel the field further in the decade to come. As Debora Morris, the Managing Director for Growth and Strategy for Health and Human Services at Accenture, said, “Be bold. Do more. Be better. We’ve already done amazing things.”

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
Roderick Bremby
Connecticut Department of Social Services
Susan Dreyfus
President & CEO
Alliance for Strong Families and Communities
Brent Earnest
Secretary, Human Services Department
New Mexico Office of the Governor
Kelly Harder
Dakota County Community Services
Lynn Johnson
Executive Director
Jefferson County Department of Human Services
Nick Macchione
Health and Human Services Agency, San Diego County, California
Susan Mosier
Secretary and State Health Officer
Department of Health and Environment
Stephanie Muth
Medicaid Director
State of Texas
Doris Tolliver
Chief of Staff
Indiana Department of Child 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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