Resource Development Associates

Taking a Systems Perspective

By Patricia Marrone Bennett, Ph.D.

People who depend on public services often have to interact with multiple systems and many different people who work in those systems. These systems are often not effectively coordinated with each other and staff, such as case managers, probation officers, and social workers from one organization may have little, if any, contact with staff from another. This can lead to uncoordinated case planning and service delivery.

When public systems work together effectively, there is an opportunity to leverage resources and help ensure better outcomes for individuals and families. For example, a person experiencing homelessness may need support for mental health and/or substance treatment. They may be cycling in and out of jails and the emergency room. They may also have serious chronic health problems, all of which are aggravated by their homelessness. When the different systems collaborate to serve the whole person, there is a greater likelihood of positive results.

At RDA, we emphasize the interconnectedness between multiple consumer needs and the many public systems that have some responsibility to address them. As public systems experts, we are intentionally very agile in the subject matter that we address. We work across multiple domains, including justice, behavioral health, housing, education, health care, child welfare and many others at the local, regional, and state levels. We include all these domains in our work because our experience has taught us that it is always best to take a whole person approach. Because we work in each of these systems, we understand their unique cultures, strengths, and challenges. We apply this knowledge to the task of finding ways to help public systems work together collaboratively.

As we support efforts for cross-systems collaboration by using information that will inform policy and resource allocation, our end goal is a holistic approach to serving people and their communities. After all, it is not just the system we hope to improve, it is the lives of the people served that matter.

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