The Human Services Value Curve and the Future of Human Services and Human Progress

By Clem Bezold, Chairman and Senior Futurist, and Mary Carenbauer, Futurist

IAF’s Human Progress and Human Services 2035 effort considers and constructs alternative futures for human services and human progress and how successful these may be nationally and in different areas across the country. Two of the four scenarios in each set of the scenario sets explore visionary or “surprisingly successful” space. In developing these, we work with the community to define their shared visions or visionary conditions.

For the human services community, one leading vision for their preferred future of the field is the Human Services Value Curve, developed by the Harvard University Technology and Entrepreneurship Center’s Leadership for a Networked World with the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA).

The Human Services Value Curve serves as framework for transforming service delivery. The Value Curve describes progressing through various stages of value, as understood from the perspective of the consumer (see the figure further below).

The value levels are explained as:

  • At the regulative level, consumers receive a specific product or service that is timely, accurate, efficient and easy to understand.
  • At the collaborative level, consumers “walk through a single door” and have access to a complete array of products and services that are available “on the shelf.”
  • At the integrative level, products and services are combined into packages, and designed and customized with input from the consumer themselves, delivered in the most convenient ways, with the objective of best meeting the consumer’s true needs and driving positive outcomes.
  • At the generative level, those providing products and services are joining forces to make the consumer’s overall environment better for them, resulting in value that is broader and more systemic than an individual or family might receive.

Service providers can operate across levels of the Human Service Value Curve to most effectively deliver services to, and in collaboration with, community members.

A group of local human service agency leaders within APHSA developed the “local vision” for the human services value curve in terms of what it would include:

a. Core components:

  • A resolute focus on a person-centered approach to casework and service delivery
  • Testing and implementation of innovative evidence-based practices
  • Partnering with other organizations and systems across sectors
  • An integrated infrastructure, with information technology systems that enable and produce cross-system data; led first by the integrated health and human services information system
  • A workforce of “skilled tradespeople” able to build community well-being— with the competencies to deliver evidence-based practices
  • Effective and efficient internal change management processes that enable leaders to continuously improve their organizations
  • Accountability processes that clarify outcome measures and quantify impacts, including reduced health care costs, improved health, and greater self-sufficiency.

b. Principles guiding human services:

  • Solid prevention- and strengths-based orientation
  • Two-generation and multi-generation approaches
  • Holistic, person-centered, and customized service planning
  • Both pre-trauma and trauma-informed strategies
  • Sustained attention on fatherhood engagement
  • Commitment to defining and tracking of a set of common indicators across all well-being and health domains.
human_services_value_curve
Figure 1: The Human Services Value Curve

Further Reading:

APHSA, Toolkit: moving through the Value Curve Stages. Available at: https://aphsa.org/APHSA/Value_Curve_Toolkit/Toolkit__Moving_through_the_Value_Curve_Stage.aspx

APHSA, OE Framework: Human Service Value Curve. Available at: https://aphsa.org/organizational_effectiveness/OE_Consulting_Practice/OE_Framework.aspx

A New Pathway Toward Prosperity and Well-being, A Concept Paper by the National Council of Local Human Service Administrators, May 16, 2016.


This post is the last in a series on forecast areas with potential disruptive developments (positive and negative) shaping the futures of human needs and human services over the years to 2035. The final scenarios and main report will be released in the upcoming months. Click here to read the previous articles on job loss to automation, new jobs that automation will create, the growing values of equity and inclusion in the US, housing options shaping human progress and human services, abundance advances, and guaranteed basic income.