purple and blue abstract wallpaper

Hierarchies of Understanding & Need for Collaboration: Transformation on Person & Population Levels (2/2)

By: Ken McGill, EdS, LMFT

In the first part of this blog, Ken McGill talked about how a whole-person approach requires a broader perspective of “needs” and how collaboration is required for transformation at the individual and systems level. In part 2, Ken continues to discuss how this can be achieved.

PART II

Human Complexities Require Collaborative Solutions

We know how complex humans are physically, emotionally, behaviorally, spiritually, and psychologically. Therefore, it would only make sense, as implied in defining human services, to apply a plural approach to support, heal, and treat human conditions. The use of teams has been part of the SOC movement, especially in the utilization of the wraparound approach to care. In another recent blog post, Binti & Opeeka Uniquely Applying Wraparound’s Team Approach: Solutions For Success, I described the absolute need for collaboration. In fact, a follow-up webinar, hosted by Fostering Media Connections (FMC), highlighted the need for technology to be used for collaboration in order to best serve those children, youth, emerging adults, and families connected to child welfare.

During the follow-up webinar, Better Tech, Better Outcomes: How Technology Collaboration Can Improve Foster Care, a panel discussed the challenges child welfare systems faced even prior to the global pandemic. However, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis only intensified the needs of the most vulnerable children, youth, and families, and the discussion included the following reality: there were foster family shortages, social worker burdens and exoduses, and the complex needs of youth facing trauma were becoming more acute and widespread.

Groups across the country have been working tirelessly to design and implement creative, innovative strategies and tools which can help alleviate the crisis, facilitate child welfare processes, focus on ‘whole-person care,’ and drive positive outcomes for youth, families, and social workers. My hope is that this discussion continues, and technologies can be shared to support systemic collaboration, especially supporting whole-person care where the data is incorporated into treatment in real-time.

It is Going to Take a Team to Heal a Village

While technology alone is not the answer to every challenge, it should be used in ways to harness data, increase collaboration, streamline processes, and better match children/youth and families to evidence-based practices/services to ensure better outcomes and overall experiences. The take-away lesson from the worldwide pandemic has been to continue applying innovative solutions to the challenges, especially to drive systemic changes towards equity for all. Systems must continue to evaluate and ensure that practices and policies reflect the needs and strengths of those being served.

It was only recently that I learned from a friend who works in the corporate world that challenges usually fall in two distinct categories: complicated and complex. As she explained it, complicated problems or challenges are completely solvable, often just by matching expertise and/or technical skills. She referred to this as a mechanistic problem, for example, programming development. Then there are more ‘complex’ problems or challenges which are also solvable but often require much more thought and planning to achieve those positive outcomes. The complexity is often related to the larger interconnected systems, interpersonal dynamics, and other areas yet to be discovered.

The collaborative work of developing the shared vision leads to the collaborative discovery of answers to the identified challenges. Therefore, a TCOM Team approach appears to be the next step in the process of meeting the complex needs of children, youth, adults, and families. However, let’s not take the approach of ‘boiling the ocean’ and failing, which equates to trial-and-error, which should never be done in human services. Instead, we can align with TCOM and develop a Transformational Care Plan which incorporates Wraparound.

Successful change requires collaborations at all levels, from the family team all the way to the systems of care. For sustainable systemic changes, we must solve both complicated and complex challenges using innovative solutions. The TCOM Collaborative has served as a model of successful ways systems have collaborated. The steps are clear: together as a team, we must develop a shared vision to identify underlying needs, while building/using strengths, and ensure that all voices are heard, especially those we serve. The plan the team creates to solve both complicated and complex challenges connected to each system can actively serve as the ultimate goal or outcome which can adequately address both health equity and impact social determinants of health.

Hierarchies of Understanding: Needs for Collaboration-Whole Person Care
Hierarchies of Understanding: Needs for Collaboration-Whole Person Care

Let’s move forward by not thinking we can act alone to solve all of these challenges. Together we can celebrate the evolution from “Systems of Care” towards ‘Systems that Care’ as we come together in our focus on human services. It can be difficult when you think you are alone without anyone. I cannot help but think of the poem ‘Alone’ by Maya Angelou, where she writes, “Alone, all alone/Nobody, but nobody/Can make it out here alone.” The takeaway is that without another person, which can mean a family or partner, we cannot fully “make it” as we are social creatures requiring a nourishment of community to survive and hopefully be prosperous.


We invite you to attend the 18th Annual TCOM Conference in September 2022 to meet up either in-person in New Orleans or virtually at our Cloud Gathering. The 2022 TCOM Conference will center around the theme, “Managing Change and All That Jazz”. The annual TCOM Conference brings together a global audience who may be influenced by TCOM in various ways.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: