Up until this point in time a quality outcome was guaranteed by the relationship that these professionals formed with each and every person for whom they advocated and provided services. The quality assurance system operated like this:
"How do we know we provide a meaningful and valuable service? We know because we know who our clients are not just what they need. And we know because they tell us, sometimes with words, sometimes with a particular look or even through a messenger."
The 'professional' barrier between service coordinator and client was very permeable. Under the auspices of providing a service my colleagues and clients shared aspects of their lives with each other.
A number of years later another colleague who also lived in this relational (rather than institutional) human service environment quietly spoke the words, "...no one leaves transformed..." He too was reminding us about the importance of values manifest in human relationships as a cornerstone for holding human services workers accountable to the people they serve. He was quoting from the writings of Shane Claiborne, author, activist and leading character in New Monasticism movement.
I think the message is clear, even for those who wish to put the faith or religious connotations aside. All three messages align to remind us of the importance of relationships and how they transform people, especially when we work with vulnerable or disenfranchised people and communities.
The challenge for leaders in the non profit sector becomes one where the organisation can meet its obligations to a range of stakeholders (especially in relation to contract management and compliance) without 'over-processing' intervention and service. By 'over-processing' consider systems which favour the importance of rapport over relationship; procedure over human insight; and policy rather than empathy and hope.