On July 14, over 100 people from 18 countries logged on for our first ever Social Service Workforce Strengthening webinar! The webinar session entitled, “Lessons Learned from the Global Healthcare Workforce,” kicked off the first in a series of webinars intended to encourage the sharing of information, expertise and promising practices for addressing the needs of the social welfare workforce through a series of facilitated discussions.

The idea for the webinar series and webinar topics grew out from conversations at the PEPFAR-funded Social Welfare Workforce Strengthening Conference held in Cape Town last November.

The topics refer to specific initiatives for improving strategies for planning, training and supporting the broad variety of different workers – paid and unpaid, governmental and non-governmental – who make up the social service workforce and are responsible for the care and protection of vulnerable populations, including children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.

The first webinar explored ways in which resources, tools and successful approaches piloted by those engaged in efforts to strengthen human resources for health (HRH) can benefit global and local social service workforce strengthening initiatives.

The webinar featured a series of presentations addressing four key questions:

(1)   How does social service workforce strengthening fit within the larger health workforce strengthening agenda?

(2)   What HRH advocacy initiatives might be best adapted and applied to social service workforce strengthening?

(3)   What HRH tools or resources show particular promise for use or adaptation in the social service workforce strengthening space?

(4)    How has the health sector been able to engage other sectors within different country contexts to take health workforce needs and contributions seriously?

Although presenters acknowledged key differences between the health and social service workforces, they also noted significant similarities.

The webinar format was particularly exciting because it allowed for a high level of interaction. The instant messaging function enabled participants to both send questions to presenters as well as communicate with other participants, answering and commenting on one another’s questions and offering further comments. In addition, although many webinar participants logged on individually, at least 15 countries organized opportunities for individuals who are engaged in social service workforce strengthening to log onto the webinar together, in one location, and participate as country teams.

Already the webinar appears to have prompted greater collaboration among those engaged in health and social service workforce strengthening efforts. For example, one participant from Zambia’s Department of Social Welfare told us that his country team has plans to meet with HRH colleagues as soon as possible to explore further partnerships.

The webinars, funded by PEPFAR and implemented under the auspices of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance by USAID partner CapacityPlus, will continue throughout the next year.

You can still access the complete recording of the first webinar, engage in the ongoing discussion, and learn about the next webinars.

To join the Social Service Workforce Strengthening Webinar listserv, please send an email to: SWWS.Webinars@capacityplus.org