I’ve been hobbling along the last three months as a result of plantar fasciitis. Despite the frustration of not being able to run as much as I want to over the past few months, it has served as a mechanism for me to think about connections.
Plantar fasciitis is a unique injury to the connective tissue in the foot. It can affect anyone, but anyone who runs or who has challenges with their foot arches are at risk for the injury. One of the things I’ve done for treatment is to go to a body worker. He has pictures on his wall of the fascia in our body. It is absolutely amazing. Did you know that there is one long piece of fascia that starts above our eyebrows, goes over our head, down our back, down each leg to the bottom of the foot? This unique connective tissue is what holds all our muscles into place, ensures that our internal organs aren’t floating around in our body, and keeps our muscles and bones from “overstretching.” It reminds us that our body is not simply individual organs, bones and muscles, but a system where one thing that impacts one system can dramatically impact another part of the system. The trick is to not ignore our fascia, but to ensure its flexibility and strength.
This brings me to my real point, which is to say that in human services we must think about the connections between service agencies and ensuring that those connections are strong and flexible. Many people “fall through the cracks” of the net provided to support people when they are in trouble. However, these cracks in the net are caused, not by the lack of agencies (there are many), but by the lack of strong and flexible connections. Thinking about how we deliver services from a systems perspective is critical if we are to have any success in achieving a healthy, strong and vibrant community.
Here at United Way of the Greater Triangle, we are really trying to begin thinking in this way. Historically, we have supported individual agency programs. Funding individual programs is like strengthening one muscle. When we focus on one muscle our fascia forces us to balance and strengthen a counteracting muscle. If the body is to really function well, strengthening these two muscles may actually also require strengthening other muscles as well. So we want to build the connections between agency programs and strengthen not only one set of programs, but think about how we support others.
For example, in the past we have supported programs that successfully move homeless people into permanent housing. Now we need to add complimentary services to the picture by supporting more programs that promote the employment and job training necessary to maintain employment. Not only do we need to support these programs, but they must interact and work closely with the housing programs. The connections that are built between these agencies begins to function like healthy fascia, so that when we have those strong and flexible connections we actually are able to see better results and homeless households are quickly and successfully able to move into and sustain their permanent housing.
Image from running.competitor.com.