One major challenge faced by organizations is maintaining a capacity for renewal and constant alertness to rapidly changing realities and conditions, in order to properly serve the promotion of client interests on a continuous basis. The Unit for Learning from Success at the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute helps organizations meet these challenges by developing and inculcating novel learning practices. The goal is to help them offer their target populations quality service, fittingly and effectively. The approach of learning from success aims to create an environment encouraging an organization’s joint, ongoing learning.
One method developed at the unit is the retrospective method, which focuses on developing an organization’s ability to learn from past successes. This type of learning makes it possible to identify the tacit knowledge accumulated by an organization, replicate the arena and principles of action that led to success, and convert these in a learning process into knowledge that can be implemented in the future.
In 2016, Etty Cohen, Director of Social Services in Beer Sheva, asked the unit for assistance in the process of identifying and documenting stories of success in the practice of social workers. The methodological tool used in the documentation was the retrospective method.
In 2017, a structured, systematic process began of identifying, investigating and documenting the stories. After choosing nine stories of success, specially trained social-work students interviewed the social workers at the service and the clients whose stories were chosen.
The stories of success documented in the book include working with a family in crisis following the elderly mother’s accelerated process of dementia; with a daughter whose father is an obsessive hoarder; and with a mother of six, in crisis from her parental functioning, employment status, and financial status.
In each of these stories, principles of action were formulated that had contributed to success. Some of the common principles of action that emerged from all or most of the stories were faith in a client’s ability to conduct their own, and their family’s, rehabilitation process; the integration of individual and group therapeutic measures and support; a social worker’s availability to support a client in times of crisis, which requires the backing of the social-service department; home visits to gain direct impressions; and comprehensive work to help clients fully exercise their rights.
The book provides insights into practices that earned success and led to significant change in the lives of the clients and their families. These will serve as the basis for further learning and seminars, and constitute a resource for the mutual learning and professional development of social-service staff and officials working with Israel’s diverse populations.