Addressing Lag and Change at the 2018 WACOSS Convention

Last week was the biennial WA Council of Social Service Conference and our very own Angela Vurens Van Es was invited to speak about addressing lag caused by change.


Our Strategy Lead Angela has a passion for understanding the change emerging trends have in our communities and supporting organisations to be at the forefront of human-centred responses.

Angela’s talk focused on the change we experience today, both as individuals and communities, and how we should try to be ‘addressing the lag’ that can arise as a result of that change.


At times of major change, there is often 'lag' between the consequences and the ability of people and communities to adapt.


With her in-depth understanding of communities, Angela is in a perfect position to give an insight to the major shifts shaping communities around us and the role of the service sector in empowering community to address unintended impacts.

So what insights did Angela have for the attentive audience?

What emerging trends provide a snapshot of change in our community?

What are the potential impacts?

How can we strengthen our approach to ensure we are building hearty, resilient, and aspiring communities that are more capable of managing change themselves?


We can gather as much information as possible to understand, seek insight and then conceptualise the solution before moving to strategy development and that actions that follow.

In today’s world, it is essential you do nothing alone, hence the importance of partnerships and relationships.


Group of young people in huddle, outdoors, low angle view


As the social services sector, we depend on understanding demographics and data to recognise emerging needs in our communities. The stats tell us a lot, but we need to be looking to the trends which offer a window into why you might feel tired, stressed, anxious, cash-strapped and lonely.

But they also give us a window into great possibilities for ourselves and for our communities.

The trends Ange spoke about last week are those we see having the greatest relevance to the way our WA community is experiencing life and the way our social sector operates.


Technology and AI and how it causes change


We have spoken about artificial intelligence before, but not so much about ‘thick data’, the precious unquantifiable insight from actual people to make the right business decisions and thrive on the unknown.


The change in the nature of work


We have machines that can perform tasks that were once the responsibility of humans, we’re losing jobs because of it, there’s less security in jobs these days.

“Every time we remove a role or responsibility from a person we give them one less reason to exist.”


individual choice and the change it can cause


In an age of technology enabling endless choices, governments are placing more and more responsibility on individuals to direct their care and support needs.

Organisations working in this space are becoming administers of funds, not an organisation which fosters a sense of shared community or care.


Lonliness and Isolation and the change it can cause


Although we are more connected than ever through technology, the quality of our relationships is diminishing. Technology is both helping and hindering, with a steep rise in older people using digital platforms to stay connected to family, but the younger generations citing that social media is making them feel left out.


Declining trust and the change it causes in communities


Quality relationships are essential for trust, and trust is on the decline in Australia.


People want change so they can become part of the collective us


It’s a human need to be part of a group, and this need has grown in the past 5 to 10 years. There is a new trend to be part of the “Collective Us”

Being part of the “collective us” can be a positive and negative force in our communities. In sociological terms, we call it binding and bonding social capital. We can come together in ways that are good for the greater good or in ways that are bad for the greater good.

The data and trends are showing us that we are entering a new period for communities; one of uncertainty, rapid change, a lack of job and financial security.

BUT it’s also showing us that in an increasingly uncertain world, people care about being part of a community.

We need to build strong people and communities with the skills, attributes and ability to deal with change. This way, when there are changes (be it policy, funding, tech, societal), they can adapt and absorb more before whatever the new is, takes hold.


So how do we build hardy and resilient communities with the ability to adapt to change?


  • We need to focus on the whole.
  • We need to build social capital, wellness, quality of life and culture.
  • We need to focus on all the realms in which people inhabit; supporting individual wellbeing, functional places with the infrastructure and amenity needed, a sense of community and connection and (perhaps most importantly) a sense of endeavour and connection to economic opportunities.