Mr Ng Shui Lai
Voluntary agencies in Hong Kong have found themselves
in a totally different environment. The kind of social problems
they are facing are much complicated than before and hence more
sophisticated intervention skills and models, such as family
therapy, case management, integrated community based centre
and alike, are called for. Greater accountability is required
from government, funding sources and general public; thus service
quality becomes a central concern. The major sponsor, i.e. the
government, has changed its funding mode from input control
to output control. The success of voluntary agencies in the
past 40 years in empowering the service recipients had witnessed
a fast growth of user groups and demands in greater participation.
The paradigm of a loosely defined "partnership"
between government and voluntary agency is shifting to a new
paradigm of a tripartite relationship of funder, purchaser and
provider. Although voluntary agency has been and is being seen,
as a matter of fact, representing the service recipients without
questions, the change is imminent.
Voluntary agencies in Hong Kong are being shaped
by the use of new technology (both in management and in the
delivery of services) internally as well as their responses
to the force of competition externally.
In fact, the business world has been challenged
by such similar change far earlier than that of which the social
welfare service sector is facing. In spite of different causes
perhaps, the manifestations of the problems are comparable.
Hence, the experience seen in the business sectors is worth
the consideration by the social welfare sectors, although some
of the unique characteristics of the latter must be taken into
account when adopting the experience of the former.
The responses to the increasing demand of technology
are to imply "strategic human resources management"
and to transform the agency into a learning organization.
To positively counter competition, organizations
are becoming customer focused, efficient in responsiveness to
needs, quality oriented and to keep on improving. Another common
reaction to competitive pressure is business process re-engineering.
Pressure has made businesses to become "lean and mean",
downsizing, cutting out layers of management of supervision
and reducing permanent staff to a core of essential workers.
How these experiences in the business sectors
can and should be used in social welfare field is a big challenge.
Nonetheless, one thing I am quite certain of is that unless
a voluntary agency chooses to respond promptly to the challenge
of change or it loses the chance to ever respond to it, as no
voluntary agency can exist in its present form for long.