A Chamber of Commerce for Human Service Providers
In 1986 a handful of nonprofit executive directors from Hampden County, Massachusetts invited their colleagues to a gathering to explore the possibility of forming an organization that would be the equivalent of a Chamber of Commerce for human service providers. The vision of these leaders was to develop an organization that would encourage networking between the wide array of human service providers as well as state agencies. They sought to build relationships, to share information, and to increase their knowledge of major changes and trends impacting the field. They also wanted to project a positive, powerful, highly credible public image to the community, business leaders and political leaders.
The organizations agreed to pay dues based on a percentage of their annual budgets in order to hire a staff person to coordinate the activities of what would become known as the Human Service Forum. In the beginning, the Forum convened five breakfast meetings per year. The level of activity has grown to include several trainings, workshops and events with legislators, along with research on the economic impact of the human service sector; and now a capacity building information and referral service has been added. Currently more than 100 individuals and organizations serving Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire Counties are members of the Human Service Forum.