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DSS Fellowship Program Will Develop Leadership, Foster Innovation in Social Service Delivery

Department of Children & Family Services (DSS) Secretary Kristy Nichols today announced that the agency, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will fund a six month fellowship program and leadership academy as part of a set of new initiatives to develop leadership and foster innovation in the social services arena.

"By recognizing and supporting individuals in state government and community organizations who demonstrate innovative thinking and problem-solving, we will build a community of leadership and solution-driven collaborations within the state that will spark improved social service outcomes for Louisiana," said Secretary Nichols. "I am excited to partner with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to arm future leaders in social services with the training and leadership skills they need affect change and innovation in our state."

The Innovation in Louisiana Government Fellowship will support 15 fellows based on nominations of individuals who have demonstrated leadership in the delivery of social services through training and technical assistance. Potential nominees include individuals within state government or community-based organizations who are committed to improving the social service delivery system. Nominees should have ideas for social service projects that can be developed over the course of the six-month fellowship into ready-to-implement initiatives.

The deadline for nominations for the first class of fellows is Friday, June 19, 2009, by 5 p.m. 

Visit for information, nomination instructions and an online nomination form. Self-nominations are allowed.

Once selected, fellows will collaborate to develop implementation plans for individual fellowship projects that have the potential to foster change in business processes that achieve cost savings and increase efficiencies, intervention strategies that achieve improved client outcomes or systems level integration strategies that lead to improved service delivery.

During the six month program, fellows will participate in an Innovation and Leadership Academy, which will consist of both a virtual learning environment and a formal curriculum including expert speakers, technical assistance, peer information sharing, collaborative social networking tools, and Web-based meetings and teleconferences.

Upon completion of the fellowship, the best developed innovation project will receive a $1,500 award. All participants will receive a $500 stipend, and their employing organization will receive a $500 staff development award. 

Nichols also will appoint a Social Services Leadership Forum of statewide members representing community-based and non-governmental agencies, as well as government and industry.  The forum will select fellows and hold a twice yearly Leadership and Innovation Conference.  The first conference, to be held in August, will serve as the orientation and opening summit for the first class of fellows.  The second conference, to be held in February 2010, will include graduation activities and the presentation of the final fellowship projects.

In addition, the forum will advise DSS on policy and program issues on a regular basis and will provide input on innovative solutions to help streamline DSS services and increase the efficiency of business practices.

Nichols said DSS also will introduce a schedule of monthly Web casts, which will allow stakeholders from around the state to participate together in virtual meetings that will provide networking opportunities and updates on new and ongoing DSS programs. As part of these meetings, DSS will arrange for nationally recognized guest speakers to give lectures and facilitate discussions about issues that are important to the social service delivery system in Louisiana.

For additional information or questions about the Innovation in Louisiana Government Fellowship or the nomination process, contact Brandon Reeves at