Arguably, Ruse’s centre for social support lies at the centre of Equilibrium’s operations. For the larger part of 2018, major renovation has been underway meaning that the team has had to squeeze into one half of the building and then the other while coordinating the delivery of social services from inside a noisy construction site.
While it is still difficult to imagine what the centre will look like when finished, it’s clear that the interior of the building will have been significantly re-shaped in the name of energy conservation and efficient use of space.
What about Equilibrium, the organisation? Has is undergone any reshaping during 2018? The answer is yes – in some ways it has.
Our early childhood centre that officially opened in September, 2017 has been developed in the spirit of experimentation and we work in close collaboration with the parents that visit the centre. In a sense, this venture shows us breaking away from constraints that we have faced when managing social services. We do things at the new centre that have not been able to do while delivering social services.
Here is an excerpt from an EQ publication from 2015 –
“An outward-focused organization will reveal its community-orientation in its manner of public communication. It will talk warmly and effusively about the work it does. It will be highly transparent. It will appear to be action-oriented in the community and doing a great deal……………..A community-oriented organization will be talked about in the community. What does a Google search reveal? A community-oriented organization will put effort into making its facility welcoming and comfortable both physically and in terms of how all visitors are welcomed to the facility…..”
In essence, we were predicting how EQ would ramp up its engagement with parents to show what universal family support should look like. In a 2017 presentation, prominent psychologist Dr. Vessela Banova describes social services for children and families as being “highly differentiated” when they should be integrated and working proactively with the healthcare, social welfare and education sectors. They are subject to old financial standards and rigid and restrictive methods of work that are centrally prescribed.
It was Dr. Banova who provided an external evaluation of our early childhood centre in which she described it as lying in the centre of a “parents’ community” and providing something those parents eagerly sought and could not find anywhere else.
New regulations for the delivery of social services have recently come into effect that enlarge and alter the repertoire of centres of social support. They represent a step towards the redefinition of social work with children in Bulgaria to render it supportive and more readily available as opposed to interventionist and highly dependent on the actions of child protection departments. Perhaps we are moving away from the model described by Dr. Banova and – arguably – EQ’s subtle reshaping during 2018 shows our readiness for change. The teams working in each of the twelve services that we manage have received a boost to their pioneering instincts.