Should fulfilling social goals tend more toward the push system or the pull system? Half a century ago less advantaged people were often ashamed of their poverty and were reluctant to ask for help. In a small town community, there was a shuffling of donations so that they would appear discretely at the home of those in need. This momentum of first demonstrating a need and then delivering some supplies to the designated beneficiary was done on the pull system.
There are several definitions on the distinction between push and pull strategies. Liberopoulos (2013) identifies three such definitions:
1. A pull system initiates production as a reaction to present demand, while a push system initiates production in anticipation of future demand.
2. In a pull system, production is triggered by actual demands for finished products, while in a push system, production is initiated independently of demands.
3. A pull system is one that explicitly limits the amount of WIP that can be in the system, while a push system has no explicit limit on the amount of WIP that can be in the systemWiki
In today’s world, it is common to hear those who work with the poor deny the necessity for those who come to a food shelf, say, to demonstrate a need. It is thought to be disrespectful. The intermediary agencies, whether the county, the food shelf, or the Department of Ed (school lunch) are responsible for determining demand. This is a bureaucratic push system.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. The pull system is more efficient, but some families may refuse to come forward and others feel shame. The push system is bound to attract theft. If a push system becomes elaborate over a long periode of time, then it may become its own little economy (we could call it a platter).
Nellie Bowles has an article in the Atlantic, How San Fransisco Became a Failed City, which illustrates such an economy in her hometown of San Fransisco.
On a cold, sunny day not too long ago, I went to see the city’s new Tenderloin Center for drug addicts on Market Street. It’s downtown, an open-air chain-link enclosure in what used to be a public plaza. On the sidewalks all around it, people are lying on the ground, twitching. There’s a free mobile shower, laundry, and bathroom station emblazoned with the words dignity on wheels. A young man is lying next to it, stoned, his shirt riding up, his face puffy and sunburned. Inside the enclosure, services are doled out: food, medical care, clean syringes, referrals for housing. It’s basically a safe space to shoot up.
Not only are material services provided in abundance to any addict who shows up in this iconic American city- but advice is also spun out free of charge.
She recognized him (a homeless man) as someone who regularly slept outside in the neighborhood, and called 911. Paramedics and police arrived and began treating him, but members of a homeless advocacy group noticed and intervened. They told the man that he didn’t have to get into the ambulance, that he had the right to refuse treatment. So that’s what he did. The paramedics left; the activists left. The man sat on the sidewalk alone, still bleeding. A few months later, he died about a block away.
A whole bouquet of social service agencies has sprung into action. In some sort of warp incentive system, the services attract addicts, which in turn attract services.
Here is a list of some of the organizations that work with the city to fight overdoses and to generally make life more pleasant for the people on the street: Street Crisis Response Team, EMS-6, Street Overdose Response Team, San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team, Street Medicine and Shelter Health, DPH Mobile Crisis Team, Street Wellness Response Team, and Compassionate Alternative Response Team. The city also funds thousands of shelter beds and many walk-in clinics.
In the 90s there were stories of social workers in Chicago giving the needy bus tickets to Minneapolis as they knew there were services available upon arrival. If there is migration of those in need to an area simply due to the known availability of welfare, then the push is pushing too hard.