211info study released: Drive innovation with connections
Yesterday, 211info hosted more than 50 community members as we rolled out findings from information gathering this summer focused on the question of how social service providers get information for the people they serve. We also touched on lessons learned from two other gatherings we held – a youth focus group and an innovation luncheon for community leaders.
We appreciate the time and thought all the participants contributed and wanted to share additional kernels of wisdom with all of you.
Youth focus group
Trust matters. Particularly with the youth audience. Since most kids can remember, there has been a new website or device every week. Those things come and go. Where adults often get caught in the new shiny thing, newness is expected for young people. Thus, a trusted presence matters all the more.
Last month we also hosted an Innovation Luncheon where we invited friends and partners to help us cook up new ideas. We were joined by our pals at Street Roots, ECO NW, Department of Human Services and about a dozen others. What emerged wasn’t an idea about the next new tool but rather an old-fashioned notion with a digital twist. In order to better serve people and our communities, we need to tap into our neighbors and build stronger relationships.
Essentially the take away was that technology can facilitate relationships, but it can’t replace them.
Service provider report
18 focus group participants, 193 survey respondents and 4 lunches later we are reminded about the power of relationships regardless of which technology tool is utilized or desired.
We did learn how people are accessing information now and what they would like to see more of in the future. We invite you to read more details in the report.
How do staff access information?
- Networking and information sharing
- In-house databases and resource binders
- Google searches and other organizations’ websites
- Web-based resource guides such as 211’s website and the Coalition of Community Health Clinics website
- Printed resource guides such as the Rose City Resource Guide
What do people want?
Similar to what we learned from both of our lunches, people’s recommendations were not focused on technology. They want:
- Real-time information on service availability
- Greater systems alignment
- Relationship building for front-line workers
- Improved web search engines and interfaces
We asked. We listened. And, we will be making our own changes here at 211info:
- We will take a leadership role in establishing a gathering place for networking and relationship building. Look for an invite to our first session next month.
- We are changing the way we update and interact with service providers. Those agencies that we refer to often…you are going to be hearing and seeing us much more regularly! We want to know your program managers; we want to know as much about your programs and services as possible. We hope you’ll welcome our outreach efforts this winter!
- We will be creating a new interface for our website so it will be easier for you to find information. This is our short term fix.
- We are focused on creating a much more effective community software system that can be quickly improved and integrated with other organizations. This is a long term fix.
Call to action
The above is where we are starting. And while we adapt our service delivery approach, we hope you will be inspired to implement innovations as well.
We have our own wish list for all of you based on the feedback we gained:
- We’d like to see more streamlined approaches to accessing services. Think about how a client interfaces with your services. Does it make sense? Could it be simpler? Could it be explained better?
- We’d like to see more coordinated approaches to assisting people in need. If you haven’t checked out the Gateway Center, do so. It’s an excellent example.
- We’d like to see more pilot projects that facilitate system linkages. Yesterday we referenced a pilot project we have been a part of regarding energy assistance in Multnomah County. Last year, callers were given 8 numbers every time they called for help with energy assistance. Now, providers give us daily information so callers receive fewer but more accurate referrals and agencies aren’t fielding calls from people they can’t help. That innovation didn’t cost us a dime.
We’re convinced this is a creative community determined to help people regardless of how tough the economic times around us are.
If we keep in the mind the notion from Steve Johnson’s new book, Where Good Ideas Come From, that innovation happens not through one stroke of genius but rather many small ideas combining to spark brilliance, we can make significant impacts for the most vulnerable in our community.
Bring on the ideas, big and small!
Promote your program
"We have been getting a lot of participants for our financial education through 211, so thanks for helping us spread the word- you guys are a great resource!"
- Talia Kahn-Kravis, Program Coordinator, Innovative Changes
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