Improving Social Service Provision in Champaign County Through 211 Technical and Workflow Enhancement

We are looking to hire a UIUC student to contribute to this project through the NCSA SPIN fellowship program, more information here.

[Temporary adaptation from Cunningham Township]

The problem:
Social service provision in Champaign County suffers from shifting services and gaps in support – 211 helps greatly by providing a live phone operator and directory to connect people to available services. While enormously valuable for its compilation of information, 211 uses an outdated models for search and distribution that hinders its efficacy.

The project:
The United Way, Champaign County Mental Health Board, Cunnigham Township, PATH Crisis 211, and the Community Data Clinic are working together to develop an intuitive web interface and robust data infrastructure to encourage use and feedback for the directory. With members of its the Township client base, we will study how service provision might be enhanced via access to a real-time mobile application developed to improve the accessibility and accuracy of the information stored in local community service directories. The project would aim to optimize user interface design of existing service directories, such as 211 and other guides so as to:

  • Decrease the number of steps needed to access accurate information
  • Tailor information provided for specific needs, so that a user would not be recommended an irrelevant service, or one a user would not qualify for
  • Enable users to provide real-time review of recommendations, so that incorrect information could be reported and addressed immediately

It may employ an “internet of things” approach to allow people to access information based on time and space constraints. We will need to rely on an intentionally inclusive design process with diverse representation from social service providers along with users themselves to ensure an ethical and responsible stewardship of data from users from vulnerable populations, and data from social service providers.

Impacts:
The project will seek to minimize the mistrust and ambiguity vulnerable populations routinely experience in attempts to access social services that can alienate them from the system, and that extenuates precarity. It would further enable service providers to:

  • Verify and update information stored
  • Routinely assess their own service provision 
  • Enable the identification of new needs to facilitate the creation and integration of new service provisions
  • Help funders and government agencies provide a continuum of care for low income residents