A Brave New World for Community Resource Navigation

In today’s “smart” world, accurate, real-time information might be the standard, but community resource databases have a long way to catch up. With software that tracks details about everything from food bank hours to child care services to employment assistance programs in a local area, up-to-date information can mean the difference between a family sitting down to share a warm dinner or going to bed hungry. As a Resource Operations Associate, I’m part of a six-person team dedicated to ensuring that families have the information they need to get connected to health essentials. We update hundreds of records a week, but even we’re no match for the sheer size of the data.

Since Health Leads first created its own resource referral software in 2013, more and more organizations have sprung up to fill resource information gaps across the country. But despite being driven by a shared mission to increase access to the essential resources we all need to be healthy, competition for funding and partnerships has led to the silo-ing of a field itself built to break down the barriers between health systems and social services–to everyone’s detriment.

We’ve long dreamt of a brave new world where community resource databases eliminate redundancy, easily share our information and above all, elevate the quality of our data for the folks that need it most. Needless to say, we were overjoyed to hear Benetech, a nonprofit developing software for social good, set this idea in motion with the creation of a bold data collaboration pilot.

The Benetech Service Net pilot has brought together six community resource databases in California’s Bay Area – ShelterTech, Alameda County 211, The Legal Aid Association of California, San Mateo County, United Way Bay Area and Health Leads Reach — to explore how a new platform can help us share and compare data on the same resources. Since February of 2019, we’ve collectively uploaded our information of Bay Area resources to the web-based software. The software translates our organizations’ unique taxonomies, then compares names, addresses and other details to match the resources in our database to that same record in another. It allows us to view information side-by-side, confirm a resource’s information is correct or adjust our records for discrepancies — and the more we use it, the smarter its matching algorithm becomes.

As part of the project, our teams also meet monthly to discuss our experience with the software–and that’s where the real magic begins. Though the pilot is just six months long, we’ve already learned so much from each other about how we work and begun brainstorming meaningful ways to continue desilo-ing our work long after the project wraps up. The Benetech pilot has shown me that meaningful change is on the horizon, but first the field of community resource databases needs take these four lessons from our experience to heart:

Prioritize trust-building. For community resource databases to be effective, they must place community at the center of how they collect and share data. But how do you get someone, especially your “competition,” to show their cards and feel safe doing it? By bringing on a diverse group of participants in equal partnership, the pilot’s created space and trust to leverage everyone’s unique strengths and expertise–whether that of a hyper-local CBO or a national organization like ours.  

Share solidarity in the difficulty of our work. Participating in the pilot brought me together with many others that do similar work. Folks that know the ins and outs of resource referral and with whom we could be honest about what we do well and what we want to improve. Namely, how often we update our resources. Updating takes time and staff to do right, and we seem to often be short on at least one. Uncovering the challenges we share in common points to trends in our field that need improvement, not just what we individually need to improve. This can help us pinpoint future opportunities for investments in workforce, advocate for new funding streams or promote software to move the field forward.

Raise the quality bar everywhere. Sharing our standards with each other allows for cross pollination. Hearing about the best practices from other pilot partners has inspired me to look into our best practices and see how we can be better. By combining our strengths to better ourselves, hopefully in the future we can establish industry standards so other systems can step into what we created.

Advocate for funding models that facilitate broader and easier data-sharing. Currently, foundation funding structures of community-resource organizations keep us locked as competitors in a kind of Battle Royale. To get money, we need to prove that we are the “better version” of the other guy, even if we are are both doing meaningful work for the community. Not only does this not allow for collaboration but it makes that collaboration potentially dangerous to our financial operation. If we work together, can we collectively advocate for sustainable funding streams outside of foundations?

As the Bay Area Service Net pilot wraps up this summer, and we evaluate the impact and expansion of this data collaboration initiative, I hope these insights and more will stay with us and this cohort. We’re grateful to Benetech for facilitating this shared experience and helping push the field of community resource database into the 21st century.

 

Arantxa Sanchez-Cruz is a Resource Operations Associate at Health Leads.

 

Recent Resources

Args

post_type
0post
post_statuspublish
posts_per_page4
meta_query
relationAND
0Array ( )
cat
02868
post__not_in
03997
orderby
dateASC
relevanssitrue

Module Settings

post_type_chooseoff|on|off|off|off|off|off|off|off|off|off
loop_stylecustom_loop_layout
shortcode_name[de_loop_template_shortcode]
loop_templatesdivi-blog
custom_loop_templatenone
loop_layout8931
filter_update_animationload-6
no_posts_layoutnone
no_posts_layout_textSorry, No posts.
is_main_loopoff
include_current_termsoff
groupping_post_objectoff
groupping_taxonomynone
show_empty_onloadoff
post_statuspublish
show_current_postoff
posts_number4
post_offset0
post_display_typerelated
saved_typewishlist
acf_linked_acfnone
related_contentcategories
related_acf_fieldnone
related_content_categoriespost_cats
is_category_loopoff
disable_sticky_postsoff
specific_post_objectsoff
related_content_tagsdefault
tax_name_relatednone
acf_name_relatednone
custom_tax_choosepost
acf_namenone
include_sticky_postson
include_sticky_posts_onlyoff
onload_tax_choosepost
sort_orderdate
acf_sort_fieldnone
acf_sort_typestring
acf_date_picker_fieldnone
acf_date_picker_methoddefault
acf_date_picker_custom_day30
order_asc_descASC
sec_acf_sort_fieldnone
sec_acf_sort_typestring
sec_acf_date_picker_fieldnone
sec_order_asc_descASC
enable_loadmoreoff
pagination_positionbottom
scrolltoon
scrollto_fine_tune0px
loadmore_textLoad More
loadmore_text_loadingLoading...
enable_resultcountoff
resultcount_positionright
result_count_single_textShowing the single result
result_count_all_textShowing all %d results
result_count_pagination_textShowing %d-%d of %d results
has_mapoff
map_all_postsoff
map_all_posts_limit-1
map_infoview_layoutnone
map_infoview_layout_ajaxoff
hide_marker_labeloff
map_clusteron
link_whole_girdoff
link_whole_gird_externaloff
external_acfnone
content_section_layoutnone
grid_layoutgrid
columns4
columns_tablet2
columns_mobile1
custom_gutter_widthoff
grid_list_defaultlist
grid_list_positionleft
grid_list_cookie_time30
grid_view_icon||divi||400
list_view_icon||fa||900
icon_padding7px|7px|7px|7px
icon_margin0px|10px|0px|0px
enable_overlayon
show_featured_imageon
show_read_moreoff
read_more_textRead More
show_authoron
show_dateon
date_formatF j, Y
show_categorieson
show_contentoff
excerpt_length270
excerpt_more...
show_commentsoff
meta_separator|
content_visibilityhover
image_hover_animationnone
loop_template_content_alignmentcenter_center
loop_template_color_themelight
loop_template_same_heighton
image_min_height150px
image_max_height500px
pagination_item_background#fff
pagination_item_background_active#ebe9eb
_builder_version4.21.0
_module_presetdefault
title_font_size14px
title_letter_spacing0px
title_line_height1em
excerpt_font_size14px
excerpt_letter_spacing0px
excerpt_line_height1em
loop_template_meta_font_size14px
loop_template_meta_letter_spacing0px
loop_template_meta_line_height1em
loop_template_meta_a_font_size14px
loop_template_meta_a_letter_spacing0px
loop_template_meta_a_line_height1em
loop_template_a_font_size14px
loop_template_a_letter_spacing0px
loop_template_a_line_height1em
pagination_font_letter_spacing0px
active_pagination_letter_spacing0px
background_enable_coloron
use_background_color_gradientoff
background_color_gradient_repeatoff
background_color_gradient_typelinear
background_color_gradient_direction180deg
background_color_gradient_direction_radialcenter
background_color_gradient_stops#2b87da 0%|#29c4a9 100%
background_color_gradient_unit%
background_color_gradient_overlays_imageoff
background_color_gradient_start#2b87da
background_color_gradient_start_position0%
background_color_gradient_end#29c4a9
background_color_gradient_end_position100%
background_enable_imageon
parallaxoff
parallax_methodon
background_sizecover
background_image_widthauto
background_image_heightauto
background_positioncenter
background_horizontal_offset0
background_vertical_offset0
background_repeatno-repeat
background_blendnormal
background_enable_video_mp4on
background_enable_video_webmon
allow_player_pauseoff
background_video_pause_outside_viewporton
background_enable_pattern_styleoff
background_pattern_stylepolka-dots
background_pattern_colorrgba(0,0,0,0.2)
background_pattern_sizeinitial
background_pattern_widthauto
background_pattern_heightauto
background_pattern_repeat_origintop_left
background_pattern_horizontal_offset0
background_pattern_vertical_offset0
background_pattern_repeatrepeat
background_pattern_blend_modenormal
background_enable_mask_styleoff
background_mask_stylelayer-blob
background_mask_color#ffffff
background_mask_aspect_ratiolandscape
background_mask_sizestretch
background_mask_widthauto
background_mask_heightauto
background_mask_positioncenter
background_mask_horizontal_offset0
background_mask_vertical_offset0
background_mask_blend_modenormal
custom_buttonoff
button_text_size18
button_bg_use_color_gradientoff
button_bg_color_gradient_repeatoff
button_bg_color_gradient_typelinear
button_bg_color_gradient_direction180deg
button_bg_color_gradient_direction_radialcenter
button_bg_color_gradient_stops#2b87da 0%|#29c4a9 100%
button_bg_color_gradient_unit%
button_bg_color_gradient_overlays_imageoff
button_bg_color_gradient_start#2b87da
button_bg_color_gradient_start_position0%
button_bg_color_gradient_end#29c4a9
button_bg_color_gradient_end_position100%
button_bg_enable_imageon
button_bg_parallaxoff
button_bg_parallax_methodon
button_bg_sizecover
button_bg_image_widthauto
button_bg_image_heightauto
button_bg_positioncenter
button_bg_horizontal_offset0
button_bg_vertical_offset0
button_bg_repeatno-repeat
button_bg_blendnormal
button_bg_enable_video_mp4on
button_bg_enable_video_webmon
button_bg_allow_player_pauseoff
button_bg_video_pause_outside_viewporton
button_use_iconon
button_icon_placementright
button_on_hoveron
positioningnone
position_origin_atop_left
position_origin_ftop_left
position_origin_rtop_left
widthauto
max_widthnone
min_heightauto
heightauto
max_heightnone
filter_hue_rotate0deg
filter_saturate100%
filter_brightness100%
filter_contrast100%
filter_invert0%
filter_sepia0%
filter_opacity100%
filter_blur0px
mix_blend_modenormal
animation_stylenone
animation_directioncenter
animation_duration1000ms
animation_delay0ms
animation_intensity_slide50%
animation_intensity_zoom50%
animation_intensity_flip50%
animation_intensity_fold50%
animation_intensity_roll50%
animation_starting_opacity0%
animation_speed_curveease-in-out
animation_repeatonce
hover_transition_duration300ms
hover_transition_delay0ms
hover_transition_speed_curveease
link_option_url_new_windowoff
sticky_positionnone
sticky_offset_top0px
sticky_offset_bottom0px
sticky_limit_topnone
sticky_limit_bottomnone
sticky_offset_surroundingon
sticky_transitionon
motion_trigger_startmiddle
hover_enabled0
title_text_shadow_stylenone
title_text_shadow_horizontal_length0em
title_text_shadow_vertical_length0em
title_text_shadow_blur_strength0em
title_text_shadow_colorrgba(0,0,0,0.4)
excerpt_text_shadow_stylenone
excerpt_text_shadow_horizontal_length0em
excerpt_text_shadow_vertical_length0em
excerpt_text_shadow_blur_strength0em
excerpt_text_shadow_colorrgba(0,0,0,0.4)
loop_template_meta_text_shadow_stylenone
loop_template_meta_text_shadow_horizontal_length0em
loop_template_meta_text_shadow_vertical_length0em
loop_template_meta_text_shadow_blur_strength0em
loop_template_meta_text_shadow_colorrgba(0,0,0,0.4)
loop_template_meta_a_text_shadow_stylenone
loop_template_meta_a_text_shadow_horizontal_length0em
loop_template_meta_a_text_shadow_vertical_length0em
loop_template_meta_a_text_shadow_blur_strength0em
loop_template_meta_a_text_shadow_colorrgba(0,0,0,0.4)
loop_template_a_text_shadow_stylenone
loop_template_a_text_shadow_horizontal_length0em
loop_template_a_text_shadow_vertical_length0em
loop_template_a_text_shadow_blur_strength0em
loop_template_a_text_shadow_colorrgba(0,0,0,0.4)
pagination_font_text_shadow_stylenone
pagination_font_text_shadow_horizontal_length0em
pagination_font_text_shadow_vertical_length0em
pagination_font_text_shadow_blur_strength0em
pagination_font_text_shadow_colorrgba(0,0,0,0.4)
active_pagination_text_shadow_stylenone
active_pagination_text_shadow_horizontal_length0em
active_pagination_text_shadow_vertical_length0em
active_pagination_text_shadow_blur_strength0em
active_pagination_text_shadow_colorrgba(0,0,0,0.4)
button_text_shadow_stylenone
button_text_shadow_horizontal_length0em
button_text_shadow_vertical_length0em
button_text_shadow_blur_strength0em
button_text_shadow_colorrgba(0,0,0,0.4)
box_shadow_stylenone
box_shadow_colorrgba(0,0,0,0.3)
box_shadow_positionouter
box_shadow_style_productnone
box_shadow_color_productrgba(0,0,0,0.3)
box_shadow_position_productouter
box_shadow_style_grid_list_view_buttonnone
box_shadow_color_grid_list_view_buttonrgba(0,0,0,0.3)
box_shadow_position_grid_list_view_buttonouter
box_shadow_style_buttonnone
box_shadow_color_buttonrgba(0,0,0,0.3)
box_shadow_position_buttonouter
text_shadow_stylenone
text_shadow_horizontal_length0em
text_shadow_vertical_length0em
text_shadow_blur_strength0em
text_shadow_colorrgba(0,0,0,0.4)
disabledoff
global_colors_info{}
0.36336016655 seconds