Benetech Service Net

Many organizations are trying to provide a bridge to the safety net for people who need it, in part by maintaining directories of social services so that they can effectively refer their clients to the right resources. But Benetech’s survey of the San Francisco Bay Area/Sacramento region found 74% of records about services are being maintained redundantly in siloed resource directories that organizations expend significant resources to update manually. Moreover, these records can vary in depth, accuracy, or timeliness, making it that much harder to match a person to the appropriate service. Together we can make the safety net more visible.

Transformative Impact for All Involved

Benetech Service Net is an open standards data exchange platform that makes it easier to share and maintain information on local social and human services. Organizations providing referrals or referral technology (such as 2-1-1s, Healthify, or Health Leads) and agencies providing information about their services (such as community-based shelters, food pantries, or government agencies) can work together to make better data available for everyone. Ultimately, Service Net’s goal is to enable transformative impact for all stakeholders:

  • For People Seeking Services: Increase volume, timeliness and relevance of information about available services; improve service delivery
  • For Service Providers and Referrers:
    • Increased Efficiency: Reduce duplication, improve service provider response rates to update information, provide mechanism for disseminating real-time updates when needed
    • Decreased Data Maintenance Costs and Improved Data Quality: Increase comprehensiveness, timeliness, accuracy and relevancy of services information. Provide an engine that can fuel new innovation for those building connectors between people and services.
  • For the Entire Sector:
    • Faster Innovation Growth: Accelerate innovation of new tools, applications, and projects based on high-quality data
    • Better Social Service Analysis: Use data in research, analysis, and decision-making in more meaningful ways
    • Expanded Resource Reallocation: Create more opportunity for other valuable services by capturing value locked in redundant systems
    • Replicable, Scalable Engine for Change: Create scalable infrastructure and provide replicable models for data collaboration for resource directories nationally
Service Net Diagram showcasing the ecosystem

Collaboration is Key to Success

Collaboration with the social services community is at the heart of this effort. Design of the Benetech Service Net technical infrastructure includes significant and ongoing engagements with stakeholder organizations to understand their needs. This includes feedback not only on what kind of system would benefit them and their clients, but also what they see as beneficial for the entire sector. Additionally, Benetech partners with the Open Referral Initiative, which is developing open data standards that make it easier to share, find, and use information about community resources. Together, this close collaboration with numerous stakeholders helps ensure an approach and solution that will both strengthen the safety net with more accurate, timely, and cost-effective management of services resource data, and improve access to services that are critical for so many.

That co-design process includes a February 2018 convening in San Francisco that helped us better understand the pain points and opportunities around resource directory data maintenance. It was also an opportunity for key stakeholders in the region to meet each other and consider what collaboration could look like. Four ongoing discussions also emerged from that convening, and those community conversations will inform Benetech’s development of the system:

We aim to pilot the Service Net platform this winter with a small group of implementation partners in the Bay Area/Sacramento. What we learn together will also inform the development and expansion of Service Net as collaboration infrastructure here and for more communities beyond.