Benetech and United Ways of California Partner to Strengthen California’s Social Safety Net

By Benetech, posted on

United Way Bay Area and Benetech to expand access to health and human services resource data for residents in need

Benetech, the leading software for social good nonprofit, today announced a partnership with United Ways of California and United Way Bay Area to design a data system that allows for more accurate, timely, and cost-effective use of health and human services resource directory data. The partnership paves the way for greater access to health and human services data for Bay Area residents as well as a replicable model for deployment across California, the United States, and other service sectors.

“We are excited to work with Benetech as a partner in efforts to transform the safety net here in California by expanding the reach and impact of health and human services data, and potentially increase our efficiency, enhance our sustainability, and expand the impact of our operations,” said Peter Manzo, president and CEO, United Ways of California. “Benetech has a long history of successful technology development for social good in California and around the world.”

Today’s announcement extends Benetech’s social services data project geographically and to additional areas of social need in an effort to create a nationwide federation of social services resource directories. The project is part of Benetech’s continued work with the Open Referral initiative, which is developing data standards and interoperable platforms that make it easier to share, find, and use information about community resources. Open Referral’s founder, Greg Bloom, is a Benetech Labs Strategic Advisor.

The first phase of the project is an evaluation of United Way Bay Area’s 2-1-1 directory data from six Bay Area counties to determine data quality and target inefficiencies such as duplicate or missing data. 2-1-1 is a free, nonprofit information and referral service using rich data and access to live, trained specialists, via phone or Web, to connect people to services in their community 24-hours a day, seven days-a-week. 2-1-1 services are available to 97 percent of Californians, and to 90 percent of US residents.

The initial phase is funded by a grant from the Vodafone Americas Foundation, which fosters social change through connected solutions. The grant supports Benetech’s work to bridge the gap between resources and people in need. Additional project plans include the development of open data infrastructure that prioritizes the free flow of information that can be localized for social services providers and the individuals they serve.

“The safety net is hard to see and easy to fall through,” said Anh Bui, vice president, Benetech. “To date, efforts to reinforce the safety net through shared data have focused primarily on creating a single, nationwide database. The burden then falls to individual social services referral agencies to adapt the database to their needs, resulting in redundant and inefficient data silos. Our partnership with United Ways of California and United Way Bay Area provides a new, more flexible model that starts at the community level. That’s where the safety net must be strongest.”

California’s Health and Human Services Agency supports Benetech’s partnership with United Ways of California: “We are encouraged by the United Ways’ emerging partnership with Benetech to develop data infrastructure that can improve the flow of service directory information among agencies and community partners across the state,” said Michael Wilkening, undersecretary, California Health and Human Services Agency. “This infrastructure can catalyze a wave of innovation for new tools that can help Californians find the help they need. This work can not only transform the safety net here in the state but also serve as a model for change elsewhere.”

Read about Benetech’s Open Referral partnership with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida to pilot an interactive data platform that enables Florida’s civil legal aid providers to share accurate, up-to-date data about their services