One Degree Referrals: Closing the Loop

Referrals

How do you close the loop? This is the major underlying question for everyone in the social service sector. In other words, how do you know if you’ve actually helped someone?

Let’s say you work with a young woman, recently pregnant and unsure of what to do. You give her some pamphlets about nearby prenatal services and wish her the best. Or let’s say you answer the phone for a housing crisis hotline, and you speak with a man who is facing eviction. You tell him about where to go for legal resources and hang up the phone.

These types of scenarios play out every day. It’s hard to argue you didn’t provide critical services in both cases, but how do you know you made a difference?

If you’re working with a client for a short period of time, you may never know. If you’re a client’s case manager or social worker, then it’s possible you’ll find out, although that can often require a lot of follow-up, calls, text messages, or future meetings. While this kind of person-to-person work can never be replicated – and we wouldn’t try – we were asked by case managers to make it just a little easier. And that’s what we did with One Degree Referrals.

Here’s how it works: You add your client, and optionally their contact information. Then, you use One Degree as normal to find one or more of the 10,000+ resources on our platform, and create a referral using our new tools. We’ll automatically send the resource details to your client at the contact info you provided us. They’ll get an email or a text message with the information they need.

For your tech savvier clients, all of their resources appear in their own One Degree account. It’s a synced copy of what you see in your account, so you have a real-time view of what they’re working on. Conversely, if you have a client that really just needs paper in their hand, we make it simple for you to print out the referral information so you don’t have to spend time manually writing it down.

Perhaps the most important part is that we then automatically follow up with your client to track their access of those resources. For instance, the young woman you helped will get a text message asking if she went to the prenatal care you recommended. If she did, we’ll ask her to give the service a rating and review, and you’ll be notified – loop closed. She can also indicate she wants assistance. If she does, we’ll notify you so you can follow up with her. As a case manager, you can update the referral status yourself, or keep track of referrals together with the clients who are able to.

This is a powerful new way for you to amplify the work you and your colleagues are doing to help community members who are already getting personal attention, but who need additional support outside formal meetings. Try it out for yourself – it’s completely free.

Create referrals for your clients with your nonprofit professional One Degree account.

We’ve just launched these new tools, and since then we’ve seen over 100 referrals made. However, we know this is a just a start and we’re eager to hear what you think. Please email me any time at eric@1degree.org with your questions, ideas, and feedback.

One Home Turns One

Here in the Bay Area, finding an affordable place to live is incredibly tough. Tens of thousands of families — our friends, neighbors, and, sadly, former neighbors — are struggling to find a place to live in one of the most expensive regions in the world. Nonstop media stories, personal experiences, and political tension all tell us we are in a crisis.

While so many aspects of this seem intractable, One Degree and Compass Family Services worked together to tackle one part of the problem.

A year ago, together we launched One Home: the first ever, Bay Area-wide website built exclusively for low-income and homeless families to find and track applications for affordable housing. This isn’t a silver bullet to solve the crisis, but together we’re making it just a little bit easier for families to get into housing.

Since launch, nearly 20,000 people have made over 70,000 searches, and have downloaded more than 10,000 applications for housing. And we know these numbers are even higher because some applications are online, on other websites. Over 95% of people who are searching for housing on One Home make less than $40,000 per year, and 30% search on a mobile device.

But more than the numbers, One Home has been a lifeline for so many families this past year.

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Tracie (pictured above) is one example of the thousands of people who used One Home last year. She had been frustrated trying to help her sister LaTonja and her two daughters find affordable housing in Oakland. LaTonja was discouraged by the process of navigating the affordable housing maze, which involved searching, getting on wait lists, applying for housing, and managing the whole process. When Tracie discovered One Home, she said, “I am not computer savvy. I don’t use email, Gmail, or call 211. But I can get around your website, One Degree and One Home are so easy to use.” Her sister not only found housing that she’s eligible for, she made it onto a couple of waitlists and is on her way to being in safe and stable housing.

One Home goes beyond just finding housing. We want to make actually getting into housing easier. To that end, in April, we launched a beta version of new tools that enable families to track the applications they’ve submitted. This might sound minor but it is critical when you consider that homeless and at-risk families often have to apply for up to 40 different apartments and wait many months before getting into one.

Over 100 community members have used our tools to track their housing applications, and more than 80 reported that they submitted applications. Soon we’ll make an official announcement, bringing it out of beta with some enhancements based on initial feedback.

One Home, has demonstrated that technology-driven tools, combined with longstanding on-the-ground expertise, can dramatically improve the lives of families struggling to stay in the Bay Area. While we have more work to do, we’re proud of the progress we’ve made together. We look forward to many more years of partnership to help more families to find a place to call their own.

See for yourself the power of OneHomeBayArea.org to find, track, and take the next step in securing affordable housing in the Bay Area. One Degree and Compass Family Services are bringing dignity and hope to low-income families. Stay in touch with One Degree & One Home by signing up for our newsletter below.

New on One Degree: Better filters, easier location switching, and more

Here’s an update on some changes we rolled out in the last couple of weeks. As always, please send feedback or suggestions for improvement to eric@1deg.org.

Filtering tools
We overhauled our search page to make it clearer how to narrow search results by the comprehensive filters we offer. For instance, with one click, you can filter results by language (e.g. Spanish), age, county, etc. The filters you apply also carry over from one search to another so when you search for resources in a different category, the results will already be narrowed by your preferences.

New search

Change location and search radius
We made it a lot easier to quickly change your location and the radius around which to search. You can change both settings quickly in the navigation bar at the top of any page.

New search button
There’s a new “New search” button now always available in the left sidebar, which will help you navigate to the type of resource you need. This is in addition to the other ways you can start a search: the search box in the top navigation bar, the “Browse Resources” button in the navigation bar, and with the big colorful buttons that appear on the homepage.

New search

One Home’s first 6 months

I can’t believe it’s been six months since we launched One Home! I wanted to give you an update on what we’ve seen so far, then give you a preview of what’s to come.

As you may already know, One Home is the Bay Area’s only regional affordable housing site, covering below market rate rental listings for families. We partnered with Compass Family Services to launch the site back in September, and now is the time to take a moment to reflect on our progress.

The team at Compass recently told us that they’ve fully integrated it into their work and that, “more and more case managers and families are using the site and seeing it is as the place to go first when looking for housing or get a sense what’s available out there.”

Since launch, over 10,000 people have used the site to make almost 40,000 searches for affordable housing. While this represents a staggering number of people for a brand new website, and there’s a healthy 45% return rate, what’s most exciting to us is not just that people are using the site, but that they’re using it to take the next steps to apply for housing.

For instance, people have downloaded over 5,000 applications for affordable housing properties through One Home. Not all our listings have applications to download (some must be picked up in person or filled out on their own website), so this represents only a fraction of the applications that have been accessed.

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Others are using One Home to track and improve the application process for themselves, their families, and their clients. People have bookmarked or downloaded property listing information to use offline over 2,000 times. Hundreds of people have created accounts, becoming One Degree members, and many crossing over to use our core website, 1deg.org, to access a range of other resources, like food banks, case management for their housing search, and much more. With their single account, they’re able to manage both their housing search process and other resources they may be using or looking for.

Compass described how they’re using One Home with their families: “Our clients who come into the office for help with their housing search sit alongside their case manager to use One Home to explore neighborhoods, look into individual units and get other referrals and housing leads that they can follow on their own time.” This is a great example of how One Home is a powerful tool for both families and the people who support them alike.

In terms of demographics, 35% of searches came in on mobile phones or tablets. 81% of One Home users are female, and 46% are between the ages of 25-34, all of which aligns with our anecdotal observations of who is leading the housing search in most families.

Since we have regional coverage, people are coming from all across the Bay Area. 42% of people come from outside San Francisco, with nearly 20% from the East Bay, South Bay or Peninsula. We know this figure will grow over time as we continue to expand.

Despite One Home being entirely available in Spanish as well as English, we’ve seen only about 3% of people using the site in Spanish. We’ve recently worked with Compass to do a better job providing translations in PDF listings, and we’ll be working to automatically switch to Spanish when we detect a user’s language preference in the browser. We hope both of these changes will increase our usage among Spanish-speakers.

While this is a great start, we have much more work to do to improve and, in the long-term, get more families into a home more quickly.

Coming soon we’ll be expanding the types of listings we have on One Home, so you won’t just find below market rate (BMR) apartment rentals for families, but also supportive housing, transitional housing, and TAY-specific housing as well. If you’re an agency that works on affordable housing and you want to partner with us to add your listings, email our Resource Manager, Audrey Galo, at audrey@1deg.org.

On the access side, we’re adding new ways for our members to track that they’ve submitted applications, so they can manage the long and complicated process of applying to housing in one simple place. Look out for an announcement on that soon.

Although we know it’s just a start, we’ve been thrilled with these early outcomes. It’s also encouraging to see the work that others are doing, like regional county governments, that are working on projects similar to our model. Releasing One Home has furthered a regional conversation on how to make finding affordable housing a modern and streamlined process. We can’t wait to take it to the next level, ultimately supporting more people in their housing search, and providing stability for more families.

As always, send me your feedback or ideas any time to eric@1deg.org.

Safeguarding our members’ trust: One Degree is now HIPAA-compliant

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Every week we get emails or calls from people who have turned to One Degree in a moment of crisis. A mom who needs to find a new home for her family and doesn’t know where to start. A formerly incarcerated individual who’s trying to get back on his feet and land a job.

Here at One Degree, we provide a vital link to the experts that so many people are missing. The first step is gaining our members’ trust to understand what they are going through.

During this process, many individuals share sensitive personal information so that we can direct them to the resources that best fit their needs. Some choose not to share a lot of information, and that’s OK too. One Degree is fully accessible without divulging anything. But for those who are looking for personalized guidance, and who open up about their personal life, we need to safeguard the trust they’ve placed in us.

That’s why we’re announcing that One Degree is now compliant with HIPAA, the federal law that governs how health information should be protected.

Added security & peace of mind

Although the type of work we do and the information we collect from our members does not currently fall under HIPAA’s requirements, we have taken this extra step to ensure that our members’ privacy is never compromised, even as we expand the scope of our work to include more health-specific programs and agencies. I won’t detail all of the requirements and safeguards here (there are thousands of pages of regulations!), but needless to say, they are rigorous. By complying with them, our standards now also meet this high bar.

Going the extra mile

In addition to meeting the law’s requirements, we have also gone a step further as an organization: All One Degree staff with access to personal member information undergo a criminal background check. We want to ensure that we are not putting our members in jeopardy when they reach out to us. We believe having this added transparency in our team enables us to better guard against inappropriate or unforeseen behavior.

While we have procedures and policies in place, they are only as good as the extent to which they are followed. That’s why we require that new and existing One Degree staff participate in annual privacy and security training. Our team learns how to properly handle sensitive personal information and how to work with members.

What HIPAA means for our members

We call the people who use One Degree our “members” – a term we use because we’re building a community, not just putting content on a website. Our first and foremost priority is to put our members at the heart of what we’re doing, and the steps I’ve outlined here help us to do that in a way that builds trust and mutual respect.

Most members and causal site visitors will not notice a big difference now that we’re HIPAA compliant. The majority of changes were made in the back end. The one change you may encounter as a member is being asked to re-enter your password more frequently when accessing your personal information. This keeps things safer for you and is a part of complying with the law.

Thanks to our supporters

Lastly, this would not be possible without the assistance of TrueVault, Accountable, Amazon Web Services, and Y Combinator. They partnered with us in different parts of the HIPAA process, and we are grateful for their support.

Please feel free to reach out to me at eric[at]1deg.org if you have any questions or comments about what I’ve outlined above.

Eric Lukoff
Chief Technology Officer

New home page: now featuring our community

One of the first rules of good writing is “show, don’t tell.” We decided to take the same approach with our new homepage.

Almost a year ago, when we relaunched One Degree, we decided to have a clean, focused homepage, that emphasized the search box and keyword browsing first and foremost, with a striking photo in the background. To us, this was a very appealing look and, frankly, it’s also a very popular design trend among startups. But after a year of it, we think we need to do better.

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The problem was that, despite our best intentions, people didn’t know what to search for because our old homepage, while nice to look at, didn’t adequately demonstrate the value and range of information we have available. We were asking people to search, but they didn’t know what they could search for.

One Degree has thousands of resources – opportunities and organizations that can help people in all kinds of circumstances, and we’ve already seen many people successfully find what they were looking for on our site. But over the last year we’ve had 1-on-1 conversations with thousands of people, and we came to the conclusion that it needed to be even easier.

Before, our listings were buried under an opaque search box. Now, the best resources are front and center, right on the homepage.

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We’ll feature different opportunities, organizations, and lists each month, and sometimes seasonal ones (like backpack giveaways, toy drives, free holiday events, etc). If you’re interested in having your organization featured on the homepage, let Rachel know: rachel [at] 1deg.org! These will be the first things people see when they arrive, and we think it’ll do a better job of showing people the wealth of resources available right in our community, rather than telling them.

As part of the facelift, we also revamped our keyword buttons so they are part of the primary navigation. Each link in the top navigation area has a quick drop-down menu that reveals related keywords. And after starting a search, even more related keywords appear right at the top so you can quickly drill down to more specific things. This way, you’re always just a click or two away from the resources you’re looking for.

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Let us know what you think! Feel free to drop me a line with feedback or suggestions. Email me at eric [at] 1deg.org.

Check out the new homepage and the rest of our recent changes.

More exciting things to come, but that’s the latest for now. Happy holidays!

Building this community together – how you can help

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Earlier this year, the Homeless Youth Alliance, a local organization serving homeless and at-risk youth, had to shutter its Haight Street youth shelter. This was a devastating blow to the community. HYA provides an incredibly important service to young people in my neighborhood, many of whom have come from far and wide to seek refuge in San Francisco. HYA’s shelter had helped as a safe respite from the streets, but, sadly, they lost their lease, just as so many other nonprofits and residents have struggled recently. HYA continues to operates several other critical, life-saving programs, but their shelter is no more.

In a lot of ways, we want One Degree to be the digital refuge for anyone struggling to find resources and information on where to turn for help. Our database of social services is filled with over 3,500 opportunities across over 1,100 organizations spanning San Francisco and Alameda counties. That might seem like a lot…and it is! But with our team of just 3 full-time staff, and a few part-time data specialists, we are the first to admit that we can’t maintain all of this data without the help and input from the community.

Earlier this year, when the Homeless Youth Alliance closed its shelter doors, a One Degree member emailed me to tell me that the shelter we listed on the site was no more. While we were saddened to have to remove this opportunity, we also realized that this was an example of our members being the true experts in the community, not us. One Degree staff and I can facilitate information gathering and build a website, but it takes all of us to make a high-quality, continually updated database of community resources a reality. And now that we know this information, we can redirect people using One Degree to other available services that could benefit them.

That’s why we recently introduced tools that enable “community editors” to report, add, and edit information right on One Degree. When you encounter inaccuracies you find on the site, now you can help improve it for the whole community.

On any organization or opportunity page on the site, you’ll find a link in the lower right-hand corner that says, “Have better information? Suggest edits…” That will take you to a form where you can suggest changes. It’s kind of like Wikipedia, but we review your submission before it goes live.

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Or, if you know an opportunity or organization page contains incorrect information, but aren’t sure what it should be, you can click, “Think this is wrong? Report bad information…” That will take you to a form where you can inform us of inaccuracies. We’ll follow up and research how to update it.

These are two new ways you can get involved in the One Degree community and help others find the resources they need. To start adding and editing information, just log in to One Degree, or you can sign up for an account here – as always, it’s totally free and just takes a minute.

(Photo from Hoodline.)

A few improvements

We’re constantly working to improve One Degree, and I just wanted to share 3 recent changes we made that we’re really excited about:

1. New and improved search

We’ve totally revamped search on One Degree and made it easier to use. Type in really specific phrases to get the best results – such as, “job interview training”. Then use our new and improved filters to narrow down what you’re looking for. You can also now search by location and see only results within a certain distance. Under the hood, we also made some changes that make it smarter and more effective at finding what you’re looking for.

Better search

2. Share by email, text message and…Facebook

Sharing opportunities on One Degree is easier than ever. We put the sharing options right up top on every opportunity. And now you can share by Facebook message as well – either in a private message to a friend, or as a public post.

Share however you want

3. Don’t know what to do next? We can help.

We want to make it super simple to get the help you need. If you find something on One Degree and you don’t know what to do next (or need help) to take an opportunity, you can now press the “Help me do this” button. This will notify our team and we’ll contact you about what to do next. We’re committed to ensuring you are one person away from getting the help you need.

Help me do this

We have some other big things we’re working on, and we’ll let you know about those soon.

In the meantime, feel free to send us your feedback. You can email help@1deg.org any time to talk to a real person on our team.

Go ahead and try out these new features for yourself and start adding opportunities to your list. Let us know what you think.