Together, we did it! One Degree is Bay Area-wide

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Bay Area, we’ve got you covered. We’re proud to announce that our Bay Area Expansion Plan is complete! From Santa Rosa to Gilroy and every city in between – hundreds of thousands of families can now log on to One Degree to search and access community resources in their neighborhoods. And soon we will announce details of several exciting community events happening throughout the Bay Area.

Earlier this year, we announced our plan to expand throughout the Bay Area and now our expansion is complete! Following our launch in Contra Costa County we spent the summer and fall working on San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and this winter we’re putting the finishing touches on resources in Marin, Solano, Napa and Sonoma counties.

We published over 9,000 resources for Bay Area families and the list keeps growing. Right now you can discover a range of services from environmental job training programs in Sonoma County to support groups for survivors of a stroke in Solano County and everything in between.

We learned a lot about the Bay Area’s vibrant and unique communities. The Bay Area is a patchwork of different neighborhoods comprised of families with varying resource needs. The challenges for families in Milpitas, for example, differ from families in Marin City. As the first step in our expansion process we researched the specific issues facing each county, its effects on families and how they access resources. Our learnings allowed us to target finding and adding the most critical resources to our database that would immediately benefit families in those areas.

Here are a few county-wide example issues that made us reflect on our work and motivate us to get resources in front of families who need them:

  • San Mateo County’s immigrant population is growing at a rate greater than in any other county in the State1
  • In Santa Clara County, one in four Vietnamese residents doesn’t have health insurance2
  • Solano County’s African-American babies have the highest infant mortality rate of any other race3
  • In Napa County 72% of Hispanic children did not meet/exceed the Common Core standards for English and 81% did not meet/exceed in math4
  • In Sonoma County, 36% of all households are at risk of being hungry5
  • In Marin County, 12% of children age 2-11 had never seen a dentist6

Ready, set, go! We’re excited to offer families a platform for learning about and accessing resource information no matter where they live or work in the Bay Area. And we’re looking forward to getting you involved. Did you know that we can help organizations digitize their resource binders? Just email audrey@1degree.org if you are a nonprofit professional who manages a resource binder. Did you also know you can update your organization’s information anytime? Use our free community editing tools to update your page in no time.

We look forward to giving families across the Bay Area access to thousands of resources they need and to resources they didn’t even know existed. We hope you become part of this process and take advantage of using One Degree no matter where you are in the Bay Area!

Banner photo by: Joe Parks

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Become a Community Editor with our new tools!

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The best community resources are the ones you tell us about. With the help of community editors we’ve collected over 5,000+ resources across the Bay Area, and 500+ new resources are added every month!

Now, after more than a year of testing and feedback, we’re excited to announce new and improved Community Editing tools.

Our community editing tools enable you to be the expert in helping thousands of families and individuals on One Degree find and access the resources they need. You can add or edit resource information anytime. It’s fast, easy, and, as always, free!

Community editing in 3 easy steps:

Step #1: Find an Organization

Start at the new community editing page. (You can also reach this page from the “Add information” link at the bottom of any page.) Type in the box to find the organization you want to add information about. If you can’t find the organization, click on the link that appears to create one.

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Step #2: Add or Edit Information

After finding or adding the right organization, use the “Suggest edits” or “Add new opportunity” buttons to update information or add the information of an entire new program or service (a.k.a.: an opportunity) We’ll walk you through each step when adding a new opportunity.

After adding the information you want, review the preview and click “Submit changes” to save your work. We’ll review and then publish your edits. We’ll send you an email when they’re live.

Step #3: Share your experience!

Anyone can be a Community Editor. Invite your friends and colleagues to join the One Degree community today. Click here to share the good news on Twitter or use #1degEditor on Facebook.
We believe that together we can create the most comprehensive list of community resources in the Bay Area. If you’re looking to learn more about community editing, sign up for our community editing webinar on April 13, 2016 at 11:30 AM PST.

Share your feedback and questions about community editing with me, Audrey Galo at audrey@1deg.org.

Expanding One Degree to the entire Bay Area – an update

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Last week’s exciting announcement (and event!) celebrated our launch into Contra Costa County. It also marked a milestone in One Degree’s Bay Area Expansion Plan. What’s the Bay Area Expansion Plan? It’s our commitment to adding over 10,000 critical social service resources from all 9 Bay Area counties by Fall 2016!

Phase One: San Francisco and Alameda counties

The Expansion Plan kicked off in Fall 2015 with the addition of 5,000 resources within San Francisco and Alameda counties. With the help of data partners – organizations who provide us with resource information – we tackled two of the most resource-saturated counties in the Bay Area.

In the past six months, we met hundreds of San Francisco and Alameda county residents and social service professionals to demonstrate and train them in using One Degree. Partners like CERI, Oakland International High School and the San Francisco Family Support Network are adopting One Degree as their primary tool in searching and managing their social service resources.

Phase Two: Contra Costa and South Bay counties

We reached a milestone when we celebrated the launch of Contra Costa County. Contra Costa residents have access to over 1,000 critical resources including housing, food, employment and health services. However, we uncovered resource coverage gaps in legal services, halfway houses and housing and health services in Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese and Tagalog. We are working with partner organizations to gather additional information to close these gaps. We are also hosting and participating in community outreach events at Loaves & Fishes and Healthcare for the Homeless to introduce residents to One Degree. We look forward to many more events and trainings.

We are in the midst of collecting resource information from San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. We estimate to complete this phase of the Expansion Plan by Summer 2016.

Phase Three: North Bay counties

Our final phase is estimated to be complete by Fall 2016. We anticipate adding 2,000 resources from Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties and kicking off a series of events throughout the North Bay.

How you can help!

You are instrumental in helping us gather the resources that thousands of Bay Area residents need. Are you a case manager or social worker with knowledge of the best resources in your area? Are you an organization with a resource binder or resource guide? Do you work at a city or county government department? Join One Degree as a data partner! Email me, Audrey Galo, at audrey@1deg.org for more information.

(Banner photo by Doc Searls.)

Making it easier to find the right resource

As One Degree’s Resource Manager, I am responsible for maintaining, collecting and organizing the thousands of community resources featured on our site. It’s no easy task as our database continues to grow and the range of resources expands everyday. My primary job is helping our members easily find the resources they need every time they come to One Degree. The recent redesign of our site created an opportunity for us to improve the way we categorize and organize our resources.

We went back to the basics. At One Degree, our resources — what we call “opportunities” — are categorized by “tags,” and attributes about each resource are defined by its “properties.” For instance, an opportunity like “Get free door-to-door transportation for disabled seniors over 80” is tagged as “transportation assistance,” with a community property of “seniors” and “people with disabilities.” Using this system, our members can filter by the “transportation assistance” tag and the “seniors” property to get exactly the senior transportation resources they are looking for.

We group resources by type rather than for whom the resource is intended. However, over time our tags and properties started to overlap; we were breaking the very rules we created! For example, the “veterans job placement” tag was confusing because we also had a “job search” tag. Which tag should a veteran use to start their search? We decided to remove all tags that denote specific communities or audiences to reduce confusion. (The exception is when a tag’s resources are only for the audience in its name, such as “childcare.”) In this veterans example, we moved these resources to a new tag “Job search & placement,” and then created a new property for those who are veterans.

The result of our changes is several new community properties you can use to filter, including veterans, military families, refugees, immigrants, pregnant mothers, domestic violence victims and survivors, previously incarcerated individuals, transitional age youth, and individuals with HIV/AIDS.

One Degree features a new resource area for organizing employment opportunities.
One Degree features a new resource area for organizing employment opportunities.

 

No one-size-fits-all tags. Resources come in all shapes and sizes. Our resource tags need to accommodate the growing diversity of opportunities in our database and surface many different types of services. We unveiled a new area for employment resources. The “Employment” area features interview and resume help, job training, unemployment, career counseling and small business resources. We also created a new pregnancy category under “Health” for resources in prenatal care, birth preparation, pregnancy tests and abortion.

Another improvement we made was updating tags to better describe services in colloquial language so it’s even easier for a family to find exactly what they need. Tags like, “Summer & holiday meals”, “Anger management”, “Section 8” and “Criminal record help” make it more straight-forward to locate specific resources that have grown in popularity on our site.

It’s important to note that changes to our tags affect any previous search you may have bookmarked. If a search was made with tags that were replaced you will need to create a new search using the new tags.

As One Degree continues to expand in 2016, I’ll be working on many more exciting improvements to the maintenance, collection and organization of our resources. While we believe these changes are important steps in making it easier and quicker for our families to find the right resource each and every time, it’s just a start. I’d love to hear your feedback — email me at audrey@1deg.org.

You can view our full list of tags here and full list of properties here.

A New Approach to Social Service Data – Part III

This is the third and final part in a series of posts about One Degree’s new approach to serving information about social service nonprofit organizations. (Here is the single-post version.)

Part 3: The data collection challenge

In Part 1, I detailed the way families look for social services today, and in Part 2 I introduced One Degree’s opportunity-based model, which we think brings more useful and measurable information to the table. Although we think this is a better approach, there are a number of challenges to making it work.

Serving data that goes a step further than traditional directories means having information in a specific format whose collection is not easily automated. A computer script, scouring organizations’ websites for their most basic information is not sufficient. Furthermore, we do not yet have the artificial intelligence capable of perusing organizations’ websites, talking to staff on the phone, and then automatically writing content in the format of opportunities described here.

Indeed, our data model requires a much more human-driven collection strategy. For now, we are relying on volunteers to help us sift through local San Francisco nonprofit websites and write out opportunities. This is a time-consuming, painstaking process that requires editorial judgment and a decent understanding of social sector code words so they can be translated into a user-friendly style.

(While many organizations do incredible work, the information they provide is clearly not directed at their clients. For instance, these direct quotes from the websites of two effective and well-respected agencies in San Francisco paint a confusing picture: “a comprehensive, integrated framework of evidence-based services” and “reducing harm is possible through the provision of accessible, non-judgmental drop-in and outreach sessions.”)

We recognize that our current efforts to aggregate this opportunity information is not scalable with volunteers, and the information itself will quickly become outdated and inaccurate. In the long-term we will likely need to build some semi-automated processes, which would require human editors, and also a staff that can work within communities we serve to collect and update information, structured as opportunities, on an ongoing basis.

Moreover, we need to demonstrate that our model is an effective one, and eventually enlist the help of agencies to use opportunities as the basis for sharing their information, either by proactively adding their information to One Degree by hand, or by allowing One Degree and others to consume their opportunity information through a computer-friendly medium. This will require advocating for policy changes in government and nonprofit agencies to supply data in this improved format. To facilitate the compilation of this data from third parties, we are maintaining the opportunity information we collect in an open database, accessible via an API, that any individual or organization can use or add to.

Just getting started

At One Degree, we’re taking a new approach to connecting people with help to improve their lives. There are so many great resources out there for people who want it, and they should be easier to find. By giving people information about the opportunities at organizations, rather than simply the organizations themselves, they will be one degree away(!) from finding what they need.

Our vision is a world where everyone can find the help they need quickly and easily to lift themselves out of poverty. This is a lofty goal, but we believe that, in our modest way, we can help move our society toward that end. We have a lot of work to do, but at the outset of this experiment, I wanted to share with you this new approach to helping families improve their lives, and why we’re really excited about it!

If you have any feedback, questions, or ideas, please email me at eric@1deg.org.

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Our CEO, Rey Faustino, signing up a new user for One Degree (smart phone is on the clipboard).

A New Approach to Social Service Data – Part II

This is the second in a three-part series of posts about One Degree’s new approach to serving information about social service nonprofit organizations. (Here is the single-post version.)

An “opportunity”-based approach

In Part 1, I talked about what the current landscape looks like for finding information about social services. To recap: It’s a mess, focused on online directory tools that give superficial information about organizations.

One Degree started as such a website. For our pilot, we had a directory of organizations, where people could find basic information about each one. But after talking with users and taking a hard look at whether or not we were making a difference, we realized we needed to try something new. We had a useful database, but it probably wasn’t going to change people’s lives. And from a practical perspective, we had no way to even measure our impact.

So we evolved. Now, we’re going a step further: rather than just giving out information about organizations, we’re serving information about what an individual can do or get. We call these “opportunities,” as they are precisely that: action-oriented, rather than information-oriented. We think this is more aligned with how individuals look for help.

Too much information is a bad thing. Our approach is to only provide information that is relevant to finding help. Most resource directories and organization websites are filled with extraneous information, such as an organization’s mission statement, tax-exempt status, staff bios, and funding sources. If I’m looking for an after-school program for my kids, I don’t care about when an organization was founded or the history of its management team. On One Degree, we show you only what you need to know to get help.

For example, the St. Anthony Foundation in San Francisco has over a dozen fantastic programs for the community, including computer classes. It has one of the better nonprofit websites we’ve seen because it has so much information about its services. Yet the site is overwhelming, and it’s only one organization. An individual would need to browse through dozens of organizations’ websites – most of which are written for funders or supporters, not customers – before finding the help she needed.

If you’re looking to improve your computer skills, you could use One Degree to find computer classes. Rather than just giving you the name and basic description of the St. Anthony Foundation, we tell you exactly what you can do there – you can “take a class on basic email skills this Thursday morning”, or “take a workshop on Microsoft PowerPoint Saturday afternoon.” We also tell you how to sign up, where to go, and at what time.

We think this is a simple, yet fundamentally better way to connect people with community resources.

Measurability

Another advantage of this approach is that it’s inherently more measurable than the organization-based one. The latter, which is the industry standard, gives people information and leaves it at that. Agencies – or funders, for that matter – have not been able to track whether or not someone looking for information was able to find it.

By organizing data in atomic opportunity units, we have devised a system to track whether or not an individual found that piece of information useful, thereby bringing measurability to an area that has had no clear metrics in the past.

With One Degree, we are highly focused on using data to drive what we do. We want to see if this approach works and if it doesn’t, then try something else. Baked into our application is a mechanism to securely track what people are searching for and what they add to their list that interests them, while respecting their privacy and personal information.

However, tracking information in and of itself is not useful. We want to measure whether or not people are actually able to improve their lives with the information we’re giving them. Our approach is to ask them directly. We follow up with users, asking them to indicate whether or not they took an opportunity and if it fulfilled the need they had.

We know this is not a perfect system and recognize some of its inherent flaws: some will be reluctant to give us detailed information about their behavior, they may not be candid with their responses, and others may not know whether an opportunity has actually been immediately useful. But we think this system is better than not measuring the outcomes of automated resource connection at all, which is the situation traditional online directories currently find themselves in.

Our hypothesis is that if we can provide better, more relevant information, then families will be able to more quickly and consistently improve their lives. We’re still at the beginning of this experiment, but we are excited about our opportunity-based approach to data, in particular because we will be able to measure its results.

Thanks for reading so far! In Part 3, coming in a couple of days, we’ll explore some of the challenges that this new data model poses and what we’re doing to address it.

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A New Approach to Social Service Data – Part I

At One Degree, we’re making community resources more easily discoverable by organizing agencies’ services into plain, action-oriented statements of opportunity, so people can find exactly what they need. In this three-part blog post, I discuss the issues with the current state of social service discovery, our new “opportunity”-based approach, and the challenges that lie ahead. (Here is the single-post version.)

Part I: The organization-based approach

In the United States, we are fortunate to have a huge network of organizations that are sometimes referred to as the “social safety net” – nonprofit and government agencies that serve families who need some kind of comprehensive or supplemental help in meeting their basic needs. Unfortunately, figuring out where to go for help when we need it is still much more complicated than it needs to be.

80% of us will face poverty or near-poverty at some point in our lives. That means making a low income, being unemployed, or generally needing assistance to overcome obstacles is something the vast majority of us deal with in our lifetimes. It happens to nearly all of us. There’s no shame in utilizing the network of organizations set up to help us. That’s why they exist.

Frustratingly, however, as life gets more difficult, so does the process of finding help. So far, efforts to make navigating social services have been focused on incremental improvements on the “resource binder” concept. Since the advent of the copy machine, agencies have kept literal binders of photocopied lists of organizations and their contact information. In the last couple of decades, these binders have been turned into online databases, but they have the same design flaw.

Let’s say you are a single mom, working two part-time minimum wage jobs, and facing some emotionally difficult circumstances. You’d like to try group therapy, but there’s no chance you’ll be able to afford the high-priced programs you’ve heard about. Finding a group that you can afford, for your demographic, and at a time that works with your schedule is not so easy. It requires a lot of digging and, most often, a helping hand from someone who knows the terrain.

Like everyone else, you start with Google, and get back a list of organizations and their websites. Then what? You’d need to sift through each organization, determine which seemed relevant – probably based on their name, at first – and try to visit their websites and call around to figure out exactly which organization offers what and when.

There are a number of organizations that have put the “resource binder” online. We think tools, such as United Way’s 211, are useful to certain audiences: case managers, social workers, and other practitioners already well-versed in the network of local organizations and what they offer. But for an actual individual looking for help, they provide little more guidance than a Google search.

Here at One Degree, we often say we’re creating a Yelp for social services because of the rating and review system we have. While that’s a good starting point for discussion, the analogy only goes so far.

Yelp results contain companies in discrete categories, whose purpose is clear: at a restaurant you eat food; at a dentist’s office you get your teeth cleaned; at a salon you get your hair cut. But now imagine if Yelp returned a list of company names, mission statements, and jargon-filled paragraphs of mostly-useless information. More importantly, each company in the list might serve food, cut hair, clean teeth, serve alcohol, or repair automobiles – and some might do all of those things. (This is in no way a criticism of Yelp; it does a great job at what it intends to do. I’m just using it as a point of reference.)

Social service organizations don’t fit into discrete categories because their services are so varied. Saying that an organization is a “housing organization” or a “food bank” tells you very little about what exactly it offers, whereas saying that a company is an “Italian restaurant” at least gives you the basics of what to expect.

In the case of a search for social services, returning organization names, jargon-filled descriptions, or basic categorization is really only helpful to other service providers or social workers who are already familiar with what each organization does, and who can interpret the jargon to find something useful.

We believe it’s time for a solution to this problem that is built for the customer, not the intermediary or service provider.

Look out for Part II coming in just a few days…

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