Transformational human services: moving to a new paradigm.

Author:Walker, B.J.
Position:Technology speaks

Although its core mission is to improve the trajectory of people's lives, human services has long been more transactional than transformational. Success is defined primarily by the timeliness and accuracy of transactions rather than their results. This has led to a model in which "outcomes" are in fact merely outputs: Did we issue food stamps in a timely fashion? Did we respond to 95 percent of our hotline calls within 24 hours?

But transactional measures alone cannot effectively support the kind of outcomes for which human service systems were created. When human service systems experience their worst failures, where it matters the most, it often becomes obvious that traditional performance indicators do not guarantee meaningful, mission-critical outcomes for the people who rely on these services.

Moving beyond a strictly transactional business model to one that is also transformational requires action on three fronts (see Figure 1).

Principle 1: Accelerating the Value of Self-Service Through Automation

Caseworkers are the front line, and often the people best situated to improve the trajectory of clients' lives. Too often, however, they are shackled by paperwork and kept from the hands-on work that actually transforms lives.

Thanks to technological advances, agencies can dramatically reduce the paperwork burden through more robust self-service models that enable caseworkers to redirect their time and energy to the work that draws many to social work to begin with.

Figure 1: Three Principles for Moving from a Transactional Busines Model to a Transformational One


A hosts 2016


Accelerate the value of self-service through automation

Use technology, smart product design, and automated processes to redesign the "front door" for human services, making it a customized entrance that combines the information that clients input themselves with behind-the-scenes automation not just to determine eligibility, but also to offer clients a truly personalized path to greater self-sufficiency.


Redesign programs to serve unique customer segments

Rethink the design and delivery of programs to take into account the diverse spectrum of clients human services serves, delivering tailored services that better meet the needs of different customer segments.


Transform practice through analytics

Use analytics to transform the entire human services delivery cycle, from how agencies define and target problems and how they use data...

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