The Human Services 360 Project: Supporting Next Generation Human Service Infrastructure to Address Big Picture Questions
Each year, government spends more than a trillion dollars in combined federal, state, and local funds to support hundreds of thousands of local human service providers helping individuals and families improve their well-being, reach their full potential, and contribute to their communities. While there is financial accountability and data on who gets funding for what purpose, it is currently not possible to easily and routinely answer basic systemwide questions about where services funded by different levels of government are delivered, who does and does not live within reach of these services, and what mix of services residents have access to. This problem is related to the fact that the system of service provision is highly decentralized, with disparate data sources, unstandardized data definitions and non-systematic coverage of key information on human services.
However, as long as these questions cannot be answered, it will remain unclear whether, how and where service contract funding could be improved in terms of matching services with need. At the same time, cities across the country are rapidly making administrative data available but need help developing applications to turn their data into analytic insights. The purpose of this collaboration between four researchers at the University of Chicago, its Center for Spatial Data Science and Chapin Hall with help from the MetroLab Network is to help cities make sense of their contracts data to begin to address these fundamental questions and determine whether, how and where the social service infrastructure could be improved.
Human Services 360 is an array of tools and support designed to give policy makers and contract administrators the insights they need not only to see the full landscape of services available to their clients, but also to make targeted, strategic decisions that will improve the outcomes these systems deliver. With implementation support to integrate these new tools into city officials' existing decision systems, Human Services 360 aims to do more than move data to knowledge: we aim to move data to action and action to outcomes.
The four project components are:
Just-in-Time Population Estimates (Spatially Targeted Forecasting Project)
Provides real-time estimates of where a specific target population will be located. This tool will provide both the location and estimated numbers of a defined target population so that resource allocations can be based on what will be needed in the future rather than on what was needed in the past (as in current practice). This tool would provide estimates in real-time, providing policy makers with up-to-date information for decision making.
Service Proximity Modeling (BigPic Project)
Gives policymakers the ability to model resource location scenarios to assess their impact on residents’ proximity to services. Because contract decisions usually are made at the level of individual government departments, the landscape of services confronting residents at the neighborhood level is frequently fractured and often significantly incomplete to meet their needs. With the ability to integrate resource information across jurisdictions and departments, this tool would provide city officials with a full view of the existing local service array and help identify spatial gaps in services. Policy makers can test alternative resource allocation scenarios, allowing a fuller understanding of options for creating proximity of the local service array to multiple target populations.
Contacts: Nicole Marwell (School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago) and Julia Koschinsky (Center for Spatial Data Science, University of Chicago).
Project Status: Data collection and fundraising under active development for New York City, Chicago and other cities.
Requirements: What Cities Need to Work With BigPic
Service Supply Optimization (CANOPY)
This tool would assist public policymakers with decisions related to the supply of human service resources. By integrating historical patterns of service demand, this economic model would provide policy makers with targeted service supply estimates for specific service program sites. Characteristics related to individual/household circumstances (e.g. proximity to work or ESL), characteristics of service providers (e.g. full or half-day service) and features of neighborhoods (e.g. safety or transportation access) would all factor into recommendations for the amount of services in a given location by type. By helping policy makers better understand the likelihood of service utilization at a given site, this tool will allow them to optimize the supply of services for specific target populations across multiple agencies and locations.
Integrating Analytic Results in Decision Processes
Fundamental to moving data to action and action to outcomes is the need for integrated implementation support. Advanced analytics and tools often fall short of their full potential because of an inability of systems to integrate them into their decision processes. Human Services 360 thus includes a fourth component of the project, to propose a defined set of sustained implementation support processes that will tailor each of the above tools to the systems into which they are to be integrated. This work with local jurisdictions will make sure the analytics tools produce results that are both understood by staff and actionable.