Yes, I’m blogging on Thanksgiving.I’ve already admitted to my compulsion to blog, and to be fair, this holiday is all about marinating. It always happens that when you’re marinating in data, your insights come during the down times, after the concept models have been made, and you’re not scheduled for anything.
Last night, we started throwing out ideas about reducing wait times, point systems in exchange for service, getting people through the system quicker—half-baked ideas from our research at ARCH and surrounding homelessness. This led to us talking about games, leaderboards, incentives. We mapped out activities, actions, feelings along a user journey through a “game.” (Think people sitting around a sheet of brown paper with beer, throwing out ideas to a scribe with a sharpie. Wait, I think I have some visuals…)
Anyway, it was a useful exercise to blow out one idea and play it through in more detail, but I wasn’t completely sold on the game idea, and this morning I woke up realizing why. A game and incentives sort of assumes that we want you to keep working with the current system.
I think we need to rethink the current system.We talked to one woman in line at Trinity Center who was planning on going to MHMR for an intake appointment, so she can get a case manager to help her apply for housing.
You need a case manager because the system is so complicated. I have to do the footwork to get there and give them all my information, and then they’ll do the rest.
I drew a concept model! (Three weeks ago, I would have thought this through as a list or in writing, instead of with a model. These design tools are getting under my skin.)
In the current system (on the left), social workers become case managers who do all the organization, resource finding, system navigation, referrals FOR the clients. In the current system, many organizations feel like they need more case managers, period. And social workers are educated and trained to believe that a critical part of their job is to help clients navigate the system to get the resources they most need.
What if we change the system (model on the right), so that it’s easier for clients to navigate it on their own to find and obtain resources? What if we made it so easy, clients felt empowered enough to do so? What if social workers could spend more time doing the counseling and support work that they’re trained to do and less intake and referral? What if peer groups could support each other during the process? What if we created tools that automated some of the information management and data entry? What if we created a “wayfinding” system to help people navigate the system of social services?
It’s what happened in the travel industry.My mom used to be a travel agent with Summit Travel. She helped individual customers book flights across a system of airlines. Her travel agency went out of business, and she ended up working as a “city ticket officer” for Saudi Arabian Airlines, doing more specific work for the airline and its dedicated customers.
Individual customers now book their own flights with online tools that help them navigate the various airline options. Now that the middleman of the travel agent is gone, airlines have to cater to and compete for the “end-user.”
So why not remove the middlemen of case workers providing referrals and processing paperwork? Why not help people navigate the system themselves so they can connect directly with the services they need? Let’s design the parts of the social service system that we designers can actually influence, and give the people who deal with people (the counselors, social workers, psychologists, therapists) more time to work with people.