Accelerating technology to improve services for kids and families
After the first year, nearly three dozen student-support organizations in 12 states have received matching funds to help improve their case management software.
By Korey Klein, Portfolio Manager, Technology and Data Infrastructure
Data is mission critical for nonprofits, schools, and government services working to improve the lives of children and families experiencing poverty. Data allows them to identify and improve services and to measure results, such as whether afterschool tutoring is boosting a student’s grades, or a family is getting both the housing and nutrition it needs.
Yet overstretched and underfunded service providers are often trying to make it work by tracking their interactions with paper files or multiple Excel spreadsheets. When they do use technology, they tend to use precious grant dollars on custom solutions that are expensive to keep updated. Last summer, Ballmer Group committed $59 million to Austin-based Social Solutions to help address these challenges. Our commitment aims to accelerate the development of affordable, off-the-shelf case management software to help nonprofits manage their data in an intuitive and well-designed way.
Although the partnership is still too young to demonstrate outcomes for children, we are seeing important progress. Several improvements have been made to the software, called Apricot, including more robust reporting capabilities and better analytics to help drive decision-making.
Initially best-suited for single programs, Apricot can now be used to coordinate the work of multiple programs at multiple sites. In Kansas City, for example, the new technology is being used to coordinate between out-of-school-time programs and the school district to make sure they can collectively recognize and address the needs of children. Data privacy is a cornerstone to this work. Technology is applied where there are already data-sharing agreements between organizations to ensure that personal information is protected and handled thoughtfully, while giving service providers a 360-degree view of a family’s challenges.
Part of our funding is also being used to reduce the cost of licenses for qualified organizations, encouraging more nonprofits to use it and provide crucial feedback to Social Solutions. After the first year, nearly three dozen student-support organizations in 12 states have received matching funds to help improve their case management software.
Connie and Steve want to catalyze more competition from other developers to help strengthen the nonprofit sector. Microsoft, for example, is creating and openly publishing a common data model that makes it easier for different software programs to talk to each other. That way, organizations can better understand how they are making an impact on those they serve.
We all know that a single program can’t help children succeed. It takes broad support from the full community to make sure they get the wraparound supports they need. We believe data and technology have a key role in making that happen.