Highlights from "Integrated Service Delivery"

Bank of America (BoA) sponsored a great conversation with Erica Lowitz from Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC) and Carolyn Seward of Better Family Life that boiled down the essential elements of integrating social services into one delivery mechanism for low-income families. Invoking the likes of Tim Tebow and Robert Griffin III, moderator Wynne Lum from BoA helped us understand how picking up supplies and groceries for your football tailgating party has dramatically changed over the years – and now we only have to go to one store for everything we need. That is the definition of integrated service delivery. Erica Lowitz from LISC highlighted their innovative Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) model – based on the Annie E. Casey Foundation Center for Working Families model – which helps families find a better job, identify and apply for public benefits, and act on financial counseling. The metrics they are tracking are increases in net income, increases in credit scores, and increases in net wealth. Carolyn Seward discussed the MET Center – a Center for Working Families in the St. Louis area. Through their integrated work, she has found that bundling leads to longer-term engagement with households, and the effectiveness of services increased as a result. Therefore, they have better customer retention, and saw an increase in participant's wages due to this approach. Things I think are essential to take away from this discussion are:

  • Sequencing is important – you have to meet households where they are. If they walk in the door and expenses exceed incomes, it's inappropriate to start the conversation with why they should start saving money. They have a different crisis to solve for first.
  • You have to understand everything that affects the success of the low-income person – for example, if they come into the door looking for a job, you have to look at their credit score and repair that if there is a problem – or it will affect their ability to get a job when an employer looks at the credit score.
  • Metrics are so important to integrated service delivery – everyone involved in the service delivery has to agree on the metrics that matter, and how they will be measured. Performance-based contracts need to be used. And, there needs to be one data system collecting all the data. Then, everyone is acting from the same foundation and with the same information and incentives.
  • Integrated service delivery is about adding on services – but in order to do that well, you have to recognize that people walked in the door for one reason (e.g., to get a job). In order to give them the suite or bundle of services you want, you have to do it before the person gets what they came for, and make it mandatory. Once they get what they came for, you're unlikely to see them again. Moreover, you should bundle services when someone is coming for a patient service (one that takes time to deliver, like workforce training or getting a job) rather than transactional (such as emergency cash assistance). But, if you make the mandatory services good – people will come back. Seventy percent of participants come back from more after the first financial counseling session, even if that wasn't what they walked in the door to do.
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