United Way of New York City has been working for 70 years to help New Yorkers build more self-sufficient lives.

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Assessing Capacity

New York City’s “311” telephone referral service has helped hundreds of thousands of callers seeking information or services from New York City agencies. In 2007, the City launched a plan to expand 311 to include referrals directly to not-for-profit or community-based organizations. The scale of the proposed expansion was significant: 311 handles more than 15 million calls annually and accepts calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The proposed expansion required a sizable increase in capacity.

With the United Way of New York City, the City engaged Bennett Midland to develop a strategy for implementing the new system called Enhanced 311, and to shape a work-plan for the City and its not-for-profit partners. Working quickly, our team researched the current 311 service model and the operations of a similar program (known nationally as “211”). The Bennett Midland team analyzed and documented implementation options and project risks. We worked closely with the Mayor’s Office and agency executives to finalize and then launch an implementation plan for Enhanced 311.

As implementation got underway, Bennett Midland was asked to develop a system for evaluating the capacity of not-for-profit providers to meet the service needs of New Yorkers who sought referral through 311. To do so, we built a database application that provides a detailed map of social service capacity in the city by listing all social service providers (to the extent possible) along with information about services provided, staffing, and ability to take 311 calls. To create this database, we mined information from New York City and New York State databases and conducted an email survey of all social service not-for-profits in New York City.

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