Steps for Ensuring 2-1-1 Functionality and Compatibility
Recognize that 2-1-1 can benefit beyond filling an immediate need: it is one of the ways communities can help families become stronger. By publicizing the 2-1-1 system in your community and by linking it to Strengthening Families, local United Ways can increase the utility of the service.
- Assess the 2-1-1 System. Determining the level of integration between 2-1-1 and your community agencies requires evaluating the perspectives of callers, operators, and service providers. It is imperative to examine the 2-1-1 call volume and to talk with your partners and other human service agencies about how much—and how well—they’re interacting with 2-1-1; if 2-1-1 is being named as a resource; and if people are following up on their referrals (read Brownsville’s account).
- Establish Communication. Leverage your United Way position into shared understanding by proposing an opportunity for 2-1-1 staff and service providers to communicate. Bringing the different players to the table for a conversation and establishing a working partnership will help increase 2-1-1 effectiveness.
- Facilitate a Meeting. A straightforward way to facilitate the conversation is to encourage participants to give a comprehensive introduction describing their agency or organization and the services provided. Likewise, 2-1-1 representatives should explain their taxonomy and query system. United Way can also help generate the commitment from community agencies that they will update—and keep current—their information with 2-1-1. This will ensure that the services 2-1-1 refers people to are currently available: if people are calling 2-1-1 for assistance and support, then 2-1-1 must deliver that. If people can’t receive the appropriate referrals, then UW is not doing people a service by promoting 2-1-1 as a resource.
- Link 2-1-1 to UWSF. Use the meeting between 2-1-1 and service providers as an opportunity to present the Strengthening Families framework. This meeting affords you the opportunity to find out what services already address the protective factors, what steps might be implemented to bolster those efforts, and what partnerships can be established. 2-1-1 operators can gain a deeper understanding of how factors are linked, and thus offer something else at the end of a call.
- Follow-up. Plan to have regular trial calls to 2-1-1 to ensure changes are implemented. If the change is not made, let people know and give them a chance to adjust their approach. Also, follow up with agencies to ensure they are keeping the lines of communication open between them and 2-1-1.