What has been most instrumental to your progress?
The first component is the flexibility of the network. From the beginning of our work, we wanted to be flexible in providing different solutions to partner agencies, but keep the foundation of the network. When COVID-19 entered into our world, this component become more critical as we worked with partner agencies to adjust their service deliveries in a very quick turnaround to ensure there was not a long delay in the availability of services. Some partner agencies transitioned to more phone client appointments or other changes. In addition, we partnered with our local government to quickly provide a technology solution to a COVID-19 Recovery Center for positive homeless individuals.
The second component is the longevity of the network. Our initial agencies have been with us for over the past 4 years. Over this period of time we have developed relationships through frequent collaborations and brainstorming solutions with our partners as their agencies grow. This has helped move us forward in successes with newer agencies. Our positive relationships with our partners have allowed us to use their successes to share the power of the Network through the eyes of our end users. Our agencies trust us and are more than happy to speak on our behalf or help us bring agencies along as they look to use us for their programming needs.
The third component is our staff’s creativity with problem solving each new barrier that may be presented to us. Collaborating often allows us to create solutions, evolve those solutions and then share those with others. Often times we have to be creative with solutions due to budget, time, and staff restraints with our agencies. We often times deploy a multi-disciplinary approach to all our problems. What we create we take pride in but we also realize that our solutions not only help the immediate problem, but also it can be used over and over again to move our community clients from surviving to thriving.
Key lessons learned
The increasing need for software platforms to communicate with one another. As our network has grown, we are reaching a new crossroad where every potential new partner agency is not able to fully implement the core network software. During the past year, we invested in a new position titled the Integration Specialist with the growing need for software to communicate with each other. There have been some barriers on the ability of our core software to share information, but we continue to work through how this is possible.
We did have our first partner agency withdraw from the network after a very short trial with the network. From this experience, we were able to review how partner agencies are selected to join. We learned that an agency must be ready not only from a board involvement, but also a staff capacity. From what we learned, we implemented an agency application for future prospects in order to better assess their needs. We hoped that an application would allow potential agencies to be honest with us with their understanding of HCNC. We learn about their specific needs and moreover where their capabilities are from the beginning.
Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving
Collaboration has always been key for our work; however, this past year, resourcefulness has been extremely important. The COVID-19 pushed us to think creatively on how our current services/programs were operating and how we needed to adapt the existing services to meet the quickly changing situation. We had to understand our landscape of what was available, what had to be stopped, and what could be changed to keep meeting needs of our community. The process was challenging, but as the result, we are starting to see new collaborations and partnerships as our community is realizing the importance now than ever before on the need to work together to respond and create change for the good.
Other key elements of Community Innovation
The importance of understanding technology and how to implement it. With the addition of our Integration Specialist, we are able to present solutions to the partner agencies that utilize technology in new ways, which created efficiency and understanding of the need. Technology is a foreign concept to many in the non-profit world, so we work to make the ideas user friendly and easy to implement. The backend integration and building may not be easy, but what we present to the end user must be seamless and user friendly for them to fully embrace the concept.
Understanding the problem
Software integration is a key component to the success of all of our endeavors at this point. We have reached the point where one software will not meet the needs of the system. We are now exploring APIs and secure file uploads to take on our next goals of what we want the system to be able to accomplish.
If you could do it all over again...
One piece of advice is to be flexible, but stay true to the core of our work. More than ever before our plans quickly changed, and we had to be flexible for our agencies to be able to keep serving clients during the pandemic. COVID-19 taught us that what we thought may not be possible is possible with a little creativity, resourcefulness, and teamwork; however, we never strayed from our mission of connecting agencies and clients together in a secure, confidential way.