Digital Social Work Solutions:
A 21st Century Approach to Conducting Social Work
A portfolio preview of our most recent project-a mobile app available for a free download in the apps store that makes accessing social resources critical for health, easier than ever before
Website or social media url(s) (optional):
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)
1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."
When my family and I first migrated to America as political refugees from Iraq, we were placed in a shelter where we lived for two years. With the help of various public and private social resource programs like Food Stamps and Housing subsidies, my family was able to succeed and live a comfortable life. I personally experienced the impact that social work has on helping families like my own and developed a strong interest in the social work field. When I first moved to New York City, I started working as a social work volunteer where I met and helped dozens of families who were in similar situations as my own family once was. Over time, I sought to expand my impact which led me to develop Socio Connect with the hopes of helping larger populations succeed with the support my family owes their success to. Later, I met Luke whose personal experiences also led him to join Socio Connect.
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
It has been recognized that social determinants affect up to 60% of our health. Unmet social needs is a nationwide issue that plays a significant role in affecting the health of all people, disproportionately affecting disadvantaged populations the most. While a wide range of programs exist to help address unmet social needs, these resources go widely unutilized due to various barriers including lack of knowledge and complexity of access.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Socio Connect is utilizing technology to build an innovative infrastructure that will alleviate the many barriers to access that a significant number of Americans regularly face. We hope to promote safe and healthy communities by improving the social resource landscape throughout the United States. We believe accessing basic social needs like enough food, proper shelter, victim support, or healthcare shouldn’t be hard. We have developed a dynamic SQL database filled with all the information necessary for accessing a comprehensive range of social services, sorted by eligibility criteria. We have been working to continuously expand our database and are partnering with local universities to help support the expansion of our database. As of now, we have inputted information for a wide range of community-based and federal social programs throughout NYC. We are currently utilizing this database by hosting a free iOS application (currently live in the app store) in which users open the app, input basic information about their household, and get connected to programs they qualify for, based on their answers.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
After surveying dozens of social workers in NYC, we learned that the social work field is largely technologically behind. We learned that the biggest barrier social work providers face is navigating the complexity of the social resource landscape in their communities and that those who could benefit most from social support may never receive it due to lack of knowledge and other barriers. We envision Socio Connect to become a universal term that will accelerate the emergence of a new kind of social work: “tele-social work”. Our potential digital tools may help support not only those who may need them the most but also social workers, community-based organizations, and clinical sites. In addition, our platforms could also provide a means for collecting information associated with public health issues throughout communities which could help support public health research efforts.
5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
The majority of current efforts towards addressing unmet social needs and victim services are focused within clinical sites. These programs situate social workers/advocates within clinical sites and offer their services either directly to patients or to providers who would offer the services to their patients. These programs are limited in their impact because of the nature of their physical integration. Our major competitive advantages are associated with the virtual nature of our program, which enables us to reach a much wider audience than being physically situated in one setting.
6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Since our mobile app went live on the Apple app store, we have reached out to a variety of community-based organizations offering our tool. Since then, we have confirmed that at least 22 social workers actively use our app to help their clients find resources they may be eligible for. Currently, our main challenge is associated with tracking exactly how many users we have. However, we have gathered testimonials from over a dozen social workers, healthcare providers, and other users who have shared with us that our tool has been extremely helpful in localizing all social resource information in a comprehensive, easily navigable platform. We have received positive feedback from users who have made comments such as "Socio Connect really is a social worker in my pocket", "SC eliminates the need for training my staff", and "I would never had known I qualified for Food Stamps without SC"
7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
We hope to continue to expand our database of resources in NYC which we have been working on by recruiting volunteer college students attending social work programs in our community. We also hope to have an Android and web-app version of our current iOS app. We hope to extend our impact by introducing Socio Connect to other large cities with a high prevalence of unmet social needs, such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, etc. In addition, we also hope to have fully developed an easily accessible website, web-based mobile app, and chat bot to accompany our current iOS app as well.
8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?
We have been largely dependent on volunteer efforts from our community at New York University. In order to continue to develop our efforts, we are seeking mentorship from experienced social changemakers and technical support to further develop our digital platforms. In addition, we hope to get support in helping market access to our platforms in hopes of reaching large populations who could benefit most from having their social needs met. In order to maintain and continuously expand our databases, we have found that volunteer efforts from social work organizations has been largely sufficient but have learned that we could tremendously benefit from having someone with technical expertise dedicated to working on developing our platforms.
9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations between $100-$1k
10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.
We seek to empower those in need of social services with a universally and easily accessible comprehensive platform for addressing unmet social needs and victim services in an scalably impactful way. We believe this would done most efficiently by involving as many passionate changemakers as possible. We have designed our database to have potential for scalability, anyone would be able to access our database and add resource information about programs in their respective communities. The corresponding information would go live upon administrative approval. We hope to engage local communities throughout the nation by recruiting colleges, universities, changemakers, and community-based organizations to help develop and maintain databases in their communities.
We have engaged members of our university community by sharing our work in various campus newsletters and listservs. We have had numerous students offer their help and have largely relied on their efforts to get where we are today.
How did you hear about this challenge?
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