Innovating Community Service

John W Lewis's picture
Chat Date: 
Thu, Aug 04, 2016

This week, we discuss the opportunities for innovation in community service programs. Our topic is suggested by Kim Flum (@KimFlum), regular #innochat participant, who has some questions to which she is seeking answers from us.

Innochat discussions benefit substantially from being stimulated by a guest with an interest in a specific topic who knows about solutions in their field, and to some extent we are learning from them. In a sense, the situation this week is the opposite, and it's a more challenging basis for our discussion. Kim Flum knows about the problems in her field and is seeking answers from us.

The following framing is based on Kim's description of the context for this topic and suggested areas for discussion.

Innovation in community service programs

I want to develop a local community service program for people who may be economically disadvantaged for whatever reason and need assistance with: finding work, including making/printing/sending a resume; finding safe, affordable childcare or after school programs; learning English; assistance with financial matters, such as getting a checking account, doing their taxes, etc..

These are the main areas which I suggest that we consider.


Often we talk about innovating in R&D and technology-centric areas. I wonder if it's possible to innovate in areas that have very little technology and for people with little or no access to technology themselves.

Better reach and service

How can community service programs (both private and public) innovate in delivering programs and services to better reach and serve those in need and those that they want to help?


Is there a better model of community service programs than the typical (in the US, anyway) brick and mortar service center building? Can these services be delivered online, via mobile truck, or based on other ideas for delivery of services?


How can public and community service programs more effectively measure people helped? Right now, they often try to measure positive outcomes in terms of number of people served. But does this speak to the amount of benefit someone received or is it just counting them as someone who came in the door once? Did their life actually improve in some way, did they receive some beneficial service, have a need, etc.? Or did they simply visit and were counted as helped?


During #innochat on Twitter from 12 to 1pm on August 4th, 2016, let's discuss innovation in community service programs, as suggested by Kim Flum (@KimFlum), and try to provide the answers that she is seeking, based on the following questions:

  1. In general, how can we innovate community service programs to deliver better to those with real need?
  2. What are the challenges when service providers and recipients have little or no access to technology?
  3. How can innovation of services extend the reach and better serve people in need?
  4. What better delivery methods are there than using traditional fixed physical locations?
  5. How can community service outcomes be measured better, both qualitatively and quantitatively?


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