Growing the Movement for a More Equitable Safety Net

Welcoming the second cohort of the Safety Net Innovation Lab

When Code for America launched the Safety Net Innovation Lab last year, we embarked on a journey to reimagine and rebuild the delivery of safety net services in 15 states over the next seven years. Since then, we’ve met with administrators, case workers, and benefits clients in the Innovation Lab’s first cohort of states to understand their challenges and identify solutions to improve equity and accessibility of safety net benefits. This year, those states will bring the vision of a truly human-centered safety net to life as they move their projects into a delivery phase that will have a lasting impact

Building on that momentum, we are excited to welcome four jurisdictions to the second cohort of the Innovation Lab, as we expand this work into New York, New Mexico, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Over the next year, we will grow the impact of the Innovation Lab as we work alongside these governments in a discovery phase to uncover the most promising opportunities for impact.

Stronger together: Scaling opportunities through partnerships 

The Innovation Lab’s work is strengthened by our ability to identify shared challenges across our partner jurisdictions and collaborate to build replicable solutions. We leverage technology to scale our work, implement shared approaches, and deliver results based on Code for America’s national experience. Jurisdictions in this cohort will embark on thematically-similar projects: 

  • Integrated benefits: In the District of Columbia and Maryland, we will partner to streamline the design of the existing integrated online benefits application for food and cash assistance, healthcare, and other basic needs. 
  • Improving the client experience: In New Mexico and New York, we will leverage customer service data and client feedback to develop solutions that improve client interactions to increase participation and redemption in public benefit programs.  

As we work to transform government systems, we will use a human-centered, iterative, and data-driven approach to understand client barriers and deliver public services that truly meet people’s needs.

Working shoulder to shoulder with states: From discovery to delivery 

The Innovation Lab model allows Code for America to concurrently listen to and learn from one cohort of states while delivering solutions in another. When we are able to share knowledge and techniques uncovered in discovery and delivery work across the cohorts, everyone benefits. 

While our second cohort partners will have their own unique challenges and opportunities, we can use insights and learnings from our work across partners to inform our approach and scale quickly to improve benefits delivery and client outcomes. 

As the first cohort transitions into delivery, we are excited to embark on the discovery process with the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Mexico, and New York. ​Over the next six to eight months, we will embed ourselves in each jurisdiction’s service delivery, working with clients, caseworkers, and administrators to understand common barriers to benefits enrollment and retention.

In both the discovery and delivery phase, we help our partners start with small, incremental changes.  We then test the outcomes, adjust when necessary, and scale over time. Along the way, we regularly evaluate and improve our approach, to ensure our proposed solutions are solving real challenges associated with getting, using, and keeping benefits. 

Creating systems change through peer learning and skillbuilding

We know that systems change doesn’t happen in a vacuum, which is why Code for America facilitates connection and learning between states in the Innovation Lab. Our cohort partners meet regularly to collaborate, share insights across projects, and identify best practices and solutions to common challenges. The Innovation Lab also hosts skill building sessions to help our partners dive deeper into topics like human-centered performance measurement, strategies for vendor management, and using texting to engage and support clients.

These sessions are a valuable opportunity for my team and I to meet and learn from the experiences of other state teams. The sessions are easy to attend, address timely content for the challenges we face, and allow us to bring solutions back to our states.
Brian Kaiser, the Bureau Chief of California’s SNAP and Nutrition Programs

This collaborative cohort model builds momentum towards real systems change across America, and empowers all participants to uplift and share best practices in safety net service delivery. 

Our nine partners in the Innovation Lab have taken on the tremendous task of redesigning safety net systems to be more equitable, accessible, and customer focused. This human-centered approach will not only improve the lives of millions of people who access their services,  but it will transform service delivery teams across the United States—setting the bar for how government can and should serve the public in the digital age.  

Learn more about our seven-year journey to transform America’s safety net:

The Safety Net  Innovation Lab is a multi-year initiative to partner with 15 states to unlock $30 billion in benefits across food assistance, health care, and other basic needs for 13 million people over the next seven years. Want to get involved? Get in touch to learn how your state can create public services that are easy-to-use, equitable, and built for the digital age.

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