Our Vision for an Intelligent Human Services and Benefits Access System

By: Stephen Rockwell, Chief Digital Officer

Imagine a world where the human services system proactively identifies people in need, anticipates the types of support that can help resolve their problems, and automatically enrolls those who are eligible to receive benefits and services. To function as such an intelligent system, it would need to understand individual and market signals to determine who is experiencing distress. Furthermore, it would have to understand the right combination of benefits and services that can assist people with the various issues they may be experiencing. Finally, enrollment and renewal processes would have to be automated to swiftly respond to need.

For as sophisticated and complicated as it all sounds, such a system is within reach through applying intelligent automation and artificial intelligence tooling. Building this system will meet the higher expectations of government leaders and program beneficiaries, ensuring that we meet the intended economic, social, and health outcomes of public policy.

BDT believes that innovative and effective use of data and artificial intelligence, along with policy solutions, are key to solving long standing pain points in the human services system.

Stephen Rockwell
Chief Digital Officer

Let’s compare the existing system with a potential future state intelligent system through the eyes of a beneficiary. Consider the case of a woman we will call Regina.  

Recently unemployed, Regina is a single mother of two. Regina understandably has a lot of fear about her situation. Within our current context, she will have to spend many hours tracking down the various public benefits that are available to her – and depending on where she lives, it may take even longer. She may use the 211 information and referral line to find nonprofit programs that might be helpful to her. She will ask a friend at church about food banks. While her dream is to start a new business, she will instead seek out job placement assistance. In this example, most of the work is on Regina to search for and find benefits and services for which she might be eligible.  

Now let us consider what Regina’s experience would be like within an intelligent human services system: 

  • The state unemployment office learns of her layoff and promptly reaches out to her by text message or email, asking her to confirm her unemployment status so she can be set up with unemployment compensation. They also offer to cross-enroll her in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for food assistance so she does not have to worry about how she will keep her children fed during this time.  
  • City government is also alerted of Regina’s change in employment status, and the local department of human services offers a virtual caseworker chatbot available 24/7 to supplement a human case worker available during normal business hours. The chatbot recommends immediate supports, offering information about two food pantries and three subsidized childcare facilities in her neighborhood. 
  • After three weeks, a small business incubator reaches her through the chatbot, and Regina learns about a program that provides business skills training and seed capital for new businesses from the local community development corporation.  

Regina’s case demonstrates the potential for an intelligent benefits access system to proactively share the right mix of interventions in a timely, dignified way and drive better outcomes for families and communities. Based on our nearly 20 years of experience of serving people like Regina, BDT believes that innovative and effective use of data and artificial intelligence, along with policy solutions, are key to solving long standing pain points in the human services system.

Indeed, BDT is working with partners to develop a 21st century human services system that provides intelligence-driven dynamism to speed responsiveness to rapidly changing conditions such as climate dislocations or health emergencies. Well-governed data based on real world interactions is vital to creating reliable and accurate models in the development of generative AI and other forms of AI applications. These applications and modeling are the keys to closing the gap between people who are eligible for benefits and those enrolled in benefit programs, and fundamentally transforming our nation’s $1 trillion plus social safety net system with profound implications for households, small businesses, nonprofits, and government.   

BDT’s early efforts to support the development of the intelligent system include:  

  • Tailored communications – Proactive and culturally relevant engagement supports for people accessing and maintaining benefits.   
  • Recommend interventions that lead to successful outcomes – Derived from evidence-based predictive models, those experiencing need should be provided with benefit and programmatic intervention mixes that are proven to achieve successful outcomes.    
  • Caseworker and support ecosystem processes drive access and outcomes – Intelligent tools must be infused across a variety of supporting institutions to meet beneficiaries at the point of intervention, ensuring the people who help those in need have the capabilities to do so. 
  • Secure human services data infrastructure – Infrastructure is required for the purposes of building predictive models on need, tracking programmatic outcomes, and enabling application automation. People can expect control of their own data and that their privacy is upheld.   
  • Intelligent automation – Automate data flows for applications and renewals to increase administrative efficiencies and create a frictionless client experience. 

In the coming months, BDT will be working with our partners in government, philanthropy, and the private sector to harness the power of artificial intelligence focusing on practical use cases that deliver value to beneficiaries and public benefit administrative agencies.   

We look forward to sharing our progress with you.