Community human services agencies are increasingly using databases and web distribution to provide referrers and potential clients details about available agency services and contact information through centralized directories. National and state-wide efforts in the U.S. to implement new 211 call-in referral services and to consolidate data from community sources present new options for local agencies. Communities face considerable challenges in deciding whether to participate in these large-scale programs under the control of regional or state agencies, or to launch their own systems where they face issues regarding management of the local project, database design, web implementation and directory maintenance, issues which are inherent in the transition from paper-based directory publication.
New web development technologies linked to databases provide opportunities for designing tools for community-directed maintenance of these directory services. Timely data revisions and agency-initiated changes in supplemental documents are now within reach, a sharp contrast to the paper-based publications that become out-of-date within a few months of distribution. By enabling more control by the community, including clients, small agencies and the network of referral staff, such virtual organizations can revitalize process of delivering human services.
This paper examines the history of community-based directories, the emergence of the 211 referral system, and the potential for designing a virtual self-maintaining system. A case example from a community in North Carolina will be explored.
|Keywords:||Community-directed, Autonomy, Web-based, Databases, Human Services|
Associate Professor, Business Admin and Computing Sciences, Elon University, Elon, North Carolina, USA
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