IBM is kicking off an $18 million grant program to put no-cost cloud hosting, customizable software, and consulting services into the hands of not-for-profit social service agencies that qualify.
Called IBM SafetyNet, the software can help not-for-profits -- such as those that provide services related to behavioral health, child welfare, after school recreation, job training and senior citizen needs -- evaluate and document the success of their programs more effectively. The record keeping and analysis that can be performed with IBM SafetyNet can improve budgetary accountability, lead decision makers to design better programs, and enable staff to spend more time helping clients instead of performing paperwork. Data analysis offered by the software also enables social service providers to pinpoint and address gaps in their client service.
Documenting their programs' success is a prerequisite for continued funding from government and private sources, which sometimes contract with not-for-profits sector to provide social services. (Local governments in the U.S. spend $136 billion annually to fund such social service programs, according to The Urban Institute.) Yet, analyzing information can be a time-consuming and expensive task for many organizations, particularly small agencies with limited staff. IBM SafetyNet can help the contracting agencies, and the local government departments funding those agencies, collaborate more efficiently.
Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House in New York City, a not-for-profit that tested IBM SafetyNet, reported that the technology had the potential to enable the organization to spend approximately 30% more time with clients. Said Christopher Hanway, Executive Director of Jacob A. Riis: "When we helped test the technology, IBM SafetyNet provided the hub of our information gathering, reporting, and program evaluation protocol. We became better equipped to respond to data requests in a timelier manner with more accurate data. It was very helpful in the reporting back and managing of government contracts. We've also used the software successfully to figure out how we can serve clients better, whether it's fine tuning a senior citizens program, or afterschool tutoring for high school students."
IBM SafetyNet was deployed as part of a pilot testing program to a handful of New York City nonprofit social service organizations called "settlement houses." These agencies have existed for more than 100 years and typically provide a gamut of services to entire families. In the U.S., these organizations historically specialized in education and workplace assistance to socially and economically challenged immigrants, but their mission has expanded to disadvantaged families of all types.
To develop SafetyNet, IBM collaborated with United Neighborhood Houses (UNH), an association of New York City settlement houses. UNH is piloting SafetyNet at least four of its affiliates, includingHudson Guild, a settlement house serving low-income communities in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. The Guild's programs include early childhood, after school and summer camp, teen and young adult services, a senior center, a mental health clinic, and performing and visual arts programs. Hudson Guild is testing SafetyNet to analyze results of the free test preparation that it provided to students taking the NYC Specialized High School exam.
To view a brief video in which Hudson Guild shares its experience with IBM SafetyNet, please go here.
IBM SafetyNet was developed expressly for this grant program. It uses a combination of open source technology and software from IBM Curam, whose commercial products are designed to improve the productivity of organizations involved in social services, including healthcare, pensions, and disability. It is hosted in IBM's cloud, better protecting information than if it were stored on a PC, and making it more easily accessible to staff wherever they happen to be.
"IBM has a vested interest in ensuring prosperity, education and well being in the communities in which IBM employees live and work," said Stanley S. Litow, President of IBM's International Foundation. "To help bring that about, IBM offers Impact Grants of pro bono conulting services and technology to communities. For those projects, IBMers work with civic, social and economic organizations in public-private partnerships. IBM SafetyNet is consistent with that mission and is the latest grant program in IBM's corporate citizenship portfolio."
Through October 31, interested organizations can apply for the technology and installation support by going to www.ibmsafetynet.org. IBM will evaluate a variety of criteria when choosing grant recipients. Evaluation criteria include demonstrated commitment; staff that can help manage the technology's deployment; and ability and willingness to analyze data.
With a value of approximately $300,000 for each installation, IBM is prepared to make 12 grants annually over five years for a total market value of at least $18 million.
For more information about IBM's corporate citizenship initiatives, please go here. Please visit the CitizenIBM blog for additional perspectives on IBM's philanthropic initiatives, and follow CitizenIBM on Twitter.