Engineering Irish charities to work smarter and better with ICT
10 October 2017
Enclude staff - front row: Diane Colgan, Brian Lacey, Eamon Stack, Rajashree Sundar, Mary Berney and Maeve Kerney. Back: James Quinn, Patricia Higgins, Beatrice Reilly
Enclude, Europe’s biggest technology charity, has developed and implemented client management solutions for nearly 10% all staffed Irish charities, including those in the addiction, homelessness, family support, mental health and suicide sectors.
Irish society has complex issues and problems. Every day, the news tells us stories of those who suffer from societal failure: addiction, homelessness, domestic violence, lack of services for disabled people, poor mental health services.
As engineers, we know that a quick fix approach never solves complex problems. So how can we, as engineers, help the charity sector?
The answer is simply by doing what we do best – a systems approach to problem solving. Enclude’s success, over 11 years, is grounded in strong systems engineering approach/skillsets and an engagement model which recognises that the societal problems our charities are trying to solve are complex and require multi-faceted and interdisciplinary responses.
The greatest gift that technology companies give to charities is access to the technology. Enclude, though its technology donations programme, helps Irish charities and non-profits access millions of euro’s worth of technology donations from global technology companies. The fair market value of these donation to Irish charities has been €55 million over 11 years. Donors include Microsoft, Google, Salesforce.org, Symantec, Ireland’s AccountsIQ, CISCO, AWS and Adobe.
Microsoft give access to desktop software, service software and its Office 365 services at no cost. Google donates Google Apps for Work, and makes grants of over €100k per organisation available for Google AdWords.
Salesforce.org, the social enterprise of Salesforce.com, provides 10 enterprise licenses of its cloud CRM free to every registered charity. This donation was key to the success of eCASS co-design strategy. Enclude, with Quality Matters, a charity the specialises in best practice in addiction services, and multiple on-the-ground addiction services, used this donated software as the platform for the co-designed eCASS solution.
Using engineering to solve the data problem
Enclude engineering staff knew little to nothing about addiction when we started 11 years ago. However, we discovered that by partnering with those who deeply understood the services we could create a new dynamic – a co-design approach involving engineers and service delivery experts to form a dynamic we now call iAlliance.
iAlliance combines best practice in service provision with the best technology strategy to deliver a high-impact service delivery solution that can meet the needs of most services:
- It gives an addiction service a comprehensive client management system, that allows a 360-degree view of the client, providing the best possible care for the person;
- It provides standardised solutions across multiple addiction service rather than each individual service having to pay for a separately designed solution. Standardised solutions also produce a standard data set;
- It allows data to be aggregated from a standard data set from multiple services to provide a national picture of a problem and allow better policy decisions at every level.
As charities, we own the intellectual property that emerges from this co-design and can replicate a solution multiple times at little marginal cost. This solution is now used in 81 addiction services.
Service managers recently estimated eCASS saves them on average 73 staff days a year. That is worth €2.5 million a year across the services. That makes this engineering project, with technology donations from Salesforce.org, the second-biggest contributor to managing addiction in Ireland, after the Health (HSE)/State.
Case study: Ballymun Youth Action Project
Ballymun Youth Action Project (BYAP) offers multiple services, including one-to-one counselling, holistic therapy, group work, outreach and a drop-in service.
Best practice requires a needs assessment of each BYAP client, resulting in a care plan to signpost the way to recovery. BYAP needs to track the client’s engagement with activities and monitor the use of illicit substances to plot progress.
It may not be that obvious to non-engineers, but to us it is logical that the assessment, care plan and activities records need to support the data set of the National Drug Treatment Reporting Standard [NDTRS] analysed by experts at the Health Research Board. A more comprehensive data set is needed by the HSE to support and monitor best practice and the outcome and movement of clients who leave BYAP.
Other services manage needle exchange, methadone substitution and urine tests and this data needs to be integrated with other HSE data to inform policy.
Engineering takes the data from all the client interactions and provides a data set that can inform policy.
Solutions to domestic violence and suicide prevention
Enclude has now delivered co-designed cloud-based CRM solution to 10% of staffed Irish charities. The success/impact of the eCASS solution reassures us that leveraging world-class technologies and combining our systems engineering insights with a collaborative co-design approach will deliver similar benefits to other sectors such as homelessness, youth, disability and suicide prevention.
Our next focus is on domestic violence. We have received requests from several services to design an appropriate, secure client management solution like eCASS. We have approached Safe Ireland, the National Social Change Agency working to eliminate domestic violence, to enable Ireland to become one of the safest countries in the world. We found at Safe Ireland a very open and focused leadership team.
We have also discovered that Tusla, the primary funder of domestic-violence services, has data requirements that are not currently been met. The challenge now is to procure an upfront investment to design a state-of-the-art comprehensive domestic-violence solution that supports internationally recognised best practice in the area.
Enclude’s mission to provide affordable solutions means it never wants to push the full cost of development on to individual charities. Instead, we hope that a combination of philanthropy and government funding will match the product donation by Salesforce.org.
Suicide has a tragic impact in Ireland. We have worked with Pieta House for eight years, developing its excellent client-management records. The solution has scaled as Pieta House grew from one centre to 12. More importantly, we worked with Pieta House to implement a new data standard for the assessment of clients.
The absence of a national data standard provides a challenge across the many services dealing with this issue. If Engineers Ireland could work with Enclude to support an information management strategy, that would give Ireland vital information to know if we are winning or losing in this life and death issue.
Engineering value for the charity sector
Beyond Ireland, we want to reach Europe. We have a partnership with technology charities throughout Europe and are working with Germany, Austria and Poland to explore providing eCASS to addiction services in those countries.
We have also delivered a fundraising system for Fe y Alegria, at its international headquarters in Colombia and for Fe y Alegria national offices in 18 Latin-American countries. Fe y Alegria, a Jesuit-led non-governmental organisation, has over 2000 schools, serving over two million pupils from low-income families in Latin-America and Africa.
Whoever thought that you could engineer charities to better serve more people with limited resources by just using what we are good at – taking a systems approach to using ICT. Can you help to engineer charities?http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2017/10/10/enclude-engineering-charities-work-smarter-better-ict/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/ENCLUDE20Team20SBP-1024x681.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/ENCLUDE20Team20SBP-300x300.jpgTechICT,software,technology