San Francisco government departments needed to strengthen their digital service capabilities. As the Director of an Innovation Office within the city’s Human Services Agency (HSA), I helped create and implement a digital services strategy for the agency. I did this by (1) aligning internal stakeholders on the research insights, (2) co-authoring two successful budgets to build internal teams to sustain digital service delivery, and (3) working with contractors to support my people experience research goals. Additionally, I assisted with a successful citywide digital services planning project by facilitating a key problem-solving session and sharing research advice.
Role: Project Lead, Research Strategist & Facilitator
Challenges: There was no central municipal team tasked with helping all San Francisco departments to provide residents with more accessible and usable services online. A similar team was lacking within HSA for its dozens of programs; plus its website had major accessibility and usability gaps. How could I co-produce the needed changes through research, facilitation and project management?
Approach: I led the initial HSA digital services strategy by expanding my team of one by hiring and managing civic tech contractors. Together, we researched the lived experiences of diverse community partners and clients with our services and website, while also examining the broader public sector digital landscape. We then used the research to rebuild and maintain the HSA website using modern tech development practices.
Our work at HSA became a guiding example for the rest of San Francisco government. The Mayor’s Office and City Administrator highlighted HSA as an example for its digital services strategy. They also asked me to facilitate a critical conversation with project stakeholders to align their own citywide digital strategy. They then requested my research advice when surveying all municipal departments about their digital services needs.
Equity Considerations: We recruited and learned from community-partners and clients who reflected a wide variety of lived experiences and demographic backgrounds. We also centered the importance of technology and website accessibility and usability in our work.
Outputs: (1) Rewrote two, jargon-filled, vendor contract templates (Requests for Proposals or RFPs), making the procurement process more accessible for civic tech companies. (2) Co-wrote two successful budgets to grow the Innovation Office team and to create the first digital services team in the city, housed in HSA. (3) Co-created the new HSA website. The code and design of the site was later used to rebuild the intranet.
Impact: (1) Co-created a more accessible and usable website for the public and intranet for employees. (2) Helped save taxpayer dollars by having the HSA Digital Services team maintain the agency’s website and intranet rather than external talent. (3) Used behavioral insights, by not including the maximum price on the RFP (vendor bidding process), nudging the winning bid to be more than $200,000 less than the intended budget. (4) Demonstrated the value of blending analytics and people experience research in HSA IT, which now has internal talent doing this work.