Permit me to nerd-out for a minute.
Yesterday, the White House released its “Executive Order on Transforming Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government” and OH MY GOSH IT IS SO EXCITING!
The Executive Order (EO) is about reducing the costs of interacting w/government - what scholars call administrative burden. Think filling out your taxes or having to stand in line all day to vote. These are activities that cost people time, energy, and can sometimes feel pretty dehumanizing. In fact, research finds that when the costs of interacting with the government are high, people are less satisfied, have a less favorable view of government, and are less likely to access or complete programs (see Pamela Herd and Donald P. Moynihan, 2018.)
Rise routinely partners with government and nonprofit partners that are trying to reduce administrative burden - particularly in programs that assist people in moments of crisis. As the EO notes: “Customers often navigate services across multiple agencies in specific moments of need, such as when they are seeking financing for their businesses or experiencing food insecurity.” If you’re on the verge of getting evicted because you lost your job, it is quite possible that you’d have to navigate a bunch of different government departments and systems - one for emergency housing assistance, one for food support, one for unemployment insurance, etc. - each with its own forms, rules, and restrictions. This is stressful, confusing, and can often result in people not getting access to the critical support that they need.
The EO states that it is the government’s policy to improve service delivery and customer experience and calls upon various federal agencies to update rules, policies, and procedures in order to improve the experience of accessing government support. Though I find the term ‘customer service’ problematic (something I’ll save for another post), this is GREAT NEWS! It sends a message that the experience of interacting with government matters and identifies concrete steps for agencies can take to improve that experience.
As the federal government ramps up its efforts to improve service delivery, federal agencies can and should look to cities and counties that have been actively working to reduce administrative burden - especially in MN. Our experience with local governments across the state suggests that reducing the costs of getting government help is actually really hard in practice - it involves a complex web of federal eligibility and reporting rules, state laws related to data privacy and data management, as well as local policies and practices. A boost of federal support in easing the complexity will help a lot. And, there are a number of localities that are making it work -- all the while providing evidence that changes are making it easier and less costly for residents to get help in times of need.
We’re excited to see how changes at the federal level can help localities make even more progress on reducing administrative burden!
Want to learn more? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how we work with localities to reduce the costs of accessing service. Or stay tuned for our next Research Bite - conveniently on administrative burden.
Y'all, I'm tired.
Tired from the year of home-schooling kids and endless work meetings on Zoom. Tired from the backlog of work that followed my breakthrough COVID case. And so so incredibly tired of worrying and then uttering sighs of relief only to worry again.
If there's one consistency I've seen across Rise projects this year, it's how tired everyone is. Whether the project is about public health, homelessness, or transportation policy, folks are just exhausted. I've seen this show up explicitly in survey responses, interview data, and in facilitated discussions. Sometimes I've just felt it in a virtual meeting or in how people respond. The burnout is real and it's affecting everyone from recipients of social programs to case managers, public leaders, and business owners.
I've thought a lot recently about how we transition into a post-pandemic (or less pandemic-y) world; what it means for our projects, our data collection and analysis strategies, and how we engage across systems and sectors. I'm not exactly sure what the 'after' looks like, but one thing that is abundantly clear is that things are not going to snap back to normal - nor should they.
COVID forced us to do a better job of meeting people where they were at. At Rise, we extended more grace to our partners and thought more deeply about how to alleviate burdens associated with data collection and analysis. We were more flexible with projects and timelines. In our interactions, we led by recognizing and creating space for our shared struggles.
The effects of the pandemic will be long-lasting and the need to meet people where they are at will continue in the months and years following our collective return to normalcy. Let's continue to extend grace and flexibility, work to alleviate burdens for others, and create space for recognizing our shared humanity in all of our interactions.