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For over 25 years, Robin Hood has fought poverty in New York City by finding, funding and partnering with the most effective programs in the city. Robin Hood’s strategy for choosing which programs to fund involves an approach called relentless monetization — a framework for applying economics, cost/benefit analysis, and old-fashioned due diligence to calculate a financial grant’s impact on the economic, social or physical well-being of low-income New Yorkers.

In 2014, Robin Hood made more than 200 grants to the most effective poverty-fighting agencies in New York City. Since its founding in 1987, Robin Hood has been on the cutting edge of innovation, testing new and sometimes controversial interventions that we believe will have outsized pay offs.

For example, during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis that gripped the City in the mid-1980’s Robin Hood took a chance by funding one of the largest needle-exchange programs in New York. Government officials were afraid to put tax payer dollars behind such a controversial initiative, but once Robin Hood was able to demonstrate that needle exchanges prevented the spread of the disease, the City took over the program and scaled it to help thousands of New Yorkers. We’ve since launched other bold initiatives resulting in increased access to high-quality education to the poorest children in the City; founding and incubating a revolutionary program to provide immigrants with free legal representation called IJC (the Immigrant Justice Corps) as well as Poverty Justice Solutions, which helps low-income New Yorkers fight eviction so they can avoid homelessness.

Robin Hood’s most comprehensive program for helping people gain the tools they need to escape poverty is Single Stop. This innovative approach breaks the cycle of poverty by leveraging existing financial resources with opportunities for education, counseling, training, and support — a powerful recipe for lifelong financial stability. Through a unique combination of innovative technology and programmatic expertise, Single Stop is growing the competitive workforce and strengthening local communities.

Single Stop meets individuals and families at the places where they congregate, including community-based organizations such as libraries, hospitals, and community colleges. The “one-stop-shop” model provides unprecedented ease of access to a holistic set of services, utilizing technology to help individuals gain access to the benefits to which they are entitled.

In 2014, Robin Hood helped (without charge) over 70,000 low income New Yorkers file for tax refunds totaling more than $125 million. Some of these low wage taxpayers would have filed for refunds without Robin Hood’s help. But Robin Hood estimates that at least 15,000 of them — accounting for about $30 million — would never have collected their refunds without Robin Hood’s help. Building on its success in

New York City, Single Stop has become a national program, serving tens of thousands of more families in seven more states.

Robin Hood and Single Stop are using new technology to help New Yorkers identify and apply for local services and government benefits. It’s easy to see that many sectors of our economy have been transformed by tech. Yelp makes it easy to find and connect with restaurants and retail stores. Amazon.com makes it possible to purchase virtually anything with one-click; Airbnb, Uber and Task Rabbit are pioneers in the “sharing economy,” which leverages information technology to empower individuals, non-profits, corporations and others to share and distribute excess capacity of goods and services.

Despite these advances, it can be difficult for people in need to find and connect with critical social services.

This is largely due to the fact that unlike retail stores or restaurants, the ecosystem of social services is infinitely more complex. If you are looking for a pair of shoes, or a Szechuan restaurant in a three-mile radius, this is fairly easy to accomplish. The needs of low-income families, however, are multi-faceted and nuanced. One family member may need a job to pay the household rent, while another could use an after-school tutoring program to ensure they stay on top of their studies. The family as a unit may need emergency food or one specific member may need a specific type of medical treatment. Securing such services is further complicated by waiting lists and eligibility requirements that make it that much harder for low-income families to obtain what they need. Differences in the quality of social service programs have long-term implications for the well-being of the families that might use “Connects.” Robin Hood and Single Stop realize that we need to account for all these factors as we seek to link families with high-quality social services.

A free electronic tool to identify high-quality social service agencies in their neighborhoods.

With that in mind, Robin Hood and Single Stop have joined AuntBertha.com to offer low-income New Yorkers a free electronic tool to identify high-quality social service agencies in their neighborhoods. The tool is called “Single Stop Connects” and can be used on any computer or smartphone at: http://connects.singlestop.nyc.

Single Stop Connects helps residents and caseworkers identify the most effective services at the right place tailored to the specific, individual needs of families and individuals. Users can create and share lists of favorite programs. We believe it’s a powerful tool, and one that doesn’t currently exist elsewhere in the marketplace.

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As Single Stop Connects continues to rollout, it will be critical for community partners to confirm all aspects of their offerings, such as their location and directions to their programs, phone numbers, types of services provided, hours of operation, emergency contact information, types of populations they serve (i.e., pre-school students or elderly residents), and other critical information. Agencies can do this by clicking here to claim their record in “Connects” and verify the information. The Aunt Bertha team maintains and updates this data on a daily basis, to make it as relevant and current as possible. By combining these steps, we hope to ensure data integrity increases over time and that the results become increasingly targeted and appropriate to consumers and case workers alike.

As more people use the platform, we’ll glean more perfect information regarding the specific types of services being sought in a particular zip code or city block, helping government agencies and non-profits alike better target their resources in order provide the most effective programs for New Yorker in need.

In addition, with support from Robin Hood, Single Stop is working with with Pivotal Labs, a leading technology firm, to apply the same approach to helping low-income consumers discover and apply for government benefits and resources. Taken together, these two approaches will provide a powerful force for good in the fight against poverty in New York.

Single Stop Connects is available now for consumers of social services and the caseworkers that help them.

Written by:

Greg Kieser
Technology Strategy Consultant, Robin Hood

Steve Lee
Managing Director, Income Security, Robin Hood

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