This project is a finalist for the 2021 Golden GOVIT Awards in the Service category. This project was completed by the State of Minnesota – Department of Employment & Economic Development & nominated by Becca Johnson.  

Customers accessing services are focused on physiological needs and learning processes to submit paperwork while tracking important deadlines, which vary from county to county, in order to maintain basic needs. They must rely on referrals to resources from staff during business hours when offices are open. Time spent focused on maintaining compliance with program requirements directly impacts customers’ ability to focus on other goals related to self-sufficiency, family stabilization, and the ultimate the vision of One Minnesota to “engage and empower Minnesotans to establish shared sustainable prosperity for all Minnesotans.”

Inadvertently, though systemically, program requirements and processes fuel inequity when we force our customers into the time tax. Imagine how difficult our forms and processes can be to navigate for someone who has limited English proficiency and for those who have very limited time due to work and childcare responsibilities. Now, add to that having to provide the same information multiple times, for multiple programs. The more we can simplify the communication process for our customers, the more equitable and accessible our services become.

Any interruption in receiving cash, food, or childcare benefits could be detrimental to customers’ success. When customers lose benefits, they’re unable to maintain employment or dedicate time for job search, which leads to housing and food insecurities, thus creating greater inequities for Minnesotans experiencing poverty and systemic racism. WF1 Connect removes barriers to access for customers who may not have easy or reliable access to transportation or a computer; 85% of Americans have access to smartphones.

Through a multi-agency collaboration between several state agencies, county and tribal providers, and community-based organizations, WF1 Connect was launched to provide a customer-centric solution to navigate complex government systems and to mitigate risk in our customers losing their benefits.

Prior to WF1 Connect, customers submitted paperwork via U.S. Mail or by making a trip to submit it in-person. Mailing paperwork back and forth is time consuming, taking 3 – 4 weeks to be received by the customer, completed, and sent back to their case worker. Alleviating the burdensome paper trail through the WF1 Connect mobile application has allowed greater ease of access and faster processing in administering benefits to customers.

Whether a customer is working nights or assisting their children with distance learning, WF1 Connect provides the ability for customers to send messages to staff at any time that is convenient for them – day or night. They can quickly take a picture of a document with their phone and receive confirmation that their worker received it, alleviating the uncertainty of paperwork getting lost in the mail or delayed in getting to the correct worker. Messages and documents can be sent to all assigned staff in one conversation and customers are able to access localized resources related to food, housing, disability services, and much more at their convenience.

WF1 Connect is a one-stop mobile app with a human-centered design that ensures equitable access to all customers, ensuring easy access to services, making it easier to remain in compliance, and achieve economic self-sufficiency.