When science meets social welfare

When science meets social welfare


[Music plays] (Gina Beschorner) it’s ground
breaking research. Partnering scientists
with government I think opens up new opportunities
and new insights. (Cecile Paris) It’s very
exciting to see that we’re actually having an impact on
people because of the technology. (Paul Cowan) It’s heralding a new way
of working for the department. (Narrator) Harnessing
the power of science to improve service delivery
to millions of Australians. That’s the aim of a $16 million
five year research alliance between the Department of
Human Services and CSIRO. (Paul Cowan) What’s exciting
about it is a licence to explore rather than just our traditional role of delivering
predetermined policies and programs. (Michael Kearney) When you’re
doing something complicated like human services there
are lots of opinions about what will work
and what won’t work, what’s better and what’s worse. What CSIRO brings as a science
organisation into the alliance is the collection of what
we call robust evidence, so rather than having an opinion we
go out and we make some measurements, we do an analysis and we say, well from the information
we’ve collected we think this approach will be
better than that approach. (Paul Cowan) We are actively
through this alliance looking at gaining insights
from the community, from citizens in the community
about how they want to deal with us and what they would like
to do when they do deal with us. (Narrator) The alliance is
already producing results. Vizie is a tool to monitor
what customers are saying about the department
in social media. (Cecile Paris) It essentially
adds some smarts to the process
trying to understand what are people talking about, grouping them into clusters, organising them into
the appropriate discussions so everything
gets grouped together to then make it easier
for somebody to look at what is happening out
there on social media. (Amanda Dennett) We find issues
that we were never aware of before. We’re more efficient as a result
because the tool that we built together allows us to respond more
quickly and archive those responses. (Narrator) The pilot for Vizie has proved so successful it’s
been adopted by other agencies. And for the
department’s customers it means they get the right
information when they need it. (Amanda Dennett)
People have said that they’re really surprised that the government would
respond to their question, that they felt reassured that they received official
government information in online forums where often
it’s just peoples’ opinions or experiences that
are being shared. And we’ve also received votes for best answer
on Yahoo! Answers and there’s a bit of competition
in our team to get best answer. And what we try to do is just
take complex information and respond to people
in a meaningful way so that they don’t
assess themselves out of support that they
could be entitled to. (Narrator) The alliance
is also helping customers through a special
online community, Next Step, for parents required to move from
one Centrelink payment to another. (Gina Beschorner)The community
is a tailored space that’s been made just for them, so we did focus group testing before
we created the community with parents and we asked them what
they’d need from us, and a lot of the parents said that
they don’t get enough information from government when they
need to do this transition. (Cecile Paris) We’re looking at how do online communities work? How do people get
involved in it? How can we design mechanisms to
encourage people to interact and to share their experience,
to support each other, to be active in the community so
that the community has more life. (Gina Beschorner) I think a
benefit to the department is that we’re helping customers get
better outcomes for themselves, so by putting that bit of
extra effort in early, to give them the
information they need they can then make the right
decisions for themselves. I think that makes
them then less reliant on our department
on the long term. (Narrator) CSIRO
is also measuring how trusting these
customers are. Unique research with far
reaching implications. (Cecile Paris) The
hypothesis is the more trust we put in the community
among each other and to community provider, the more benefit they will get out of
it ‘cause they more they will share, the more they will interact. So we are searching the science
looking at mechanism to raise that social trust and
ways to start measuring it, and that is also I think
quite important because it might also increase
the trust that a citizen might have with
respect to government, government services and how the
government is trying to support them. (Narrator) There are about
25 CSIRO scientists working on projects as diverse
as identifying the pathways people take through different
social security services and methods to detect patterns
in social worker demand. Other alliance projects are providing
an evidence based understanding of investment decisions
and business processes. (Paul Cowan) The alliance
provides us with a great opportunity to
gain access to some really first rate thinking
that’s going on in CSIRO. (Amanda Dennett) It has
given the department a five year period in which
to really focus on research to support our customers, and to find efficiencies in
the way that we do things. (Gina Beschorner) We’re
measuring things that have never done been
before in government. (Michael Kearney) The
alliance has the potential to have very big
effects on the way human services are
delivered in Australia. [Music plays]

Daniel Yohans

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