Skip to content

Appendix D: Encouraging change with the Data and Innovation Fund

From April through June 2022, ODI worked with City Innovate to begin Data and Innovation Fund (DIF) projects. City Innovate was also a partner in the launch of the Technology Modernization Fund. ODI used City Innovate’s software platform to manage DIF applications and their consulting services on the administrative components of the program.

ODI also signed a contract with Bloom Works to add capacity to take on more projects. Bloom Works is a woman-owned, public interest technology company. Bloom Works project management, research, and design teams helped ODI run the discovery sprints of cohort one of the DIF.

These contracts are a vehicle for ODI to conduct research about how the state can better serve California.

ODI made significant progress on DIF projects in the second half of 2022.

ODI also began coordinating with the California Council on Science & Technology (CCST) to convene experts for innovation roundtables. These sessions will focus on how ODI can be part of solving current and future challenges Californians will face. ODI expects that our work with CCST will generate DIF projects. ODI and CCST expect to hold the first innovation roundtable in early 2023.

State human resources modernization initiative

In collaboration with the Department of Human Resources (CalHR) and the State Personnel Board, ODI led a 3-month research and discovery effort focused on understanding the recruiting and hiring challenges facing the state. Over these three months, ODI:

  • Documented the regulations and policies governing HR
  • Documented how departments implement HR governance
  • Developed 12 department specific, as well as a high-level, map illustrating the recruiting and hiring process
  • Identified over 60 pain points experienced by departments in the recruiting and hiring process
  • Developed a project roadmap to guide implementation of research recommendations

Working in collaboration with CalHR, ODI will kick off implementation of the initial project work plan in January 2023. ODI will focus on improving the staff and candidate experience and fulfilling Executive Order N-16-22 mandate to design, develop, test, and maintain an anonymous hiring system.

As part of this work, ODI will also partner with the Office of the Governor to improve the recruitment and hiring of governor appointees. This work will integrate the exempt hiring process into the larger HR modernization effort and deliver an improved appointee experience and applicant tracking system for the GO.

Benefits identifier

Working in collaboration with the Employment Development Department (EDD) and the California Department of Social Services, ODI modeled a scalable and easily replicable approach to bridge available benefits to potential claimants. People applying for unemployment insurance (UI) got a link to apply for CalFresh, which provides food assistance benefits for Californians. Using data and analytics, ODI identified a high-visibility location on UIOnline (the UI claimant web site), which every UI claimant must log into every two weeks.

Using clear and engaging language, such as the specific dollar amount applicants could be eligible for, the cross-enrollment connection was successful. Traffic and actions were measured end-to-end: from pageview, to click, to application submission, to approval of benefits. This allowed for real-time monitoring, identification of potential risks, and iteration.

The proof of concept directly increased the number of CalFresh applicants by about 130,000 by the end of June 2021. This connection (paired with additional links placed elsewhere on the EDD website) led to more than 200,000 successful new CalFresh applications.

This work led directly to the DIF benefits identifier, a project ODI that began in FY 2021-22. In April 2022, ODI began a full pilot project to create a more efficient and effective way to connect Californians with benefits. ODI’s goal is to shorten Californian’s journey from awareness of benefits to access.

Just as e-commerce sites provide suggestions based on what customers view, ODI researched how to suggest other assistance programs to people already applying for a benefit. This strategy brings the information to people instead of expecting them to know all the benefit programs and where to apply.

ODI created a plan to harness the substantial traffic of to direct people to benefits potentially relevant to them. To illustrate:

  • On their lowest day in 2022, domains got over 2.2 million page views.
  • On their highest day in 2022, domains got over 9.4 million page views.

ODI finalized the design of the benefits identifier in the second half of 2022. ODI tested the identifier over brief time periods to establish volume baselines. This ensures that county-level agencies can handle new applications coming from the identifier.

ODI plans to expand the placement of and benefits featured in the identifier in 2023.

Department of Toxic Substances Control public comment

In April 2022, ODI began a pilot with the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to increase public comments.

ODI performed user research to understand the needs of communities near cleanup projects. ODI also researched if a mobile app would meet DTSC’s needs. ODI spoke with departments with mobile apps to learn about their experiences.

ODI redesigned DTSC’s Community Update. This is one of DTSC’s main ways to inform people about projects. ODI explored how content design and visual design could make public comment easier.

DTSC and ODI will test the new Community Update in FY 2022-23. ODI will also explore if digital channels can increase public comment. ODI will focus on increasing participation from environmental justice communities.

In November 2022, ODI and DTSC launched mobile-friendly prototype webpages for cleanup projects. These pages were promoted through geotargeted Facebook ads. These campaigns tested the value of digital advertising in increasing public comment.

The second phase of the pilot will begin in January 2023. In this phase, ODI and DTSC will:

  • Mail the redesigned Community Update to Californians near a cleanup site
  • Refine the prototype page
  • Refine digital advertising strategies

After the second phase, ODI will recommend program changes DTSC can make to increase public comment.

California Victims Compensation Board: reaching and helping victims of crime

As part of the 2022-23 state budget, the California Victims Compensation Board (CalVCB) received $3 million for a three-year media outreach campaign to reach eligible crime victims, especially in underserved communities. To be effective in these efforts, CalVCB needs detailed data to ensure the media campaign reaches the right audiences, with the right tools and messaging, and that the media campaign’s impact is measurable. The goal is to get every eligible survivor to apply for compensation.

With ODI’s partnership, CalVCB is working to ensure it reimburses as many victims as possible within eligibility requirements. ODI and CalVCB is directly engaging with survivors, advocates, and local victims’ services to understand lived experiences. Our goal is understand users’ experience with the CalVCB process, including challenges and opportunities related to awareness, access, process, application, and technology that affect the uptake rate. ODI has interviewed a number of stakeholders to better understand their experience.

CalWORKs discovery sprint

California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) provides cash aid and services to eligible families that have a child or children in the home. ODI partnered with the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) to find out how we might help eligible families enroll in the CalWORKs program. The goal was to get people in and help them stay in until they achieve self-sufficiency.

ODI interviewed stakeholders from CDSS, county offices that process applications, community- based organizations that support applicants, and recent applicants. ODI discovered several high-impact service innovations that could improve CalWORKs. ODI is currently summarizing the findings and recommendations on ways CDSS could minimize administrative hurdles for applicants and county staff and maximize overall program value.

Office of Emergency Services human-centered design

ODI held a kickoff meeting for this project in October 2022. The project’s tentative start date is February 1 at the Office of Emergency Services’ (CalOES) request. This project will model how CalOES can use human-centered design to better serve Californians during emergencies.