The Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) delivers public assistance to more than one million Missouri residents annually. Each benefit program has a different application, resulting in a combined 63 pages of application forms and case backlogs. Beneficiaries and caseworkers are overwhelmed by the complicated and confusing nature of this process.
In 2019, Missouri partnered with Civilla to implement a human-centered redesign of the benefits application process. The team conducted extensive field research throughout the state to identify logistical bottlenecks and better understand the needs of beneficiaries and agency staff. This process included more than 250 hours of interviews with benefits recipients and agency staff as well as a statewide staff survey of 1,000 staff members.
The team discovered that participants found the process to be unclear and dehumanizing. At the same time, agency staff felt disconnected from benefits recipients and from other frontline staff. Case workers were also frustrated by the outdated technology they used. Civilla used the results of their research to develop recommendations for the redesign and to prototype tools to address those recommendations.
Project Outcomes and Impact
DSS and Civilla will introduce an integrated application form for all public assistance programs, standardized interview guides, a simplified eligibility verification process, clearer communication, and new technology to handle casework. The team created an implementation roadmap for these updates, which are expected to reduce errors, application time, call volume, and wait times.
Missouri and Civilla invested time and energy towards conducting thorough research to clarify challenges, understand beneficiary and staff needs, and identify areas for improvement. This information helped the team create more impactful and effective solutions to achieve project goals.