Learning that problem solving practices can move between industries spurred us to reflect on the kind of problem that homelessness is, and to look broadly for solutions to the accountability and coordination problems at the heart of persistent homelessness. These problems have made all our efforts less powerful and hindered for a generation the dedicated work of organizations serving the homeless.
But we can change that.
The relentless focus on what users need and how they experience services brings people into the process of providing feedback for services where they have not traditionally had a voice. For nonprofit leaders, it creates a place to review their rules, forms, and theories. For example, Marina Nitze, former CTO of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, assembled her colleagues and asked veterans to demonstrate what it’s like to try to access the department’s 62 benefits programs on a computer without high-speed Internet.
Today's technology companies are under pressure from young, idealistic staffers to do good. It's no longer enough to just cut a check and put a company's name on the donor wall at prestigious cultural institutions. At business intelligence software giant Tableau Software, the company has been using its data science powers for good since 2014, when it set up the Tableau Foundation.
Homelessness is a complex problem. We know that to solve it, communities need real-time, person-specific data and a flexible ways of problem solving designed to tackle evolving problems. But in our recent Built for Zero Learning Sessions communities told us that they need even more of something else to get across the finish line: each other.
We’re blown away by what this movement has become. Two years ago, 87 people showed up in Los Angeles, committed to learning with us and from one another in order to end homelessness. Last week, more than 400 people from 60+ communities and our partners gathered in Atlanta for two days of problem solving, planning, and celebrating each other's work.
Collaboration with Community Solutions will accelerate the Built for Zero movement to end homelessness.
In late February, the city of Abilene, Texas, made an announcement: It had ended local veteran homelessness. It was the first community in the state and the ninth in the country to reach that goal, as part of a national program called Built for Zero. Now, through the same program, Abilene is working to end chronic homelessness. While homelessness might often be seen as an intractable problem because of its complexity–or one that costs more to solve than communities can afford–the program is proving that is not the case.