One of the greatest challenges for non-profit services is adapting to the new and varied ways in which the people in your community want and need to access your services. We’re dedicated to helping our clients face those challenges head-on with innovative solutions that help you help your community through the methods that work for them.
One of those solutions is iCarol’s Public Resource Directory (PRD): A feature that takes your iCarol Resource Database and turns it into a public-facing, searchable directory of community services. By taking your internally curated database and placing it online for public access, you’re expanding your reach, helping more people, and accommodating the growing number of individuals who prefer self-service over engaging directly with your specialists.
Late last year we shared with you our plans to refresh the iCarol Public Resource Directory and add some new tools and other enhancements. We’re excited to say that this new version of the PRD has officially launched! When you use this PRD you’ll enjoy:
A built-in Guided Search builder that allows your Resource Specialists to bypass web developers and instead build a guided, graphical search right within the PRD. For more on guided searching, stay tuned to our blog for details on an upcoming webinar on that topic.
Intuitive geographic searching that is easy for your visitors to use. They can simply begin typing in their known geographic location, be it zip/postal code, city, county, or state/province, to produce results that are relevant to their location.
Expanded customization around the look and feel of the PRD using Cascading Style Sheets that allow you to blend the search seamlessly into your website with highly granular control over things like font sizes types and colors, background color, logo integration, and more.
Mobile responsive functionality, delivering a mobile-friendly experience that rivals that of more costly mobile apps and accommodating the many individuals using their mobile phones or other handheld devices as their primary means of accesing the internet.
Relevant search results that improve your clients’ outcomes over what they’d likely experience if they tried to search for helpful resources on their own via a regular internet search engine. When your web visitors search or browse your PRD, they’re benefitting from your expert curation of the resources, reducing their frustration and confusion as they try to address their challenges.
To see some of these benefits in action, check out our video about the Public Resource Directory.
The PRD is available now and we encourage you to contact our Support Team to learn more about the upgrade process. Also stay tuned to our blog for announcements on upcoming webinars that provide further insight on using the PRD.
Each year, February 11th is celebrated as 2-1-1 day throughout North America.
2-1-1 is an easy-to-remember three digit number, but unlike 4-1-1 for directory assistance or 9-1-1 for life-threatening emergencies, the focus of 2-1-1 is to provide people with comprehensive information and referral to various human services in their communities.
Rather than spend hours of frustration going it alone calling around to various agencies or surfing the web, help-seekers can make 2-1-1 their first call for assistance and speak to a trained specialist that can spend time evaluating their needs, educating them about resources, and then connect them with the appropriate services. These 2-1-1 agencies widen their reach by making their services available via chat, texting, and integrating their well-curated database of resources into their website. They also build partnerships with other providers by sharing their resource information and making it available to collaborators in a multitude of ways. Of course, iCarol is delighted to help a large percentages of 2-1-1s across Canada and the United States tap into these tools and innovation to help their communities.
iCarol is proud to be working with so many 211 providers whose organizations provide a vital service to their communities by connecting millions of people to essential services each year. If you work at a 2-1-1 and celebrated this day at your helpline, whether it’s just a small occasion or large outreach event, we want to hear from you! Send your stories and photos to so we can feature them on our blog and share your experiences with our readers and recognize your helpline.
Beginning in 2011, when the United States Senate first recognized Information and Referral Services Day, November 16th was designated to raise public awareness and recognize the critical importance of the I&R field.
Every day thousands of people find the help they need quickly, conveniently and free of charge because of Information and Referral (I&R) services. I&R services come in all shapes and sizes, from crisis lines that provide their local community with a core set of human service referrals, to larger scale 2-1-1 centers and statewide 2-1-1 networks providing comprehensive Information and Referral services to entire states or provinces covering many different topics and types of services.
Information and Referral is the art, science and practice of bringing people and services together and is an integral component of the health and human services sector. People in search of critical services such as shelter, financial assistance, food, jobs, or mental health support often do not know where to begin to get help, or they get overwhelmed trying to find what they need. I&R services recognize that when people in need are more easily connected to the services that will help them, thanks to knowledgeable I&R professionals, it reduces frustration and ensures that people reach the proper services quickly and efficiently.
The people who work these lines are consummate professionals who are often times like living, breathing encyclopedias; providing answers to questions ranging from, “Where can I get a free meal for my family” to “There’s a horse running loose in my neighborhood, who do I call?” We at iCarol are really honored to have so many Information and Referral services all across the world use our software to help provide these services to people who reach them via phone, chat, or text.
If you’d like to learn more about what iCarol does to support efficient referral management so you can better connect your clients with resources, check out this page of our website that goes over some of those features. You can also click here to read all of our blogs relevant to I&R and 2-1-1 helplines.
Happy I & R Day, everyone, and kudos on the awesome work you do connecting people with the services they need!
Next week, members of the iCarol team will head to the Texas AIRS (TAIRS) conference in Lubbock, Texas.
You may recall we announced last year that we were chosen to be the software provider for the Texas Information and Referral Network’s 2-1-1 program. Since that time we’ve enjoyed working with the service providers in Texas and remain proud and honored to have been selected by them. When considering the systems using iCarol prior to 2015, then with the addition of Texas last year, followed by several more networks in the year since welcoming Texas, approximately 42% of all 2-1-1 systems in North America now use iCarol.
It’s important to us that we connect with these service providers at events when possible and so we’re excited to be sending our team members Polly and Diana to represent us in Lubbock next week. We’ll be on hand to answer questions, meet and greet members of the Texas area information centers, and take part in sessions and conversations that help us better understand the needs of these centers so we can continue to provide the best service possible.
You can find out more about the conference here or download their mobile app. Be sure to follow us on Twitter to follow along with our activities at the conference.
Resources that are organized and have a hierarchical structure are going to be much easier to navigate, whether you are a Resource Manager looking to make updates, or an I&R Specialist finding referrals for a client. In iCarol we follow the structure put forth by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) called Agency, Program, Site structure. You can read more about this structure here.
The most detailed and complex way of organizing your referral database is to include the ProgramAtSite record in your hierarchy. This record connects exactly one Program to exactly one Site. That is to say, at a particular Site location for an Agency, a Program may be offered at that Site. And details about the way this Program operates at this Site may vary from the way that Program operates at a different Site.
ProgramAtSite records can include detailed, nuanced information about the way this Program operates at this Site. Conversely, a ProgramAtSite record may simply contain only the information that this Program is offered at that Site, and nothing more. When you go into your iCarol system, edit a Program record, and designate which Sites offer this Program, you’re essentially creating ProgramAtSite records.
But sometimes these ProgramAtSite entries that describe a simple link between a Site and the Programs offered there may not be considered true, fully fledged ProgramAtSite records depending on your organization’s policies, and having them treated as such in your helpline software may unintentional skew your results when analyzing the number of records you maintain, the staff hours needed to keep records up-to-date, etc.
In a recent release to iCarol, we created the ability for our users to say whether a ProgramAtSite record is a Link Only, meaning it is not edited or maintained by your resource managers or editors. Link Only ProgramAtSite records cannot be edited and will not contain detailed information about how this Program operates at this Site, just that the Program is offered at the Site.
This feature is currently available to any of our users who employ the ProgramAtSite record level to their resource database. If you’re not yet using an Agency, Program, Site structure in your iCarol resource database, please contact our support team for assistance.
Initial Set Up
First you need to be sure you have ProgramAtSite records turned on for editing, and turn on the Link Only feature. To do this, take the following steps:
Note: If in the future you disable the Link Only ProgramAtSites feature, all existing Link Only records will be automatically converted to standard ProgramAtSite records.
- Log into iCarol as an Admin
- Click on “Admin Tools” from the left menu
- Click on the “Resources” tab
- If not already enabled, click on the checkbox for “Can edit ProgramAtSite records”
- Click on the checkbox for the “Enable LinkOnly ProgramAtSites”
- Click the “Save all settings” button
Creating Link Only Records
Now that you’ve turned on this feature, you can start creating these Link Only records. To do that, take the following steps:
Note: Not selecting the Link Only setting will create a standard ProgramAtSite record by default.
- Click on “Resources” from the left menu
- Find or create a new Agency, Program, and Site record
- From the Program record, select a Site from the “Available sites” list
- Click the “Create ProgramAtSite as a Link Only record. Editing will be restricted” checkbox
- Then click “Add >>”
- Click the “Save” button
Now that you’ve created these records that are Links Only, you may find from time to time that you’ll need to convert them back to being full, editable ProgramAtSite records. Link Only and Standard ProgramAtSites can be converted from one to the other when editing the ProgramAtSite record. When converting from a Standard to Link Only ProgramAtSite all field values on the record will be cleared, and editing of the Link Only record will be restricted.
- From the Edit page of the ProgramAtSite record
- Click on the “Convert to [record type] ProgramAtSite” link above the ProgramAtSite Name field.
- Click “Ok” from the confirmation dialogue window that opens, and the record will automatically convert.
- Click the “Save” button
Impact on Automated Verification
You may be asking, how does this new enhancement impact my Automated Verification requests? Link Only ProgramAtSites will be sent merged with the Program record, even when the Automated Verification Request, Setting #6 “Send verification request to ProgramAtSite contact if one exists, otherwise Program Contacts” is selected. If Standard and Link Only ProgramAtSites exists for a Program, both separate and merged ProgramAtSite records will be sent to verifiers.
Example: Program “Fruit Collection”, is offered at three sites: 5221 60 Street (Standard), Southeast Community Centre (Link Only), and Northeast Family Centre (Link Only). When the AVR request is sent for “Fruit Collection” and setting 6 “Send verification request to ProgramAtSite Contact if one exists…” is selected, the Program verifier receives the Program and both Link Only ProgramAtSite merged, and the Standard ProgramAtSite separately to the verifier listd on the ProgramAtSite record (if available).
Reporting and Other Changes
For a number of reasons you may want to exclude Link Only ProgramAtSite records when running certain reports or other queries inside of iCarol. Here’s a quick breakdown of the areas where you can choose to do that, and ways to otherwise be aware of these records when analyzing your database.
- From the “Manage Resources”, “List all Resources” tool LinkOnly ProgramAtSites can be excluded from the list by clicking “Exclude LinkOnly ProgramAtSites”.
- From the “Statistics”, “Resources” reports LinkOnly ProgramAtSites can be excluded from results by clicking the “Exclude LinkOnly ProgramAtSites.”
- In Resource Exports, LinkOnly ProgramAtSites are flagged as LinkOnly in the “IsLinkOnly” column.
- LinkOnly records can also be excluded from API results
We hope that this new ability to create ProgramAtSite records as Links Only rather than full, standard records will be useful to your agency. Should you have additional questions about this feature, please contact our Support Team.
Searching for the right resource in iCarol is quick and easy, and can be done in two basic ways: either by its name or how it’s categorized. Searching for something by its name is typically most helpful to Resource Managers or other specialists who need to find an exact listing because they want to do a quality check or make changes. When it comes to assisting help seekers, it’s much more fruitful to search for something based on how it’s categorized, that is, the list of keywords or categories assigned to that resource that help describe what types of problems or issues the referral can assist with.
And then, there are two different types of categorizations one can use in iCarol: Categories or the Taxonomy. Each iCarol system will let you build your own hierarchy, as simple or complex as you like, of custom categorizations to assign to your community service provider listings to describe what they do. The Taxonomy is typically used by I&R helplines, 2-1-1′s, or other AIRS accredited information and referral providers, as this is an extremely detailed and complex categorization tree, which AIRS takes the time to maintain to keep everything consistent. This requires additional subscriptions both from AIRS and within iCarol, which you can read more about here.
Many of our users, for a variety of reasons, prefer to use both Categories and the Taxonomy in their iCarol systems. This allows for greater flexibility and other benefits, if requiring some additional time to categorize each resource with the proper terms using both categorization methods.
For these users, we’ve devised a new way that helps you ensure these varying types of categorization are ultimately working together well and producing great search results. Beginning with our next release, slated to occur on Tuesday July 19th, you can link one or more Taxonomy terms to your custom categories. This way, when someone is searching a certain custom category for a help seeker, the system ensures that not only will they be shown resources which have been coded with that category assigned, but also returns results that have been coded with a certain Taxonomy term or series of terms.
This can really speed up the process of collecting appropriate referrals for your caller, eliminating the need to do multiple searches by essentially creating Taxonomy groups. Here’s how to turn this feature on, once available:
- Log in to iCarol as an Admin, or other user who has been granted access to Admin Tools
- Click on “Admin Tools” from the left menu
- Click on the “Resources” tab
- Under the AIRS/211 Taxonomy section, click the checkbox for the setting “In category searches, also look in taxonomy terms linked to the category”
Next, you’ll want to begin linking your Categories to Taxonomy terms. To do that…
- Click on “Resources” from the left menu
- Click on “Manage Resources” to the right of the geographic filters
- Click on “Customize your categories” from under the Taxonomy and categories section
- Click on an existing category to view the Taxonomy terms assigned to this category configuration menu
- Using the same process as assigning a Taxonomy Term to a resource, search for, or drill down to select taxonomy terms to link to the category.
- Once terms are selected, click “Save taxonomy selections below” to add terms to the Category. To delete existing terms from a category, select the term to delete and click “Delete taxonomy selections above”
As shown in the example above, one way you can use this tool to group together similar Taxonomy terms to create Taxonomy groups, which are then linked to a single custom category. In the example above, an I&R Specialist can search for the category of Holiday Meals, and all records that have been assigned any of the singular and specific listed Taxonomy terms (Christmas Meals, Easter Meals, etc.), will be returned in that search. A note that while Resource Managers can create these groupings at any time, this tool will only work and actually return the proper results if the feature is turned on in Admin Tools, as shown in the first set of instructions.
We hope this new feature will help save your specialists time as they’re working with your clients, getting them even more appropriate referrals quickly, and without having to recall as many individual Taxonomy terms as they do so. If you have questions about this new tool that isn’t answered in our Help Articles or this blog, please reach out to our Support Team.
May was a busy month for our team, capped off with a trip to St. Louis for the 38th Annual Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) training and education conference. But before that conference got started, we had an exciting event of our own to host.
For awhile now we’ve been wanting to experiment with holding an in-person training event for our clients; something that would allow us to go beyond the sessions we historically participate in during these conferences which generally must be not vendor specific. We love sharing our broad knowledge with folks at sessions like this, but recognize there’s an opportunity for iCarol-specific education especially given that so many of our clients would be present and, we hoped, interested in spending some time with us.
So late last year we began planning what would become the iCarol Summit, a day-long intensive training event hosted by us and featuring members of our team with extensive knowledge and expertise in Information and Referral (I&R). The Summit was held on Sunday May 22nd to superb turnout by iCarol users all across North America.
Neil welcomed everyone with an opening keynote where he discussed recent iCarol growth, the state of the I&R industry, and trends we’re seeing. A few highlights include:
- The size of our team has doubled in the last 18 months
- The number of users worldwide is solidly above 50,000 and growing
- 1/3 of 211s in North America use iCarol and that number is continuously growing
- 5 of our staff hold CIRS or CRS certifications from AIRS
- iCarol leadership continues to take an active role in discussions about AIRS standards and technology initiatives in the I&R industry
- In 2015 we added over 1,600 enhancements to our product with many more coming before 2016 ends
- There are more ways than ever for our users to enhance their iCarol knowledge, from training webinars and on-demand videos available now, to tailored walk-throughs which are coming soon
- Discovering and trialing iCarol will be made easier with added automation to the onboarding process
The I&R Industry Trends
- AIRS standards continue to evolve
- Big data and data sharing
- Extending reach via mobile, live chat, texting, and social media
- Self-service via the web and apps
From there, our participants headed onward to a day of sessions we developed with our users’ needs in mind. Polly gave a thorough presentation which walked us through bringing together AIRS standards and AIRS resource database quality recommendations using iCarol. She discussed iCarol program metrics and tools and how they can directly improve your ability to meet certain AIRS standards and recommendations. Just one of many examples, the Resource Complexity report, which provides an analysis of your records and how they rate on complexity. The report suggests the number of hours it may take to manage them using the AIRS standards as a guide, therefore giving the tools to determine the number of FTEs needed at your agency to meet these standards. The rest of the presentation covered similar program tools and metrics that directly assist with meetings AIRS standards and thus achieving certification.
Christa led a session on the many ways you can use iCarol to reach your community beyond fielding phone calls — and we’re not just talking about iCarol Messaging (Live Chat and Texting). This session covered tools like the Public Resource Directory, Online Forms, texting or emailing referrals, follow-up texts, the API, and more. In fact, for each of these areas she discussed not just the tool as a whole, but some individual components or settings in each function. The group was exposed and educated on many iCarol features that they had previously not discovered, or didn’t have extensive knowledge of. Crystal held a session on Proving Your Value, covering topics like Needs and Unmet Needs reports, examining your exports, and a peek at new exporting tools coming soon, along with some discussion about Microsoft’s powerful Power BI capability.
These are just a few examples of the highly detailed and helpful breakout sessions we aimed to bring our participants, and we’re so pleased by the attendance and enthusiasm at these presentations.
At the end of our Summit, Rachel presented a traditional usergroup session, which was open not just to Summit attendees but to any interested party who was visiting the conference and wished to learn more about iCarol. In this final session of the day, Rachel touched on some of iCarol’s product initiatives, including planned enhancements we’re currently calling “Messaging 2.0″ and “Public Resource Directory (PRD) 2.0.” Messaging 2.0 will enhance the usability of this feature via a more efficient approach to both the workflox and access to the resource search. These enhancements will also improve your productivity — not only will you be able to find and give visitors their referrals even faster, but the enhancement should result in a quicker response time when working in your forms. Messaging 2.0 will also bring with it increased reliability and fewer opportunities for the already low occurrence of “lost” messages. This enhancement is still being developed and so we cannot commit to a firm release date right now, however at this time we estimate a fall 2016 launch.
The new developments to the iCarol PRD will boost your ability to direct help-seekers to services via the PRD’s embedded resource search on your website. The enhancements will reduce the time it takes to obtain search results, while simultaneously offering greater control over appearance including more integrated tools to build “guided” searches, or customizing CSS or using the API for even greater control. Further, you’ll be able to configure the weighting of search results, set up guided searches, filtering, and more.
Rachel wrapped up our day by speaking to other recently released development, and spoke to a few other planned enhancements for the remainder of 2016.
We thoroughly enjoyed presenting our first ever iCarol Summit, and we truly hope all who attended enjoyed themselves and learned a lot that they can put into practice at their helplines. The feedback we’ve received so far has been extremely positive, and the success of this event has encouraged us to plan future events. We’d appreciate your help in making that happen. Please take a second to answer just a few questions that will help us develop future training events.
Help us plan future events
Next up was the AIRS Conference, and the team had a blast. It’s difficult to sum up so much activity and also express how much fun we had. These events are always a great chance for us to see each other, our clients, industry folks, and meet lots of new friends.
Polly and Crystal hosted an extremely popular session called “Crunching the numbers” where they took the audience through the process of interpreting your data through Excel tools like pivot tables. This workshop was non-vendor specific, meaning the session focused on elements that any helpline with data could find helpful, regardless of the software they use to collect that data. According to Polly, one attendee of the presentation said he was working on his MBA and some of the material covered in the session wasn’t even included in an advanced course on Excel.
We received great feedback about this workshop — Stay tuned as you may see the opportunity to watch either a live or recorded version of this presentation in the future.
As usual, we had a booth set up so we could share information about iCarol to interested parties, as well as having a place to greet our users who came to visit. The exhibitor’s hall was expansive and impressive, located in the lobby area of the historic St. Louis Union Station Hotel. Check us out in the bottom left of the photo.
We kept ourselves tuned in to the trends and discussions impacting the I&R industry. There were a lot of conversations that extended the themes of the keynote from the United Way 2-1-1 CEO convention back in March, which we attended. There are plans to build a national resource data repository for United Way Worldwide, and it appears those plans are progressing and getting more detailed. We’ll be keeping a close watch on this, as it could influence iCarol innovation and development of tools for our users who may want to participate in such a database.
Follow-ups, measuring outcomes, processing and effectively reporting your data, and expanding your reach to help seekers all emerged as hot topics. As we hope you’d expect by now, we’re actively engaged in these conversations and constantly assessing how iCarol can be developed to give you the leverage you need.
Our users are doing some pretty cool stuff using iCarol — notably Kings United Way in California which created the 211 Intelliful app that connects residents of Kings and Tulare Counties in California with the resources available to them. It’s available via the App Store and Google Play, and will give you a good idea of all the amazing things you can do using the iCarol API. We were happy and really impressed with the app they developed and others clearly were, too.
Of course we left time for fun. St. Louis provided lots of opportunities for that. The gang enjoyed a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery
And as is tradition, we also took in a ball game, Cardinals vs. Cubs.
And just like that, it was over! We loved our time in St. Louis and this was a particularly energizing conference in part because of the iCarol Summit and in part because of all the creativity, innovation, and excitement we were exposed to. Don’t forget to give us your input about future in-person trainings by iCarol — we’d love to take you with us on our next adventure!
We’ve previously talked about the many ways in which your community can help you build and refine your resource database. For example, iCarol’s Public Resource Directory allows you to embed your searchable database right on your website and encourages self-service searches for resources, while at the same time allowing your organization to accept feedback about a resource, or receive requests from service providers to verify or correct a record using another useful tool, Automated Verification. Being able to partner with your community at large, and crowd source information this way, can ultimately help you build a robust database that’s going to be super useful, and help even more people.
We just added yet another tool designed to boost your referral database accuracy and comprehensiveness. Users of Automated Verification can send a unique web link via email, in an Automated Verification request, or posted publicly on their website, that allows new organizations to submit their information. Best of all, the resulting information lands in your iCarol system as an Automated Verification response. Review the submission, edit if necessary, and once accepted the new Agency is seamlessly added to your resource database!
You’ll also recall that awhile ago we added the capability for responders of existing resources to add Program or Site records when submitting their Automated Verification request. If this feature is turned on, then those who are sending in these new Agency submissions will also be invited to add Programs or Sites at that same time.
How it works
You must be using the Automated Verification tool in iCarol to enable these new Agency submissions or allow existing Agency representatives to add Programs or Sites. To learn more about Automated Verification, click here. If you’d like to turn on Automated Verification in your iCarol system, contact our support team.
To allow all responders, of both new and existing submissions, to also have the ability to add new Programs or Sites to their Agency, take these steps:
- In the left main menu of iCarol, click on ‘Admin Tools’
- Click the ‘Resources’ tab
- Scroll down to the heading for Automated Verification and check the boxes for “Automated Verification responders can add…” for either or both Programs and Sites
- Be sure to click “Save all settings” at the top of the page
To invite new submissions, first click on ‘Resources’ in left main menu of iCarol. From there:
- Click on the ‘Verify’ radio button
- Click on the ‘Requests’ link
- Just under the area where you’d create and edit your email templates, you’ll find a URL. This URL is unique to your helpline.
This link can be used to encourage agencies to add their information to your system, and can be shared with your community in many ways — Send it in a personal email, or include it in an email template that can be sent within iCarol via Automated Verification. You could also create a button or hyperlink text on your website that sends visitors to this URL inviting them to “Click here to add your organization to our resource database” or other language you see fit.
When someone clicks on this unique URL, they’ll be guided through the process of filling an entry form that’s very similar to the one existing organizations see when they complete a verification request from you. The main difference is that this entry is blank, and grants the user the opportunity to submit all new information about a resource that may not yet be known to you.
If you enabled the addition of Programs and Sites by responders, then once the Agency is added, they’ll be invited to add on that information as well. Similarly, Automated Verification responders who are simply updating their record information as part of a verification request will also be invited to add new Program or Site records when they make their updates.
Once they complete and submit all their information, it arrives directly into your iCarol system alongside other verification responses. You’ll be able to tell the new submissions apart from the rest of the responses — If you look under the ‘New Record’ column, you’ll see that new resources have the word ‘True’ appear here.
From there, the new record continues to behave much like other Automated Verification responses. You’ll need to review the entry and make any necessary edits. Once you save and accept the record, it will be added as a new Agency in your iCarol resource database.
Important note: Once new records are accepted, don’t forget to edit these records to add any necessary custom or Taxonomy categorizations!
We hope you enjoy yet another new way to invite inclusion of new and helpful resources to your database, further increasing your responsiveness as an organization, as well as the reliability of the resource information you provide to those in need. The convenience of adding these new records will mean a more complete collection of services which will ultimately help even more people in your community.
With each of our regular releases to iCarol we include enhancements, new tools, or new features. Our next release, tentatively scheduled to occur later today, includes many items, a few of which we’d like to highlight for you.
Search your Chatboard
The Chatboard is an included feature with any iCarol system and it’s a great way to improve communication at your helpline. Managers and staff can create and moderate forums for discussion, and volunteers and other members can add their thoughts and take part in the conversation. Decide upcoming training dates, debate hot topics, coordinate on-call coverage, and more. The chatboard promotes an ongoing, living dialogue as opposed to circulating printed memos that offer only one-sided information sharing. It also reduces email clutter, taking the place of mass emails and numerous reply all responses landing in your inbox. And all of this communication is enjoyed within the security and protections of iCarol, so sensitive or confidential conversations are limited to only those with access to your system.
Email did have a leg up on the Chatboard in that emails could be searched and filtered in a way our Chatboard didn’t support — until now. With this week’s release you can opt to turn on search functions within your Chatboard that will enable users to search and find posts more quickly — perfect for those of you who use your Chatboard regularly and may have logged dozens or hundreds or posts over time.
Admins can decide whether or not they wish to allow this search function. To turn it on you’ll simply navigate to Admin Tools on your left menu, click the Tools tab, and then take a look under the ‘Communication Features’ heading. There you turn on the Chatboard search function by checking the ‘Enable Chatboard Search’ box. Don’t forget to click the ‘Save all settings’ button found at the top of the page.
And with that, the feature is turned on. When you next navigate to your Chatboard you’ll see a search bar above your list of forums.
Clicking ‘Advanced search’ will pop open more options. Here you can select a time frame to search within, filter by certain forum or by a particular user.
Data Export Queue
Users with an Admin security level, or others granted special permissions, can export data from their iCarol system. This includes, among other things, Shift information, Volunteer and Staff user profiles, Call Report Form data, and Resource data. The export files are in .csv format and can be imported into a number of programs for viewing or analysis, Microsoft Access or Excel, for example. Columns of data can easily be sorted or filtered using the tools of these programs, and users with a more advanced grasp of these programs can further manipulate data via pivot tables or write queries to analyze the data that’s been logged.
Depending upon the amount of data being exported, some extracts are available on demand, while others have to compile in the background and the user will be notified when they’re ready for download. We’re very mindful of the importance of these exports, and balance that knowledge with the need to reduce the performance impact on our web servers and provide a top notch user experience for everyone. Our latest move to do just that is to adjust the queuing process for Resource exports. With this release, databases with 1,000 or more resource records will now be queued and processed systematically rather than being available for immediate download.
For a full list of the enhancements coming with our next release, or to review items included in past releases, check out the ‘Release history and plans’ section of your Admin Dashboard. When reading the information keep in mind that descriptions can sometimes be technical in nature, and some items may not be applicable to your particular iCarol system. If you have questions or concerns, please contact our Support Team.
For many years, leaders in the Information & Referral (I&R) industry have sought to improve the reliability of exchanging the data they curate about social and human service providers in their community, with partners. In any given region or metropolitan region, it is important for these providers to know about other providers so they can provide referrals to their clients for more specialized services. However, with each provider tracking and managing their own such referral database, it adds up to a significant amount of duplicated effort and large discontinuities in data quality amongst the providers.
But what if the providers could agree upon pooling their efforts and sharing the data amongst themselves, either as a loose federation, or with one obvious centralized provider who is willing to share the data with partners? And what if, on a larger scale, they desired a similar type of pooling across their state/province or even country?
Accomplishing this with all providers using the same software system like iCarol can be done fairly expeditiously and we have many such successful examples in our client base today. But in reality, these service providers have quite different operational needs for tracking and serving their clients and hence have a heterogeneous collection of different software systems they use for their daily work.
That’s where an agreed-upon data standard can facilitate the sharing of resource databases amongst partners using different software systems. There are several such standards that are either completed or in development in the industry and iCarol continues to play an active role in their definition and adoption.
One of those emerging standards we’re hearing a lot of active support for in our client base is the Open Referral initiative. Since we want iCarol to continue to be the most innovative provider of I&R software, we are building support for Open Referral’s Human Services Data Specification (HSDS) version 1.0 directly into iCarol. Administrators and Resource Editors can export their referral database to HSDS 1.0’s “comma separated value” format (CSV), as a free add-on to all iCarol systems. This capability is in our upcoming release, scheduled for the week of May 16th, 2016.
This is the first of a number of steps leveraging HSDS with iCarol, and will allow our clients experimenting with the standard in data sharing partnerships, to quickly generate a dataset for distribution as they see fit to trusted third parties.
Later, we expect to provide our clients with a real-time Application Programming Interface (API) supporting an enhanced version of HSDS, so that they can share their resource data with trusted third parties without the need for exporting and transferring files. We will continue to support our existing iCarol API for the future as well.
According to Greg Bloom, the Chief Organizing Officer of the Open Referral initiative, “iCarol is the market leader for call-center software, with clients all around the country and even the world. That’s why this announcement marks a major step toward a future in which all resource information systems can speak a common language.”
Neil McKechnie, the Director of Services for iCarol, adds “We’re excited about the possibilities of sharing data in a standard way amongst our clients and their trusted partners. As an ‘agnostic’ technology platform, we’re enthusiastic about supporting whatever data standards are well-suited for the information our clients are stewarding in iCarol. We’ve been hearing a lot of support for HSDS in recent months from our most innovative clients and are happy to give them this option. And since we have been active contributors to the HSDS’s definition from its earliest days, we started the effort with a high degree of familiarity.”