Friday, January 28, 2011

The Information Gap

I witnessed an interesting exchange while waiting for my three nieces at the dentist's office this morning. A woman was waiting for her kids and she went up to the counter and asked the receptionist if she had programs for people without insurance.

"What do you need done?" asked the receptionist.
"I have a tooth that needs pulled, it cracked." the woman responded.
"Well, an exam is $195 dollars."
"OK. Is that the price of pulling the tooth?"
"No, that's just for the exam. To get your tooth pulled it's $495 dollars."
"Oh, okay. Well hopefully I'll get my tax check soon and get this tooth taken care of."

I couldn't help but eavesdrop on this conversation, and I double-checked a site in Austin run by an organization called Manos de Christo. They run a dental clinic in East Austin that helps those that are uninsured to get work done. I looked up the site, found the phone number and wrote it on the back of my card and as the receptionist was looking away, told her to give them a call. They can help. She proceed to call them up, spoke for a minute or two, wrote something down.

Maybe she won't have to live in pain until she gets her tax return check after all. If you know of someone in need who's suffering from pain from a broken tooth, refer them here:

Manos de Christo Dental Clinic

The Manos de Cristo Dental Clinic is currently the only low-fee, full-service dental clinic in Austin. Check them out, and if you're so inclined, they have a donate page. Treat someone to a smile. Or volunteer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Information Design, Information Design

People's time is important. And in this day and age there's a lot of information out there. You can slice it and dice it in so many ways-often to the point where a person is so confused they just give up. Unfortunately in Human Services, that's exactly what happens.

Tonight I found a nice resource, free on the internet, that's written for advocates: Visualising Information for Advocates. Check it out.

Sometimes we can say so much with a picture, a drawing or maybe it's what we don't write that's important. We could have the world's best intentions, but if we cannot communicate what is necessary in the limited amount of time (or space) people have in this busy life we won't be nearly as effective as we could. For an interesting read, check out this piece published by America's Second Harvest.

"If you are a non-citizen applying for Medi-Cal and you are not (a) LPR (an alien who is a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.), (b) an amnesty alien with a valid and current I-688, or (c) PRUCOL (an alien permanently residing in the U.S., under the color of law), please do not fill in the shaded box for 'Birthplace'."


Information design is bigger than important. If this pamphlet piques your interest, then you're going to love Edward Tufte. Don't even get me started, I have too much programming to do.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fear of Missing Deadlines is a Luxury

>>code:

q2.question = "How's the pantry looking?"
q2.answer_type = "radio"
q2.choices = ["She's bare", "It's been fuller, it's been thinner", "Stocked up"]
q2.follow_up = "no"
q2.program_tag_key_list = ["a", "b", "c"]
q2.program_tag_value_list = ["food_insecure", "food_at_risk", "none"]
q2.put()

In moments of stress around deadlines, it's good to take some time to think about the big picture.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Neil Pasricha: The 3 A's of awesome | Video on TED.com

Neil Pasricha: The 3 A's of awesome | Video on TED.com

I've been plugging away writing code this morning and finally finished a milestone. Hungry, and no food in the kitchen (desperately need to go to HEB), I took a short drive over to the Bouldin Creek Cafe for a delicious summer sammich. It was the perfect break, really.

Lately, I haven't been spending enough time taking breaks and giving my brain a chance to recharge - so I brought my book and some blank sheets of paper. While I waited for my sammich, I jotted down my to-do list, ordered each item and estimated how many hours it would take to complete what I was working on. I came up with 24 hours of "serious" work, which means no distractions like Facebook or TV. In actuality, based on my experience over these last six months, 24 hours of "serious work," usually means 96 hours of sitting in front of a computer.

Before I was to get started on my 24-hour programming marathon, I checked out TED.com and watched this incredibly touching video by Neil Pasricha, author of 1000 Awesome Things blog. In his discussion, pay close attention to his last last point: 100 years.




As for me, I feel fortunate to be a part of of a cause. And I plan to enjoy it. Whatever it takes to get through my to-do list, whether it's 24 or 96 hours, hearing great speeches, learning new things, eating summer sammiches in January and thinking about the faces of the people we just might be able to help is a rewarding way to spend a small part of that 100 years. That's my awesome thing today.



Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Potential is Everywhere

This story is a great reminder that you never can tell just how much potential someone has until you get to know them. Aunt Bertha hopes she can help people discover more gems like Ted Williams.

UPDATE: Go here to read the story and watch an interview with Ted.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Waiting for Superman

If you want to be inspired and learn about the education system in the United States, check out Waiting for Superman. Pay particular attention to a man named Geoffrey Canada. There's someone who's making a real difference in the world. 


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Melinda French Gates: What nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola | Video on TED.com

Melinda French Gates: What nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola | Video on TED.com

In a fascinating discussion, Melinda Gates poignantly points out the importance of showing how human services can be marketed to those in need. She also discusses the importance in using real analytical data to realize our mission statements.

We couldn't agree more. That's why we're utilizing advanced reporting and business intelligence to make sure we recommend the very best programs to people looking for help.