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Localizing 211: Expanding Community Outreach & Engagement

Building upon the work we do today, 211info is expanding our impact as we deepen partnerships and seek to create a more collaborative social services provider network across Oregon and Southwest Washington.

For 20 years, 211info has connected countless individuals with vital services like housing and shelter, utility assistance, food and meals, health care, and other household and community support – all programs and services that are locally available when someone may need extra help from their community. 

In the wake of the transformative challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, 211info is evolving outreach and engagement efforts to help ensure all communities are aware of how to use the 211 system, and that community partners also have a central hub for support. 211info recognizes that true help is when everyone works together as a community to show people where to turn in times of need.

“People can think of it somewhat like 211info version 2.0,” said Outreach Director, Nickie Carter. “We still offer all the same access to resources and data reporting, but in addition, we’ve expanded our outreach team and are putting additional efforts not only into increasing awareness, but also moving toward finding ways to better support our partner organizations across the entire region.”

211info team members live and work across Oregon and Southwest Washington, directly supporting partnerships and the community in their respective regions. “They’re experts in their local regions because they also live there,” said Carter, a Redmond, Oregon resident. 

Moving forward, 211info won’t just be connecting people to resources, but also connecting resources to each other. We want to foster connections between providers, empower them to learn from each other, and create a support network that stretches across Oregon and Southwest Washington, while considering each community’s very differing needs. 211info knows it’s not a one-size-fits-all service model, which is why the goal is to localize the 211 service in each region. 

As 211info begins planning for upcoming outreach events and getting out into the community to spread awareness and help keep our database up-to-date with current information, we are also being more present and intentional in our local communities by bringing service providers together.

How will outreach and engagement efforts look different in 2024 and beyond?

211info Hosted Community Service Roundtables: In 2023, 211info began hosting regional gatherings for service providers to collaborate, network, share best practices, and work together to identify solutions tailored to each community’s unique needs. And as 211info doesn’t provide direct services, we’re not in competition with providers for grants or other funding.

At these gatherings, 211info is there to help bridge gaps by exploring successful strategies from other regions, discussing challenges, identifying potential statewide services to fill regional gaps, and actively planning for improved connections between similar initiatives to help stretch services farther.

211info kicked off the first round of these roundtable gatherings last autumn and heard great feedback from partner organizations who attended. “What we heard is that the community wants us to show up. They’re supportive of a collaborative forum, and they appreciate the in-person aspect because it’s good networking for long-term success,” said Carter.

In 2024, 211info will host at least two roundtables annually in each region. Spring meetings will focus on planning for upcoming community events and seasonal programs, and fall meetings focus on holiday programming and severe weather resource planning.

Images: Meg Kalmbach, Community Engagement Coordinator for The Columbia Gorge at Hood River Holiday Roundtable; Nickie Carter, Director of Outreach at Lane County Holiday Roundtable. November 2023.

“We learned a lot during COVID, and one big thing we realized is that we are uniquely positioned to coordinate people and resources to help best distribute services,” said Carter. “We also learned that our technology-connected world means better access, transparency, and documentation of where the real needs are. We have the data to help bridge the gaps we’re seeing.”

Data-Driven Action: Although 211info may be hosting, these gatherings aren’t about 211info, and people aren’t in the room to hear about our capabilities. We’re there to listen to the needs of partner organizations, implement new ideas into our scope of work, and help formulate how our contact data can best help service providers in the room.

The 211info database contains over 2,500 community-based organizations, offering more than 25,000 programs, and gives real-time insights into the service needs across all of Oregon and Southwest Washington. The data can be targeted by zip code, demographics, and call volumes. 211info uses this data to inform roundtable discussions in finding creative solutions to help each community get the specialized support it needs and deserves.

Why 211info?

With a wealth of data from callers, extensive partnerships with local social service and health care agencies, and the data to help identify service gaps, 211info is uniquely positioned to lead this collaborative effort. We’re transitioning from a reactive behind-the-scenes approach to a more collaborative and community-centric role. We’re looking to help build a stronger social safety net, especially for those tucked away in smaller communities.

As a neutral party, 211info seeks to become the go-to resource for both community members in need, and for service providers seeking support. By expanding our reach and bringing people together, we can figure out how to help the most people in the most efficient and supportive ways, in turn creating regional community networks for collaboration and mutual support.

Get involved!

Our ask is simple: Get involved! Ask us how the 211 system can support your efforts. As we move forward, expect to see 211info more present in your communities. We invite everyone to join us on this collaborative journey and tell us how we should show up in your community. What does your community need? And how can we help? Our collective efforts can create positive change and build stronger, more resilient communities for all.