The backbone of our 211 Navigation service is a comprehensive and integrated provincial resources database. It contains information about programs and the agencies delivering them, including eligibility criteria, hours of operation, transportation and accessibility, and intake processes. All 211 Data adheres to North American AIRS standards, allowing for easy integration across different systems and platforms.
211 Ontario’s six Regional Service Providers and many data partners across the province collect and maintain high quality and standardized data about the types of community and social services (Resource Data) in their regions, and feed the data into an integrated provincial data repository.
211 maintains detailed up-to-date information on about 60,000 community, social, health and governments services for Ontario residents. These programs and services can be provided by the Federal, Provincial, Municipal, charitable, non-profit and businesses that operate in the human services sector.
For example, Ample Labs, a non-profit tech company, is using 211 Resource Data to provide information to the homeless on social services around them through a chatbot called Chalmers. This app helps Toronto’s homeless people find the closest free meal service, clothing bank or drop-in program.
Prosper Canada, St. Michael’s Hospital Academic Family Health Clinic, Flemingdon Health Centre, and Inner City Family Health Team have partnered on to create an online Benefits Screening Tool (BST) for health practitioners to help boost a patient’s income by screening their eligibility for government benefits. Together the partners will develop, implement and evaluate this online benefits screening and intervention tool which will be more effective and easier to integrate across the health-care system then current paper-based models. Based on the needs identified during the online screening process, this innovative tool utilizes the 211Ontario API to provide BST clients with ‘next-step’ referrals to local community services. The BST is currently in a “pilot” phase and not yet available to the public.
Feed Ontario and Link2Feed
Feed Ontario (formerly Ontario Association of Food Banks) expanded the reach and capabilities of their 1,200 member food banks and hunger relief organizations, by making 211’s directory of community resources available within the Link2Feed system, so that food bank staff and volunteers can more effectively refer clients to other services. Link2 Feed and Feed Ontario are piloting this new referral method that use the Open Referral standard to receive resource data from Ontario 211.
Ontario residents contact 211 by phone, chat, text or email, or search the website to find programs and services that can help. In 2018/2019, 211 answered close to 300,000 calls, chats and emails from residents across the province.
211’s Regional Service Providers who answer our helpline record the individual service needs and unmet needs (Contact Data) and a few demographic details of callers/chat users where possible. This data, which does not identify individuals, can be shared with other service providers and decision-makers to inform community investment and social policy.
This is information collected by 211 Community Resources Specialists about those who contact 211 for assistance. It covers what services 211 provided referrals to and high-level demographics when possible to capture.
For more information on the 211 Contact Data, see our Dictionary of Terms.
How Rural Ontario Institute Used 211 Contact Data
The Analyzing 211 Rural Unmet Needs study provided program developers and policy makers in the provincial, municipal and non-profit sector with an analysis of 211 data to provide a perspective on how the data might be leveraged to support the delivery of community programs and services, especially in the rural context. ROI and 211 Ontario retained Dillon Consulting to assist with this undertaking. With guidance from the project management team and with input from a project advisory committee, Dillon utilized a suite of GIS tools and a process of exploratory data analysis that allowed for iterative views of the data and the exploration of a series of research questions and a testing of a variety of hypotheses. For example, data was used to analyze patterns in unmet needs – with an emphasis on rural unmet needs. Mapped 211 geography data (in contact data) to census subdivisions and also used an index of remoteness.