One Degree empowers people to build a path out of poverty for themselves and their communities. In most cases, this path includes several different resources, across a variety of categories. 66 percent of individuals need more than one type of resource and 28 percent need 5 or more. This is why our work is both necessary and unique: We support low-income individuals by enabling them to find and use the full range of resources they need to help them in a moment of crisis or to improve their lives.
Our Theory of Change: How One Degree Works
We believe that by helping people find and utilize resources that can help them, they have the potential to address acute needs and, eventually, achieve social and economic mobility. This is our theory of change. Most low-income individuals need more than one service or program to meet their basic needs, and have to spend hours every week researching, contacting, and traveling to multiple agencies to get the services they require.
For example, for those who are food insecure, CalFresh (commonly known as food stamps) is an important source of cash to pay for food, but the reality is that in the San Francisco Bay Area, 62 percent of food insecure individuals are not eligible for CalFresh. As a result, they have to navigate to various other organizations just to feed their families: Food pantries, delivery programs like Meals on Wheels, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and free school and summer meals all play vital roles, even for those who are receiving CalFresh benefits, but especially for those that are not eligible.
The federal WIC program, serving pregnant women, new mothers, and their infants, provides access to cash-equivalent vouchers that can be used to purchase healthy foods. However, on average across the country, nearly half of mothers and infants who are eligible do not participate.
Low-income families spend on average $300 more per month for food during summer months than during the school year. That means that even if, in the ideal case, a family is enrolled in both CalFresh and WIC benefits, they would still on average be more than $100 short in paying for food each month. The free, no-enrollment Summer Food Service Program can help to close this gap by providing a place for kids to go during summer months to get meals during the day. 85 percent of those enrolled in the free or reduced School Lunch Program during the school year do not participate in summer meal programs. In fact, only 40 percent of low-income families even know about the summer meal program at all. That’s where One Degree comes in: we connect families with local and immediate assistance nearby.
And that’s just for food. This patchwork of programs is mirrored in areas like employment, housing, child care, education, and health care.
The path to empowering individual One Degree members to address their needs takes the following steps:
1. Identify Needs
Individuals join One Degree because they are looking to address basic, complex, acute and/or long-term needs. Using our desktop and mobile website or our mobile apps, One Degree members tell us they have particular resource needs by either using our screening tools, taking action that indicates what they need, or by communicating with us directly.
2. Find and Access Resources
Members either find resources on their own through our technology products or with the help of a human One Degree navigator one-on-one (by instant message, email, SMS/text message, or phone). We then provide specific next steps and, in some cases, the means to directly access the resources or enroll in the programs.
3. Utilize Resources
Members report back to us whether or not they have used or enrolled in the benefits, programs, services, or other resources that they have found through One Degree.
Diverse Needs: No One-Size-Fits-All
Through field research and our own analysis of One Degree member data, we see that most individuals are looking for more than one resource to help meet their basic or complex needs. In an average month, we find that members need resources in 4.4 different categories. 66 percent of people need help in more than one resource category (e.g. food, housing, employment, legal, and taxes, etc.), and 28 percent need help in 5 or more. (Learn more about our analysis in this report.)
Diversity of Resource Needs
The diffuse and fractious nature of the social safety net – where individuals need to cobble together benefits and services from a variety of sources – is not suited to meet the scale of the problem facing the more than 40 million Americans who live in poverty. The safety net is not organized to help people who experience hardships in more than one category at the same time.
There are hundreds – or, in some cases, thousands – of nonprofit organizations and government agencies in many communities that mostly focus on meeting only one specific category of need at a time. For example, a San Francisco mother with a child might be best served by WIC SF for food, emergency shelter from A Safe Place, and prenatal care from the Women’s Community Clinic. To find each of those resources, she has to navigate the landscape of hundreds of organizations and providers to figure out which can or cannot meet her needs. This means she’d have to research multiple agency websites, review online PDFs, read paper pamphlets, or even visit or call each office.
This challenge is what One Degree helps to solve: we are the one place available anytime and anywhere to meet a diversity of specific needs.
ANywhere, Anytime: The One Degree Platform
A disorganized and complicated safety net of social services presents a particularly harsh obstacle to low-income individuals who need services the most. We build technology in partnership with the communities we serve to make sure it’s as easy as possible to turn to One Degree for help.
Our free platform makes thousands of resources accessible anytime on any computer, phone, or tablet, using our website, iOS app, Android app, or text message (SMS) service. Individuals can easily access the resources in our database, whenever they need them, no matter where they are, or what device they are using. One Degree also provides a guided search interface for those who need additional support to get started. For those who need extra help finding resources beyond our technology tools, we also provide human support through web-based instant messaging, email, and a comprehensive Help Center (FAQs).
Our powerful features make it simple for individuals or families to find, save, manage, and keep track of the services they are using. Our database is comprehensive, regularly updated, and highly specific, enabling individuals to find actionable information about how to get help across a wide range of specific categories.
Learn more about our impact, our community, and hear what our members are saying about their experience with One Degree and how it changed their life. You can also learn about our approach to social service data here.
One Degree Member Stories
Read and listen to just some of the thousands of members who have been able to improve their lives through One Degree. Browse all the stories here.