In 2014, three former Code for America fellows embarked on a one-year skunk works journey to use technology to improve the enrollment process for California’s SNAP (food stamp) program, CalFresh, to increase the number of residents receiving benefits in San Francisco. The case describes a user-centered approach to identifying bottlenecks within the CalFresh enrollment process and the low cost, fast solution proposed—and built—by the group. The case asks students to consider the opportunities, challenges and risks created by information technology in the public sector and whether taking a user-centered approach to policy implementation can improve social service delivery.
The case is designed to facilitate a live, in-class discussion of a user-centered approach to social service policy implementation. Students consider the barriers to focusing on the user experience and in doing so, examine the implications for public policy. A key case question: can taking a user-centered approach drive better policy implementation? The case reveals the inherent challenges in trying to separate policy development from policy implementation.