Jay takes a look at new technology used by A2Dominion.
At HACT we encourage housing providers to take advantage of the opportunities presented by new technologies and while talking about ‘digital transformation’ is very much on trend in housing at the moment there are relatively few examples of housing providers who have begun to deliver services that truly utilise the potential of the new ways in which resident and service users access information.
So we were excited to learn about A2Dominion’s DOSH (Debts, Overdrafts, Savings Help) programme. The DOSH programme is funded by the Money Advice Service and is designed to provide information and support around financial matters to A2Dominion’s residents including budgeting skills and mentoring.
The DOSH programme, that has been running since 2014, has alongside directly supporting residents, developed a significant amount of knowledge on the types of support and mentoring, that lead to effective outcomes including the type and format of information and the methods of delivery that are most likely to lead to successful outcomes. DOSH’s behavioural insights and evaluation make the programme a robust example of outcomes driven community investment and tenancy sustainment. But where things really get interesting is their expansion of the programme mediated through technology.
Most housing providers have already or are in the process of delivering their core services through an app or responsive website and while this is a worthwhile if not now expected technology, it only really functions to digitalise access to an existing service. Where the DOSH programme’s app is different is in its ambition to bring the service-mentoring, into the place where people are most likely to interact with it, an intimate, always available space - instant chat.
AskDavid is the DOSH programme’s app which delivers both money savings tips and advice in a feed plus direct access to the DOSH programme mentors through a chat interface similar to WhatsApp.
Those of you who have been following developments over at the HACT Launchpad will know that chat is going to be a big part of technology in housing over the coming years. Instant chat is an informal method many of us use all the time to communicate with friends and family and increasingly use it to find information communicate with colleagues and companies. AskDavid jumps right into the chat space by delivering their mentoring service when residents need it in a familiar always on context. The AskDavid app also allows the service to be proactive in providing support. AskDavid doesn't need a resident to come in to provide advice and offer help, the app can deliver notifications with money saving tips or offer support with paying outstanding christmas debt.
Using a chat interface has allowed A2Dominion to expand its service user base beyond those who can make it into the office for 121 mentoring to those who need support to fit in to their already busy lives. In addition the app has allowed A2Dominion to expand the service to non-resident users. Through the efficiency of delivering the service electronically there is additional capacity to help more people and at a time when more than ever it is recognised that community investment should not end half way down streets but serve entire communities the technology facilitates opening the service and benefits to whole community regardless of tenure type or who their landlord might be.
Where can AskDavid and the DOSH programme go next?
Right now chat in AskDavid connects you live to a member of the DOSH team but in time a chatbot could enable even more people to use the service. The conversations and support offered can be analysed and mapped so successful interactions are identified. This data can be used to create a chatbot that can answer many of the simple and common queries automatically. Where more complex or emotionally indepth support is required the bot can hand off to a human. Bringing automation into the service could enable the service to serve many more users increasing its impact and improving communities across the country.
Using the service now
A2dominion and the DOSH service’s funders Money Advice Service are eager for as many users as possible to benefit from the advice and support on offer. The app can be downloaded now on Android devices from Google Play and housing providers are encouraged to use it as part of their financial inclusion and support services.