One Degree’s Plan to Become a Nationwide Public Utility

What would it look like if we built a public utility for social services?

Public utilities give us the pipes so that we can easily drink water. One Degree wants to build the infrastructure so that people can easily access social services. It’s not enough for people to just get information about the services, we actually want to see people access them, benefit from them, and ultimately improve their lives.

Imagine searching for a critical service, like domestic violence support, and within minutes being connected to an organization in your community that can help. That’s where One Degree’s vision started.

Now imagine a world where families can apply for food stamps just as easily as it is for us to purchase a book on Amazon. Right now, the application for food stamps is dozens of pages long and takes hours to complete. It doesn’t need to be this hard to make sure families get food.

And once you apply for food stamps, what if you could then click one button and apply for childcare subsidies, affordable housing properties, and healthcare? We want to make this onerous process as simple as finding and buying a book on Amazon, where you don’t have to keep re-entering your information every time you buy a book.

And just like you can keep track of the books you have bought on Amazon, in our future system, you can keep track of all of the services you have applied to and utilized, and you get a visual understanding of how your life has improved over time.

This is just the beginning. There are so many other problems with information and access that we have barely begun to work on. And the beauty of building infrastructure — and not just a product — is that we don’t have to duplicate that infrastructure over and over again and we can use it to create more solutions that help people access the resources they need.

Developing One Degree’s Long-Term Goal: Public Utility for Social Services

At One Degree we’re thinking big about what we can do to make advancements for our most vulnerable neighbors. We have the potential to scale to meet the size of the problem by leveraging technology. How many other nonprofit organizations have the potential and capacity to actually reach the millions of people in need throughout the country?

The rapid adoption of internet usage among low-income and at-risk populations has created an opportunity to radically transform the way we address social needs for millions of people. While One Degree has been leading the way on designing and serving products for a technology-enabled low-income population, we realized that we needed to do more than just build great products. We didn’t want to just be a product company, we wanted to create systems change throughout the country.

With that realization, we solidified our long-term goal: to be a nationwide public utility for social services. We want to create the one place to access social services for anyone, anywhere, and, as a result, impact millions of people across the country. This means that we are building the infrastructural layer that enables people to easily access services and policymakers and funders to make data-driven decisions about services in their communities.

With this long-term goal as the anchoring guide toward our mission, we developed a strategic plan for the next phase of the organization. It’s our blueprint for scaling our impact, developing a sustainable revenue stream, and creating a nationwide public utility that is borne from a deep partnership with communities.

Special thanks to Tipping Point Community and McKinsey & Co. for being our partners in thinking big about revolutionizing our social safety net and working with us on our new strategic plan.

Read and download the entire strategic plan at: 1degree.org/strategicplan.