Catalyst Grant Program Insights How a Local Nonprofit Created a Case-Management Application to Better Serve Its Community
Alice Galley, Tunde Onitiri, Retha Onitiri
Display Date

Salvation and Social Justice’s Trenton Restorative Street Team working on their Restorative Justice Violence Interruption App (RJVIA)

When looking to increase their impact, direct service nonprofits that promote racial equity in communities with considerable criminal legal system involvement can be thwarted before they begin. The most effective models for lowering risk factors for violence are resource intensive. For instance, research supports a wraparound service model, a system of care that delivers an array of treatment services to people involved in multiple systems. But for smaller organizations, this can be too labor intensive and can leave them wondering how they can implement these evidence-based, personalized approaches with what they have.

Salvation and Social Justice (SandSJ), a nonpartisan Black faith–rooted organization in Trenton, New Jersey, and Microsoft Catalyst Grant Program grantee, works with people most impacted by a variety of harmful policies to move historically marginalized Trenton residents toward antiracist liberation. SandSJ took the wraparound approach and envisioned a way to not only connect residents to community services but also prevent violence and promote intervention programming in the community. SandSJ recognized that centrally organizing client data for practitioner use would increase the likelihood of long-term success for clients and the organization. To bolster these efforts, SandSJ focused its grant project on streamlining the case-management process and building a custom case-management application. Prioritizing responsivity to on-the-ground challenges, SandSJ turned to its staff and community members to design this data and technology infrastructure and set priorities for continually improving it.

The Goal and the Community-Based Development Process

Using its statewide network and active partnerships, SandSJ engaged people impacted by the criminal legal system to reimagine the organization’s support infrastructure. To actualize stakeholders’ input, SandSJ developed an application with a restorative justice focus. As a customized case- and relationship-management system, this app strengthens the work SandSJ’s teams already do. By creatively using the sales / customer engagement side of a tool designed for customer relationship management, SandSJ captures community members’ contact information and uses case-management workflows to assign follow-up tasks to the teams that are directly involved with community intervention.

SandSJ’s Trenton Restorative Street Team engaged with community members and service providers, including through peace circles; community events; public safety roundtables with service providers, law enforcement stakeholders, community residents, and elected officials; conflict resolution discussions; and youth programming. These interactions enabled SandSJ to holistically understand the local service and diversion landscape and infuse community voices into all parts of the application design and development process.

In addition to this community feedback, SandSJ leveraged data from several other sources to develop a restorative justice violence interruption app, including police hot spot reports, community hospital reports, attorney general and county prosecutor’s office advisories and alerts, caseload data, and mobile data collected across the Restorative Justice Hub (a network of nonprofit organizations in the Trenton community assembled and guided by SandSJ).

Through these community engagement activities, SandSJ was able to collect a variety of ideas and shape its goals through the lens of the community. It learned the new case-management application would need to include the following functions:

  • equip each case worker with access to clients’ histories to determine which wraparound services would provide the best support
  • streamline SandSJ’s service model and expand its capacity to track internal metrics, which would optimize SandSJ’s efficiency and, in turn, enable it to serve clients more holistically
  • enable SandSJ case workers to collect and report data while in the field
  • allow SandSJ to visualize and manage field representatives, create cases, manage case progression, and distribute services, all in a centralized location
  • provide tools to support staff when interrupting violence in communities and diverting people from system contact

The Restorative Justice Violence Interruption App

This process resulted in the Restorative Justice Violence Interruption App (RJVIA), a cloud-based application that uses customer relationship management components and dashboards that support on-the-ground staff with their daily violence prevention and intervention activities. The RJVIA continuously imports data from schools, hospitals, and prosecutors' offices and analyzes and accessibly displays them. It then uses the built-in reporting and dashboarding features to provide reports to staff directly.

The RJVIA helps staff identify and connect residents to wraparound services such as mental health support, youth mentoring, parenting classes, financial literacy seminars, and homeownership workshops. It also enables staff to track clinical sessions with clients and make referrals to external services when needed. To improve administrative functioning, the app enables users to create custom dashboards and report outputs and case assignment workflows. The app not only ensures SandSJ follows best practices in service provision but makes entering data (and maintaining data privacy) easier and more efficient and facilitates relationship building between SandSJ, other providers, and their clients.

With the acquired external data, the RJVIA helps staff conduct preliminary analyses calculating point-in-time statistics, examining disparities by race or geography, and interpreting indicator trends to understand how best to use organizational resources. With its data visualization aspects, the app helps SandSJ pilot online tools, automate fact sheets, and design data-focused education materials. Performance management data metrics help the Street Team measure and evaluate indicators of community safety, such as the numbers of gun incidents or homicides. Using the app for program operations, monitoring, and performance management opens the door for improving and streamlining data management, analyzing program data, increasing the organizational capacity to address racial and ethnic disparities, and developing collaborative data practices with similar organizations for maximum benefit. Ultimately, these data help SandSJ make informed decisions, improve operational efficiency, and gain valuable insights into the holistic safety of its community.

With the app, SandSJ’s Street Team is better equipped to help clients avoid contact with law enforcement, divert clients and community members from incarceration, and interrupt violence in communities. The RJVIA enables the Street Team, whether in the field or office, to document activities seamlessly through a secured application, connect clients to services as quickly as possible, and report data concisely and comprehensively.

From development to execution, Salvation and Social Justice learned how to enhance its operational efficiency with technology, directly increasing how much it can achieve with its limited resources. By conducting a comprehensive nonprofit technology assessment with the help of the people most impacted by the issue, SandSJ staff developed skills in planning for current and future needs and in prioritizing time, budget, workforce, and programming and recommend that other organizations looking to increase capacity do the same.

Looking forward, SandSJ is committed to additional phases of this work, including expanding the user base and adding more features, such as a walkie-talkie plug-in that connects team members in the field with each other and the central office in real time. It also plans to license the application to other similar or connected organizations, providing more people the opportunity to benefit from this customizable organizing and reporting tool.

Read more about how Catalyst grantees used funding to improve internal operations, data collection, and evaluation efforts here.

The Catalyst Grant Program is a collaboration between the Urban Institute and the Microsoft Justice Reform Initiative to help nonprofit organizations use data and technology to advance racial equity and reform in the criminal legal system. Visit the Catalyst Grant Program Insights page for more resources and stories about the grantees.

Research Areas Crime, justice, and safety Nonprofits and philanthropy
Tags Community data use Community engagement Community public safety investment Community-based care Data and technology capacity of nonprofits Nonprofit data and statistics
Policy Centers Justice Policy Center
Research Methods Participatory research
States New Jersey
Cities Trenton-Princeton, NJ