The safety and well-being of many human services clients depends on their receiving the right services at the right time, with appropriate quality. To effectively help clients, service providers have had to wade through documents, procedures, and regulations that have obstructed their ability to deliver those services. For years, HSC has been working with our members and government to streamline the contracting and procurement process. We are pleased that the Deputy Mayor’s Office for Health and Human Services has synthesized many of the solutions HSC has been advocating for into HHS Accelerator, a system designed to standardize City procurement into an online, paperless process. This is a win for the sector and our clients; hours spent on documentation are hours taken away from providing services.
In the coming weeks, representatives from HHS Accelerator will be reaching out to organizations, asking them to create an account and start the online application. To get started, have a senior member of your team register for training at www.nyc.gov/hhsaccelerator.
Over five years ago, HSC and the City partnered to find ways to make the business relationship between nonprofit human service providers and City agencies more efficient. This resulted in a standard human services contract which reduced administrative burdens for both nonprofits and City agencies, as well as created contract terms tailored to the needs of human services programs. Other aspects of the contracting relationship that were inefficient, including requests for documents multiple times and redundant questions in Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are now being streamlined through HHS Accelerator.
HHS Accelerator will allow providers to upload core documents in a Data Vault that they can then share with City agencies as well as other organizations and funders. Providers have expressed frustration for years over sending duplicate documents to agencies, only to have to resend missing or lost documents via fax, mail, or by walking them to the agency to make sure they are received. This is not only an administrative headache and inefficient, but also slows down having an RFP reviewed or a contract registered. Providing a central, electronic location for these documents eliminates the need to send documents to multiple agencies and will allow agency staff and nonprofits to better track what documents have been received and ensure they are updated.
HHS Accelerator also includes an Online Application, which will allow providers to submit documents outside the procurement cycle, which can be refreshed and reused over time, rather than re-submitted for each new procurement opportunity. Nonprofits will be able to submit the bulk of procurement documents up front, before bidding on an RFP. This is a huge improvement over the current process, where providers have to submit the same documents and answer the same questions for each RFP. Beyond eliminating redundancies, allowing providers to submit and certify certain documents and questions one time for approval means that when competing for an RFP they can focus on the scope of work instead of tracking down documents, and are not knocked out of the process over an administrative issue.
The HHS Accelerator Team has engaged the nonprofit sector throughout this process, involving HSC members in focus groups, informational sessions, and always asking for and incorporating feedback from providers on what is needed in the system and how it works. Through HSC’s Business Solutions Workgroup, meetings with HSC Board and members, the Design Working Group – which HSC participated in – and numerous meetings with providers of various sizes, providers were asked what documents should be included in the Data Vault, what questions should be asked – and how they should be phrased – in the online application, and user-tested the online system.
HSC and some of our members have tested the system, and the online application and data vault are modern, intuitive, easy to use, and more advanced than most systems used by various levels of government. While the transition to this system will require a dedication of time and resources from the sector, in future years, HHS Accelerator is poised to greatly reduce the burden and headaches that accompany the RFP and contracting processes. Providers will need to be trained to use the new system, will require continued technical support, and smaller providers without access to technology will need to be provided a space to access the system and upload documents. The HHS Accelerator Team has created a website with user guides, training information, and has space available for nonprofits that require assistance.
Beyond a new technology system, HHS Accelerator is breaking down silos that have long plagued the contracting system; centralizing functions and documents and beginning to revamp the RFP process so that it is more efficient, but more importantly, so that more providers can compete. The online application will make it easier for providers to compete for new RFPs in other agencies, and the service catalogue will allow qualified providers to see and compete for RFPs they may not have considered in the past.
HSC encourages organizations to sign up now at the Accelerator website and attend a training soon.
Contributed by Michelle Jackson of the Human Services Council.