Publications

    BenePhilly, City of Philadelphia: Innovations in American Government Award Case Study

    Betsy Gardner, January 2022 

    The American social safety net exists to meet needs for: unemployment assistance, supplemental money for food, help with health care costs and medical expenses, and more. However, the process of signing up for these services is often time-consuming, confusing, repetitive, and frustrating.

    To address these challenges, the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Benefits Data Trust (BDT) developed BenePhilly, in partnership with the City of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Departments of Aging and Human Services, to inform people of their eligibility for benefits and assist them in quickly and efficiently enrolling. This paper is a case study of the BenePhilly program and will serve as a guide to replicate its success. By using proven, data-driven methods, the program connects high-need, eligible individuals with up to 19 different benefits, all while reducing overall poverty, providing a better application experience, and increasing trust in local government.

    BenePhilly is a network of government agencies, nonprofits, and community-based organizations connecting Philadelphians to benefits through targeted, data-driven outreach, referrals from a network of organizations, and in-person and telephone application assistance. The trained staff at both BDT and the nonprofit organizations embedded in the communities they serve help individuals easily find and enroll in benefits. According to BDT’s Chief Strategy Officer Pauline Abernathy, BenePhilly has helped more than 125,000 Philadelphia residents secure over $1.6 billion in benefits as of January 2021.

    Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, July 2020 

    Dr. Josh Sharfstein, Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provided a briefing of critical public health information on COVID-19 within the United States and guidance on how to safely reopen schools. Juliette Kayyem, the Senior Belfer Lecturer in International Security at the Kennedy School, addressed mayors on strategies for effective communication in the midst of a complex and evolving crisis, contradictory or unreliable information, and a constantly shifting operational environment. The session was moderated by Harvard Business School Professor Rawi Abdelal, the faculty co-chair of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.