The Case Management System
Last week we linked to a post from M’lop Tapang about a trip some of our staff made to Sihanoukville. Our CMS team went to deliver six laptop computers, and begin the process of helping the M’lop Tapang Social Workers migrate their work flow to the CIF Case Management System.
Back in December we posted a short note about the beginnings of the Case Management System, and promised an update. Well, this is that update!
What’s a Case Management System?
Unless you’re familiar with similar systems already, you might be wondering what this Case Management System thing is anyway? Without getting too long winded and technical, Case Management is the process that social workers use to keep track of the people they work with.
It’s about remembering the details of people’s lives (a tough thing when you might be working with 20 or 30 people every month) and making sure that we follow up properly. In the past, most agencies have done this with whatever tools were available to them. We kept case-notes on pen and paper, then in Word documents, neither of which are very systematic. Things get forgotten. People can fall through the cracks. The CMS brings everything our social workers need to do into one place. It reminds them of tasks to complete, needs our kids and families have, and reports that are coming due.
For us, it was also really important to make this tool available in Khmer and English side-by-side. A lot of software that people in Cambodia use only works in English, and it’s really hard to do the best social work you can when you’re having to think and work in a second language all the time. So our system is bilingual too. We’ve contracted a local Cambodian software development company called Rotati to build the system according to our specifications.
In developing the CMS, we knew that we weren’t the only NGO in Cambodia who might find it useful. So as part of the process, we thought about how to make the system flexible and customisable in the future. And this was what caught the eye of Save the Children.
Save the Children is one of the main coordinating bodies of the USAID-funded Family Care First Initiative. FCF seeks to advance family-based care for Cambodian kids, moving away from putting kids into institutions. Obviously that was a great fit for CIF! But one of the key things that FCF wanted to achieve was to see more and more organisations using a single, common, Case Management System. And, even more ambitious, perhaps even see some government integration with that system too. As part of FCF, Children in Families was funded to continue development, customisation and roll out of the CMS. We are working to make it available to as many organisations as possible, and to explore whether the Cambodian government could benefit from it too.
So where are we up to?
Well, as you might have guessed from M’lop Tapang’s post last week, things are going pretty well! CIF is still working with Rotati, and that’s been an extremely positive relationship. Rotati have been amazingly good at grasping our Social Work processes, and the needs of other organisations too. They are able to explain the technical realities that we need to understand to make intelligent design decisions. And the system is now looking beautiful and running great!
We’ve consulted with around 20 other NGOs, and 9 of them have requested that the system be rolled out for their social work staff. Another four organisations are making preparations in-house before they adopt the system in the coming months.
All this activity has meant that we’ve attracted further funding from Save the Children’s Hong Kong office, as well as a second grant from Development Innovations. That’s allowed us to make the system even better. It will soon be possible for NGOs to define their own programs and create their own forms for them. It will be possible for them to deep-dive into that data using the system’s powerful search tools, easing the process of reporting to donors. And, just a little further down the road, we’ll be adding a mobile app. Social Workers will be able to use the system on a smart phone. The app will even work where there is no internet, so staff can effectively follow up clients in remote villages. And for organisations who don’t have enough computers to run the system, but see the advantages of taking it on, we can now purchase some hardware to support them, like we did for M’lop Tapang.
Supporting the Government
But what about the government-support that we mentioned before? How’s that going? Well, we’ve had some really exciting and encouraging conversations with the Child Welfare Department in the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth. MOSVY staff have looked at the system and are very supportive of it. They have even agreed to allow CIF to integrate government-required documentation into the system. Users will be able to generate pre-filled pdf versions of government forms, saving social workers what has previously been hours in double handling of information. We’re even in preliminary talks to run a pilot with MOSVY, and we hope to create a separate instance of the CMS for their use in some key Districts. If that project succeeds, the CMS could become the backbone of the first nation-wide child protection system for Cambodia. We’re taking it one step at a time, but we’re certainly very, very excited about that!
Well, we’re still in the middle of things a bit, and we’ve mentioned a couple of the key features already. But there are a couple of other things we have our eye on as they come over the horizon. The first is branding. While “Case Management System” is very descriptive, it’s not exactly snappy and original. We’re trying to think of some good alternatives.
The second is international interest. We already have a handful of NGOs in other parts of the world expressing an interest in the system. We hope to roll out to our first international partner (located in Lesotho!) later this month.
Lastly, we’re thinking about sustainability: right now this is all donor funded, which is great for those organisations receiving a free case management system! But in the longer term, we need to find a way to keep it available and accessible, to pay server and maintenance fees, and to employ the staff necessary to keep it all going. We have a few ideas on how to do that while still keeping costs as low as possible for everyone, but it’s early days for that, so watch this space…
Really that’s most of the story so far. It’s all pretty busy, and very cool – especially for something that sounds as dry as a “Case Management System”. We’re looking forward to where this goes next, and we’ll keep you up to date. Thanks again for your ongoing support of all the work that CIF does, even the parts that sound a little dry. It all goes toward making Cambodia a stronger, safer, more supportive place for the country’s children, and helping them grow up in the best way they can.