002 - Executive Summary

The thing about a domino is that it can knock down another. And if we can knock down a domino that is in the service of a public good, then that seems like a really worthy project

the story

This is the second episode of One Billion. In the show, we start to develop the Executive Summary for an idea that doesn't quite exist yet. We bring you into Project Re:form - an initiative that was launched by Civilla last Fall to improve access to public benefits in Michigan. 

In the State of Michigan there are over 2.6 million residents that seek public benefits each year - yet over $1 Billion of public benefit is left unclaimed. There are many barriers that prevent residents from achieving assistance, one of which is the long and complex application (DHS-1171). The DHS-1171 application is the longest form of its kind in the United States:


This is only one step in a much larger journey. Once an applicant turns that form into the office, this is what happens:


There must be a better way.

Episode 2 documents how a small team operating out of a storage closet brought this challenge to the attention of the State's leadership team and initiated action. The State recognized this as a major opportunity for change, and came to the table as an active and engaged partner in the project. Together, the community team & State worked to lift up the stories of residents & caseworkers in order to re-imagine the face of public benefits in Michigan.

The final prototype that emerged was an application that is centered squarely around the needs of residents & caseworkers, while still meeting federal requirements. On the front end - it offers a 90% reduction in length and begins to facilitate a meaningful relationship between applicants & their caseworkers. On the back-end - it offers an estimated cost savings of $40 million annually for MDHHS.

We believe that the work initiated in Michigan has the potential to impact public service delivery organizations across the USA. This episode walks you into our goals for the 100&Change grant - which are to create a clear path to accessing critical assistance programs for residents across the country, humanize that path to ensure residents are empowered to access the supports they need, and to simplify currently complex processes so that the DHS staff and customers can work together in creating positive social impact.

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community team

This project was put into the world by a group of committed individuals from across Detroit, the USA, and the world.  There were tens and tens of people who contributed to the work, including but not limited to:

  • Mike Brennan
  • Lena Selzer
  • Latina Denson
  • James Paek
  • Claire Jenks
  • Jonty Olliff-Cooper
  • Kacha Azema
  • Alissa Kline
  • Rachel Williams
  • Marisol Dorantes
  • Seth Archambault
  • Janice Cho
  • Gaby Dorantes
  • Ephraim Clark
  • Anna Thoreau
  • Michelle Merriweather
  • Oakland Family Services
  • Tim Becker
  • Terrence Beurer
  • Phillip Bergquist
  • Jeff Cook & the incredible staff at the Hamtramck DHHS office

Huge love and thanks to all those to lent their passion, talent, and time to making the project go.

relevant links


Adam Selzer recorded, edited, and mixed the episode. He also wrote & recorded the music. He also recorded & edited the videos.  

Lena Selzer got the show notes up & running.