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Streamlining the longest assistance application in America

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Project Re:form delivered the first human-centered application for public benefits in America. It streamlines access to the five largest assistance programs, such as food and healthcare, for 2.5 million residents across Michigan. The new application is 80% shorter and can be processed in nearly half the time. It rolled out statewide in 2018.



Unlocking access to Michigan’s most critical services

Civilla has a strong track record of designing streamlined government services that work better for everyone.

In partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Civilla launched Project Re:form in 2015 to design a faster, simpler and more humane application for public assistance programs like food and healthcare in the State of Michigan.

Known as the DHS-1171, the previous application was the longest of its kind in America at over 40 pages – a formidable barrier for over 2.5 million residents each year.



Keeping user voices at the center all the way through

  • Research: Through months of qualitative research, the Civilla team spent hundreds of hours at kitchen tables, in living rooms, and in MDHHS offices to develop a deep understanding of the experiences of residents and caseworkers.

  • Design: Rooted in these insights, Civilla partnered with MDHHS to redesign the application from the perspective of residents and caseworkers, rather than policy requirements and business process only.

  • Implementation: After launching a pilot in two offices to measure the impact of the new application, Civilla reimagined the strategy for statewide implementation – training over 5000 field staff across 100+ offices, aligning hundreds of stakeholders across the state, and securing the required federal approvals.

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A more compassionate and more efficient service

After an intensive user-centered redesign that spanned almost two years, the process resulted in a beautiful, streamlined application that was 80% shorter and could be processed in nearly half the time.

The new application rolled out statewide in January 2018. It has measurably reduced the State’s operational burden while improving the service for millions of residents.



The first of its kind

Project Re:Form delivered the first human-centered application of its kind in the nation.

The work was recently recognized by Harvard University as one of the Top Innovations in American Government in 2018. It received two Core 77 Design Awards in 2019 and a Gold Award in Design for Society by International Design Awards (IDA).

The cost savings [of our work with Civilla] is an added benefit…this is about coming together as a department to do the right thing in how we serve people
— Director of Communications, MDHHS

This is some of the best work I’ve done in my 35 years of public service
— Director of Field Operations, MDHHS