Derek Coursen

Blog: Human Service Informatics

Journal Articles

An Ecosystems Approach to Human Service Database Design

Derek Coursen

Journal of Technology in Human Services 24:1 (2006)

Early client-tracking databases were strongly influenced by the structure of previous paper-based systems. More recently, there has been evolution toward databases that attempt to represent the interconnectedness of people in the human service environment. No consensus on best practices, however, has yet emerged. This paper presents a systems analysis technique and a data model based on one of the theoretical foundations of current social work practice: the ecosystems perspective. This approach facilitates a range of knowledge management and performance measurement capabilities that have so far been uncommon in client-tracking systems.

Modeling Participant Flows in Human Service Programs

Derek Coursen & Bill Ferns

Journal of Technology in Human Services 22:4 (2004)

Participants flow into, through, and out of human service programs in complex ways: into a program’s screening process and out again without receiving services (ineligibility); from one internal state of receiving services to another (advances and setbacks); and out of and back into the program (repeating). Drawing on the traditions of the information systems field, we propose a methodology for defining and graphically modeling participant flows. The methodology, Status-Transition-Cycle (STC) mapping, assists in systems analysis and simultaneously suggests a data model convention for client-tracking systems.

Newsletter Articles

Facing the Flexibility Problem in Human Service Information Systems

Derek Coursen

Data Administration Newsletter (April 2013)

This article provides five practical steps that technology leaders at human services agencies can take to ensure that the systems they deploy will meet the challenge of flexibility.

A Taxonomy of Barriers to Producing Performance Indicators on Human Service Programs

Derek Coursen

Data Administration Newsletter (September 2012)

Human service programs are under pressure to measure their performance, but they face a variety of practical obstacles to producing the numbers they seek. The taxonomy presented here is designed to help stakeholders understand and overcome these barriers.

Why Clarity and Holism Matter for Managing Human Service Information
(And How the Sector Can Achieve Them)

Derek Coursen

Data Administration Newsletter (April 2012)

The human service sector’s chronic weakness in managing information is partly the result of loosely defined and myopically framed concepts that lay a poor foundation for designing information systems. The problem can be solved within software development projects by modeling the domain with stakeholders in a constructively critical spirit as the first stage of eliciting requirements. This approach can unexpectedly clarify and expand stakeholders’ understanding of their work. It can produce powerfully reformulated human service concepts that point toward strong domain models for the sector.

A Route to Streamlined Performance Reporting and Stronger Information Systems:
Nonprofit Human Service Agencies and the National Information Exchange Model

Derek Coursen

Data Administration Newsletter (October 2011)

The National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) is beginning to facilitate advanced data integration among public human service agencies. It is not too early for nonprofit human service providers to consider what the NIEM might offer them as well.

A Framework for Logical Data Models in Courts

Derek Coursen & James E. McMillan

Data Administration Newsletter (December 2010)

Success in implementing a court automation system depends on developing a high-quality logical data model. Certain patterns regarding representation of data on actors in the judicial process, cases, component matters (charges and civil claims), and events and tasks are generically applicable to any court situation. These patterns offer a framework for software development teams and non-technical stakeholders to communicate more effectively about the implications of key data modeling decisions in courts.

Data Resources for Community Analysis

Derek Coursen

Ethnic Materials and Information Exchange Bulletin 13:4 (Summer 1996)

Institutional Reports

Prosecution and Racial Justice: Using Data to Advance Fairness in Criminal Prosecution

Wayne McKenzie, Don Stemen & Derek Coursen

Vera Institute of Justice (March 2009)

The Prosecution and Racial Justice Program (PRJ) at the Vera Institute of Justice works with district attorneys and their staffs to collect and analyze data that can identify inappropriate racial disparities in prosecutorial decision making and guide corrective action when necessary. This report discusses PRJ’s methods and identifies lessons learned from its government partners in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin; Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), North Carolina; and San Diego County, California.

Widening the Lens: A Panoramic View of Juvenile Justice in New York State

Derek Coursen, Sara Mogulescu, Annie Salsich & Arnold Son

New York State Task Force on Juvenile Justice Indicators (2007)

In 2005, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services established a task force to develop statewide juvenile justice indicators that could support local and state planning. This report from that task force, presenting the state’s first-ever set of multi-agency indicators, identifies and calculates key data in five central areas of the juvenile justice system, from arrest through disposition. Section I describes each of the five system areas, provides a synopsis of the indicators for each area, and highlights some initial observations revealed by 2004 data. Section II presents statewide aggregate juvenile justice indicators. Section III provides local-level data for each of New York’s 62 counties.

Conference Presentations

Managing Performance Through Contract Reimbursement: Challenges of a Participative and Rapidly Evolving Programmatic Environment

Rachel Miller & Derek Coursen

5th Annual Public Performance Measurement and Reporting Conference, Trenton, NJ (September 2012)

Modeling Participant Flows as a Basis for Decision Support in Human Service Programs

Derek Coursen & Bill Ferns

Tenth Americas Conference on Information Systems, New York, NY (August 2004)

In the human services, participants flow into, through and out of programs. The complete set of flows, if described accurately and measured precisely, is valuable for understanding a program both qualitatively and quantitatively. The complexity of these flows, however, is an obstacle to program assessment and to the development of decision support tools. Drawing on the traditions of the information systems field, we present a methodology for defining and graphically modeling participant flows. The methodology, Status-Transition-Cycle (STC) mapping, suggests a common approach for information systems design, program planning, knowledge transfer and statistical reporting. In this paper, we focus on how STC mapping can aid the design and implementation of decision support capabilities for a human services program, and we provide a case example of its use.