Abstract: Utilizing Cloud-Based Storage Tools to Empower Victim Advocates (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Utilizing Cloud-Based Storage Tools to Empower Victim Advocates

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Kwynn Gonzalez-Pons, MPH, PhD Candidate, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Megan Lindsay Brown, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Jill Messing, MSW, PhD, Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Hamza Rafique, MPH, Community Research Specialist, Arizona State University, Phoenix
Background: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many offices have closed their physical locations, pivoting to provide support in a virtual format. Victim Advocates have been inundated with emails both updating them on changes to their workplace and providing them with resources for their clients. Unable to keep up with the constant emails, advocates became frustrated by losing resources in email threads. In order to organize the chaos, a Google Drive folder was created to house these resources. This Google Drive account is updated daily with new resources as the situation around COVID-19 develops and organizations continue to adapt. Advocates are given a weekly briefing about any changes to the Drive as well as an overview of newly added resources.

Purpose: The present study served two purposes: to identify what resources are being surfaced for clients during the COVID-19 pandemic and to determine the impact that organizing said resources in a shared Google Drive folder has for advocates.

Methods: A content analysis of the Drive’s contents was conducted to determine what types of information was being communicated to advocates for clients. The first independent coder organized all messages into 13 categories relevant for agency staff; and the second coder identified two themes within the categories.

Findings: The first theme was that First, was information was being provided that was intended to be distributed to clients by advocates. These resources included COVID-19 & Health Information, tangible goods such as food and housing, materials for child and family support, unemployment, and immigration. The second predominate theme included agency updates, grant resources, and other resources available within the broader organization. Content was not static, but rather evolved along with the pandemic. In the beginning, the majority of the content being shared revolved around explaining COVID-19 and changes to business operations. Resources for food assistance, specifically information on school districts that are offering meals for children, were of particular interest. However, following the introduction of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, resources shifted to focus more on financial and housing assistance. Advocates queried about the Drive account indicated the organizational method had a positive impact both on their work and their morale. Advocates were able to locate resources specific to client’s needs in an efficient manner. Advocates were also able to share the Drive account with their clients, providing them with updated information and empowering them to exercise control over their own needs.

Conclusion and Implications: Organizational technology, such as cloud-based storage like Google Drive, is making dissemination of resources to clients in need an efficient process, thereby alleviating stress on advocates. Further, advocates also report a sense of confidence when delivering requested information and resources. Though this process was borne out of a pandemic, the processes and methods implemented by the advocates should be maintained once operations return to normal. The shared cloud-based account can become a working tool between client and advocate, allowing each to provide input, identify pressing needs, and connect clients to resources faster.