Play: Improve request for proposals (RFPs) to deliver human-centered services

In this play:

This play was written by Alluma, one of the partners in the Social Tech Collaborative.

Social services agencies may be quickly working to put new technology products in place so that they can continue to serve their clients during shelter in place directives. This play is intended to guide agencies on what to ask for in request for proposals (RFP) to ensure that, despite this urgency, agencies still receive high-quality products that meet both agency and client needs.

Every procurement situation is unique. Agencies have different needs and will be seeking a variety of products. Government agencies in particular may have more budgetary constraints and be subject to certain procurement requirements too. Therefore agencies should only use the recommendations below that make sense for their situation.

We welcome and encourage agencies to copy language from this play and alter it as needed for their RFPs.

Best practices for this play

Include specifications to ensure the product is user-friendly. Ideas on what to ask for:

  • The product is friendly and inviting. What this can look like:
    • Welcoming and/or personalizes the process
    • Addresses needs of different participants
    • Culturally sensitive and affirming of different identities
  • The product is easy to use. Ideas for describing this:
    • Clean and simple design
    • Help content, pop-up features, FAQs, definitions/glossary, and/or tool tips
    • Explanations to cue or guide user as to what is coming next and why
  • The product has functionality that makes it more convenient for the user, such as:
    • Ability to save and complete tasks later
    • Ability to print or save summaries of completed tasks for their own records
    • Ability to download content and complete tasks offline
  • The product is accessible to all users. What this looks like:
    • Content and functionality comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 requirements
    • The product is accessible to users with different levels of technology access:
      • Does not use large amount of mobile device data
      • Displays well on a mobile browser
    • The product is accessible to those who use languages other than English:
      • Tool is automatically available in English and Spanish
      • Tool is offered in other languages
      • Tool allows agency to translate content into other languages
  • The vendor uses human centered design methodologies. What this can look like:
    • Vendor considers user experience in design decisions
    • Vendor has performed user testing with participants/families
    • Vendor is willing to perform user testing

Include specifications to ensure the vendor and its product respect the user. Ideas for describing this:

  • Product provides users opt-in or opt-out text messaging services
  • Product clearly communicates users’ privacy protections
  • Vendor has safeguards in place to protect participants’ data

Include specifications that will make the product work better for the agency and staff. Ideas on what to ask for:

  • Product is interoperable with:
    • Agency’s current information management system
    • Information systems of related services/programs
  • Staff can:
    • Pull data into easy-to-read and easy-to-share reports
    • Edit content easily
    • Seamlessly work across digital devices
  • Product collects data analytics. Ideas on what to collect:
    • Frequency of tool use
    • Length of user sessions
    • Features and functionalities that users visit most and least

Include specifications that ensure the vendor will keep the agency informed on how ongoing maintenance and future changes will happen. Ideas on what to ask for:

  • Initial costs include ongoing updates and maintenance (and if not, additional costs are specified)
  • Vendor can provide a clear schedule for updates and/or maintenance
  • Vendor will accept input from agency to help inform updates and/or desired new functionality


Related categories

Procurement Human centered design Accessibility


We encourage feedback, comments, and contributions to the Social Tech Playbook. Do you have experience with this play that you can share with your colleagues in the social services sector? We’d love to hear from you.

How to provide feedback