How 211’s data-sharing is transforming social services in Canada

New insights with data and information

Why It Matters

Most people know 211 as a 24-hour phone line available in 150 languages to help users navigate the complex network of human services — but the data this service collects are used for so much more. Find out how this data makes a lasting impact at a community level. This is the first story in our series on Innovative Local Impact, crafted in partnership with United Way Centraide Canada.

February 11th marks international 211 day. The free, confidential information and referral service now known across the country began as an idea within Community Information Toronto, says Allyson Hewitt, the former Executive Director. It quickly became a cross-sectoral effort, with the United Way coming on board, along with telecommunication firms, anonymous donors, and the CRTC, which gave the organization the green light for the phone line.

“Everybody owned a piece of that pie, everybody knew their role was critical, and everybody knew they couldn’t do it on their own,” says Hewitt of the collaborative approach, which also involved the federal, provincial, and municipal governments. 

Community Information Toronto made one of its first data-sharing agreements with the City of Toronto — an “unusual” decision as the City did not have a data sharing service,

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