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C. Provider Directory

A completed Mapping Study often triggers another major initiative; the creation of a Provider Directory. As resources have already been invested in capturing provider background and contact details an obvious next step is to utilize this information for the benefit of others. Of course, the Provider Directory need not begin life as a Mapping Study; it could simply be an initiative that is both needed and desired. Some key questions that would suggest this initiative is of interest include: What providers exist within the area? What services are being offered on an ongoing basis? Who are the key contacts within our providers?

A Provider Directory can take a number of formats, most notably a printed document and/or an online directory. The latter has become a favoured format over the last few years with the proliferation of low cost Web Content Management Systems and the ability for providers to take ownership for their entries. These technologies make creating, publishing and updating an online Provider Directory relatively simple.

It is important to remember, a Provider Directory is not a Mapping Exercise nor is it a Management Information System; it does not necessarily provide accurate information on key aspects of provision or service. A Provider Directory should be considered as a showcase for providers. An accurately maintained directory of providers and services increases the combined knowledge of all providers creating a base of improved referral knowledge. It also ensures that were another mapping study or provider audit of any type required, there exists an electronic list of accurate provider contact details.

Dedicating internal resources and viewing the Provider Directory as a project with activities that need to be managed is key to its success. It is important to weigh the likely lifetime costs for this initiative, including its ongoing maintenance with the benefits that should accrue. Development costs, hosting fees and ongoing maintenance costs are all considerations for the directory owners and project managers. As a minimum, a local area should earmark around £10k over the life of the Provider Directory, 50% upfront and 50% maintenance and hosting over 3 years.

Directory information can quickly become obsolete and even the best managed directories contain a level of inaccurate information as organisations often promote more 'specialisms' than they offer. An online directory also needs to have a home and many directories are simply extensions of existing websites. The directory should be continuously monitored, updated and marketed. For existing listings this involves reminders to providers to update their details and remove obsolete contacts and for new providers and projects it is about engaging them as they come on stream.

We looked at a Social Network solution for our provider directory a kind of Faceboook for employability service workers

Respondent, Area C