Thousands Assisted. For Free.

Is bc211 still relevant?

In these highly-connected times it’s tempting to assume that information needs are being met more than ever before. In 2012 Statistics Canada declared that 83% of Canadian households had internet access at home1. We have the internet and we have smartphones and tablets; why do we need information and referral lines? Why do we need a searchable online directory of services like the Red Book Online, if we have the broader internet with its search engines, online communities and endless potential for information?


211 calls per weekLast year bc211 connected more than 40,000 individuals and another 6,000 service providers to programs and services through our 211 line. This amounted to more than 900 people per week getting connected to the help they needed through 211. Add to that users of the Red Book Online, which we currently estimate at about 400 per day. Also add the thousands of calls we receive each year on our various specialty helplines.

The nearly 50,000 people who contacted us for help on 211 last year were listened to by our dedicated call-takers, and the vast majority of them were connected to help of one kind or another. 81% of those callers were connected with at least one (usually more than one) of more than 1,500 distinct services. Those we didn’t connect to services got the information they needed or at least had their needs listened to.

So what makes bc211 so valuable to so many people, despite the self-service nature of our age?


peopleWhen someone dials 211 they are not simply calling a phone tree. Our highly trained Information and Referral Specialists are there to listen, to empathize, to assess need and to provide multiple options. The highest priority is to empower the caller and get them connected to the help they need on their own terms. All this involves a human connection the value of which can’t be overestimated in these times of information overload. It is increasingly important for people to feel listened to, and at 211 we are in the business of listening.


simple-globe-searchIt can be overwhelming to try to find the right help amongst all the community, government and social services that are available. Where does one even start? Searching the internet or flipping through phone directories can leave people more lost than they were to begin with. That’s where bc211 comes in. Our goal is not just to listen to our callers, but to help them navigate the vast selection of services that are out there. We are the information experts when it comes to community services. It’s certainly why we continue to help so many people every day.


The 1,500 services we referred 211 callers to last year was actually just 27% of the more than 5,600 total resources we have at our disposal for the 211 line. It is a massive task to constantly research, gather and update the information about those programs and services. Our dedicated Resources and Publications Specialists scour published materials and the internet for information. Additionally, day in and day out, they call, email, and even visit service providers to ensure that the information we use to help our callers is up-to-date and of the highest quality. This nonstop research into the services available in the community is one of bc211’s great and unique strengths.


Architetto_--_Cassa_negozioMuch of the information that one finds online is there to drive business and generate profits. It isn’t always easy for people to find what they might need most in times of hardship or challenges, whether that be free and low-cost services or non-profit services more broadly. Our vision at bc211 is to strengthen communities by connecting people with the help they need. This means our priority is to refer callers to free or low-cost services, and to do our best to connect them to organizations that have their best interests in mind, rather than profits. Our huge resource database consists mainly of these kinds of services and organizations, and that focus helps us have such a great impact.


These are just a few of the aspects of bc211 that continue to drive our organization and give us value in this connected age. If you can think of anything we missed, please visit our Contact page to share your feedback or experiences with bc211. We are always working to strengthen the services we provide and to innovate with an eye to the future. We would love to hear from you.

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