There was a Mary J Blige album in the early 90s called “What’s the 411?” – I believe that translates from urban to suburban simply as “What’s up?” or “What’s goin’ on?”
But now, what’s the 211? You might have seen during Hurricane Sandy that the mayor of NYC (and others) implored flood victims to dial 211 for any non-emergency and to not to overload 911 with other immediate needs. Before this year, I had not of heard of 211.
I’m on the board for Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center (inner city, southwest Indy) and they are literally the “211″ for almost everything their community needs. Mary Rigg provides direct help and guidance for non-emergency help their neighbors need.
This graphic for the Indiana 211 (courtesy of IN211.org) lists what services are available by dialing 211 (in this area code). Food, shelter, employment assistance, counseling, etc. Amazingly, Mary Rigg provides help for all of those for their neighbors. Other local charities like Safe Families (Central Indiana) and Shepherd Community Center are also 211 resources. 211 would direct e.g., anyone in a dire situation who needs someone to watch their children temporarily to the inspiring people at Safe Families. And Shepherd provides very similar (211) services as Mary Rigg–just a little further east of downtown Indy.
In business, we can’t be “all things to all people” but your organization should to be the 211 for your clients. They should see you as the industry expert. Whether that’s your gig or not, you should be giving your clients the feeling that they could call you up for anything they might need help or advice on. You need to make sure that your staff is not really going to that kind of effort, but they should appear to be the absolute experts.
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”