Nonprofit organizations are responsible for providing a significant level of social services across the United States, often in collaboration with government agencies (Smith & Lipsky, 1993). In this work, they address some of the most pressing issues in society – including homelessness, poverty, health care and education (Andrews & Entwistle, 2010). While many of these organizations consider location and accessibility crucial to supporting their clients – often locating services near bus or train stops, for example - less is known about the impact of new technologies, including transportation network companies (TNCs, also called ridehail services) like Lyft and Uber, on nonprofit accessibility. These technologies, which are re-shaping transportation in both urban and suburban communities, are expected to dramatically change community mobility and the accessibility of services individuals seek.
In addition, while transportation planners and public managers are beginning to develop a body of knowledge of the impact of new technologies on communities, the nonprofit sector has not yet systematically considered how to integrate TNCs and other technologies into their work with clients and other stakeholders. Do these services help fill gaps in client mobility needs? How are nonprofit organizations considering these services in meeting client needs? How do clients use TNCs to access social services and what are the obstacles to their use? This exploratory and qualitative study will be among the first of its kind to measure the impact of TNCs on community mobility, and their roles in providing access to nonprofit human services. This study includes semi-structured interviews with nonprofit executives and focus groups with clients in Seattle to explore opportunities and obstacles with TNC use. This study is set in Seattle as part of a larger study with Uber and Lyft data from the city. This study will inform our understanding of access to nonprofit services – especially those often provided for by government grants and contracts, and inform the development of evidence-based strategies for nonprofit managers seeking to reach clients that do not have access to personal vehicles or other transit options.