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This post was written by Marnie Webb, who leads
TechSoup’s newest division, Caravan Studios. There, she builds technology
that connects local communities to resources that help them solve problems and
impact issues. Marnie gets wonky about things like data, APIs and community organizing,
especially when they all come together. She’s been working in the area of
nonprofit technology for more than twenty years.
A few weeks ago, we learned that SafeNight is a finalist in the
Reimagine: Opportunity Challenge from Partnership for Freedom. This challenge seeks to bring innovative
solutions to the anti-trafficking field.
The goal? Human trafficking
survivors are better able to access the kinds of resources necessary to get
safe and stable housing, social services, and economic empowerment.
We’ve talked about SafeNight
on TechSoup before. It’s a mobile service that allows individuals to
support hotel placements for people urgently in need of safe shelter. The prototype has been built through a
collaboration between California domestic violence organizations, Aidmatrix, a Texas-based nonprofit, and Caravan Studios, the newest division
of TechSoup Global.
We’re excited to be finalists in the Reimagine: Opportunity
Challenge. The next step in the process? We’re going to a three-day innovation workshop in Washington, D.C. We’ll
have a chance to talk to experts in the field, researchers, human trafficking
survivors, marketing and outreach professionals, and people who design things
from buildings to programs to, well, apps like SafeNight. The velocity of learning will be high.
Here are the big three things we’re taking with us as we
head to the next phase of this project:
That means the app, sure.
It’s in the Windows
Phone marketplace. We’ve put it in
the hands of organizations in rural California. We’ve gotten feedback and we’re on, I think, the fourth significant
version with the fifth on the way. To
riff off a recent Beth
Kanter post on learning at work, we’re trying hard to extract learning and
get it into the project, and that means shipping. But "shipping" hasn’t just been about the product: It’s also about sharing the
concept paper for SafeNight well before there was an app anyone could test
out. It’s about putting up the
proposal that got us to the place we are with the Reimagine: Opportunity
Challenge. We even share our super
secret internal to only TechSoup updates. Why? Sharing gets us out of the echo chamber of our own heads. Sharing is what gets us feedback.
That wasn’t something we did at first. We figured that out when we asked people to
donate money so that we could buy phone cards that would help power the pilot.
People like Beth Kanter and Nancy White caught our request and
shared the message with their network.
All of a sudden, we got real engagement. Why? Because we asked for something that was easy
to do, could be accomplished immediately, and gave people a tangible way of
participating in the project. What
does this mean for the effort going forward? We need to make sure that we are
asking for things that people can meaningfully participate in.
It’s hard to
want a project to succeed and want funding and want users. It should be all
about scale, right? We said yes a lot to
requests that let us meet new people, learn, and make connections. But we had to take a hard look at our ability
to follow through on those connections. We knew we couldn’t make SafeNight for dogs, a request we got often
(and, honestly, the only thing my nine-year-old daughter really wants me to do
with my career). We didn’t think
SafeNight would work for recently paroled individuals, even though we could see
the connection. It wasn’t until we started talking to people in the
anti-trafficking field that we could see a way for SafeNight to work without
spreading our impact, our team, or our message so thin that we would end up
with an app that had no recognizable purpose.
for other populations? Sure, that might
happen in the future, we do see the connection. And maybe someone else will do
it first (that’s a part of why we ship often, by the way, we don’t want to hold
anyone up). But right now, we have to say yes to the
situations that let us learn, but we have to be judicious about how we put that
learning into place.
The best part of what’s coming next for us? The potential to build a tool offers more
people a SafeNight, and the chance to learn even more.
Ginny Mies is a Content Curator at TechSoup Global.
Were volunteers involved at all in the development of this app?
I know that Caravan had volunteers helping out during their "Generator" sessions -- where they sourced the various problems that different organizations face. They had somebody taking notes and another person leading the brainstorming. In terms of the actual development of the app, I'm not sure. I have a question out to the Caravan team and will follow up!
Sorry that I missed this comment when you first posted. No volunteers were used in the coding for the app. The community, however, participated robustly in the process (and some ways that could be considered volunteerism).
* serving on the advisory committee
* participating in user testing and feedback sessions
* piloting the app with their organizations.
Does that answer your question?
" The community, however, participated robustly in the process" If they weren't paid to advise, test, provide feedback, etc. then, indeed, they were volunteers!
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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