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Overview

Challenge

Mutual Aid groups' growth is outpacing traditional communication tools. 

There isn't a centralized platform for either potential participants, or budding mutual aid groups. 

In other words...

Solution

Build an all-in-one product; letting users search, plan, and talk with people through a mobile app.

assembli is a tool that helps users overcome barriers of starting independent involvement.

How might we optimize communication for mutual aid participants in order to increase community involvement and impact?

TLDR; here's the deck

Want the bare bones? The button below opens this case study in deck form.

Project Specs
Roles

UX Researcher

End-to-End Designer

Timeline

10 weeks

Sept 2021 - Dec 2021

Approach

Human-centered design thinking to ensure the product's foundation was user-oriented

Methodology: Agile

Empathize to define our true problem space, target our userbase, and identify our key focus areas.

Defining leads to ideations of potential features, layouts, user flows, and UI needs.

When ideations were refined, the product was ready for prototyping and testing. After testing, I once again empathized with the user to make improvements and improve accessibility.

Why are we doing this?

01.

Optimize hyper-local communication to identify service gaps.

02.

Consolidate the current process into one platform

03.

Build community through clean tech

04.

Optimize the search process for users 

Understanding the current experience

Let's do some research

Problem Space

 

Mutual aid has a historic presence in BIPOC communities, and has provided a cyclical benefit to fill the gaps created by under-resourcing. You've likely seen free food fridges and grassroots food drives near you; examples of mutual aid in practice.​

Well-organized events can impact thousands of members in neighborhoods and cities, and the growth momentum is at a critical tipping point.

Right now...

A user must search on mutual aid group sites, fill multiple forms, and frequently don't receive responses to their messages.

We want to close that loop, get users volunteering, and clarify the search process.

Research Methods

Interview Details:​​​

  • 1-on-1

  • Categorize findings into Behaviors, Motivations, and Pain Points

  • Interviews conducted remotely via. Google Meet, Zoom, Slack, and Facetime

Questions:
  • How do you usually find out about events or things going on in your neighborhood?

  • What are you most motivated to contribute? 

  • What would make you feel more comfortable initiating involvement?

  • What do you see for the future of mutual aid?

Subject Criteria:
  • Between 24 and 40

  • Living in a +200,000-person location

  • Had little-to-no experience with participating in mutual aid

An Early Pivot:

I began with the goal of helping Groups find Volunteers, I shifted my target demo to Volunteers after numerous attempts to contact mutual aid Groups.

This was a slight blocker, but navigable, and validating to the problem space!

Method to the Madness?

We're digging into the "why"s of the process, and specifying assumed pain points

insightgreen_edited.png

Key Findings

 When analyzing primary interview answers, three themes kept appearing...

Communication

 

Each interviewee had a clear interest, but no way to either initiate or continue involvement.

Skill Fit

There was verbalized anxiety re: if the interviewees skills would fit the project or groups' criteria.

Planning & Awareness

Currently, there's too much footwork required to find local and relevant mutual aid opportunities.

Defining Our User 

Defining our target user gives us a foundation to build a Persona, Experience Map, and User Stories.

The Build

Turning user-sourced data into intuitive product features

Chat

 

Peer-to-peer communication, reducing the feeling of rejection from a group not responding

Comparison Tool

The Comparison Tool auto-sorts opportunities users are interested in and qualified for.

Search

Keyword search for group names, events, buzzwords, etc.

FEATURE GALLERY

Home - anatomy
Mid Fi Map Search - anatomny
Key features of Map - anatomy
Comparison Tool
Event Details
Chat
Testing Methodology

I conducted two rounds of scripted, behavioral interviews with 10 subjects (5 for each round of testing).

Subjects were given Sana's primary and secondary tasks

Wireframes remained in grayscale 

 

This was done with two intentions: decreasing distraction for the user, and decreasing unnecessary iterations for myself.

 

Testing took on remote video calls, to evaluate as much nonverbal communication as possible.

I'm scrutinizing the flow from finding events, to comparing, to reaching out. Additionally, we're surveying areas of improvement when the user is learning more about the event and subsequently starting a chat with a point of contact. 

Final Prototype

Prototype Flow:
​This is built so our target user can...
  • Search for opportunities
  • Compare & choose
  • Start a conversation

Product Impact

KPIs

COMMUNITY-LEVEL INDICATORS: employment, graduation rates, incarceration rates lowering

  • Monitoring homelessness in the community  (determined by admissions to shelters, winter counts of sleepers in the open, soup-kitchen meals served)

  • Lowered rates of discrimination complaints and reports

Takeaways

Pivot + Adapt

Adaptability was key! Let the research guide the design.

 

Maintaining human-centered design required flexible thinking.

There were a few points in the process where "zooming out" helped with design perspective. 

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