UX For Good

At this month’s IxDA meeting, Jason Ulaszek of Manifest Digital and Jeff Leitner of Chicago Insight Lab introduced the concept of charitable interaction design work by dividing the group into five ten-member teams and assigning a group case study in 20 minutes. Streetwise is a non-profit organization that tries to help the homeless by selling them newspapers that they can turn around and sell for a profit. The problems that Streetwise faces include the following:

– people don’t want to read Streetwise because there is nothing special about its content
– print advertising sales are down because print journalism is losing relevancy

Our group looked at three constituent groups: consumers (buyers of the newspaper), vendors (the homeless), and merchants (those driving ad revenue). We wanted to create a model where everyone could gain from the transaction so that it could work as a viable business model and not just a charity. First we got rid of the newspaper. The content wasn’t relevant and its primary purpose was only to legitimatize donations. We replaced the newspaper with a coupon model. The homeless would buy coupons for a specific local or regional business and sell them for a profit throughout the day. They would wear a vest, t-shirt, or shirt tag with a number to text and QR code so that anyone who wanted to donate could do so in exchange for a coupon. The coupons could be passed on to friends which would extend the contributions that that homeless person received based on actual redemption rates. On a social level, by scanning that person’s QR code, the donor could track the recipient’s story and progress online.

Consumers benefit through the coupons they receive and form a relationship with the person they are helping through social media. The vendor benefits from the contributions, both direct and through forwarded coupons. Local and regional businesses benefit from the advertising and become “Streetwise certified,” demonstrating their commitment to the local community which contributes to brand equity. As certain members of the homeless population improved their situation, they could become mentors to others and/or be placed into sales functions for the businesses that they have supported.

Other groups came up with similar ideas. One extension was the notion of “street teams,” using the homeless as a labor force for promoting local events. Another group focused on improving the relevancy of content through customization.

Interaction designers understand how things work and see a future that doesn’t exist.

The meeting concluded with an invitation to participate in UX|XU, a two-day work session in January to solve social problems in teams.

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