Coming face to face with the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis inspired us to create a streamlined solution. In particular, we were particularly shocked when we stumbled into elderly people doing their weekly shops. There is no reason why elderly people, key workers, and people with pre-existing health conditions should be exposing themselves to the risk of contagion—especially whilst so many healthy, young people would be willing to help. Coming to realise that the necessary resources to protect vulnerable people exist, and just need to be unleashed and connected, is what inspired us to develop this solution together.

What it does

A volunteer-led service that organises the delivery of goods from local suppliers to those currently house-bound from COVID-19, via an online platform and phone call services.

'drop off' relies on the recruitment of delivery volunteers (who must be healthy and able) and phone volunteers (who may be in quarantine themselves). We will seek to maximise accessibility by providing both an online and telephone platform for placing orders, emphasising the former so that the latter is freed up for customers unfamiliar with online technology. Calls will be rerouted to volunteers via existing software, such as Genesys. Product selection will be possible using a database of all suppliers and their products, from which suppliers within a given distance of the customer can be identified.

Payment will be possible via three methods: on the website via Paypal, over the phone via PayPal terminal, and cash payment via the volunteers (emphasised as a last resort with appropriate precautions taken to protect hygiene). Customers and producers alike will be given a virtual account with a unique IBAN, streamlining the transfer of funds from the users’ accounts to vendors.

Delivery volunteers must keep updating their availability in advance, allowing customers to choose a delivery slot for when there is an available volunteer, who will be notified that an order has been placed. Each order will be dealt with by one volunteer to maximise social distancing. Upon arriving at stores, volunteers will assemble deliveries themselves, which they will be able to check off a list using a version of the website compatible with their phone. They may deliver a certain number of orders at once based on their individual capacity and subject to a maximum shop-to-door delivery time of 1 hour to avoid undermining food safety.

How we built it

We came up with a concept for our system and tried to make it as accessible and simple as possible. Our concept uses a website as its main interface, to connect the customers, volunteers and local suppliers to a centralised database system. Our solution uses inventories stored in the database to cross-reference the stock from different stores. We would use trusted third party payment systems, such as Paypal and Currencycloud.

Challenges we ran into

There were several challenges along the way. A major challenge was providing a secure, contactless method of payment for the elderly, for whom using normal online payment methods may be challenging. Another challenge was how to make every aspect of our service friendly towards people how may not be very comfortable using technology. Finally, connecting all the involved parties in a coherent and efficient way required difficult problem solving and coordination.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We're proud of having created this whole concept (in the last 48 hours!); a solution that utilises the many healthy, young people willing to help. We're proud to have created a solution that protects those most at-risk in our society while supporting and boosting the local community.

What we learned

There were lots of things that we learned during this process. During our research, we came across all the methods that other countries had implemented to make sure that the house-bound members of society were still able to get the food that they needed. This allowed us to not only draw inspiration but see the problems with some of the proposed solutions and the insight from that research then fed back into constructing 'drop off'.

What's next for drop off

This system can continue to be a valuable resource for some elderly citizens to them by helping them with their weekly shop. The people delivering can still be volunteers or even paid workers. This can be scaled up to work in other countries, and with other types of essential deliveries. We will continue to support local businesses by providing them with online platforms, boosting the local economy. The system aims to feed itself, as we reach more customers, we expand the number of volunteers and the number of local businesses too.

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