We wanted to create something that would allow people to tap into the community that already existed around them (their local church) but without barriers such as existing cliques, cultural differences and pressure of initiating conversation. We realized that this problem has been exacerbated during this COVID crisis and we wanted a virtual way to establish these new connections.
What it does
- The platform enables church members to make new connections with people they wouldn't usually connect with. Through an invitation system, leaders are able to send email invites to church members. After signing up, church members are put into a pool for match making based on categories defined by the leader like age group, gender and group size. The platform takes it from there and optimizes on matching members that haven't matched up before and don't interact usually. Once members connect, we provide ice-breakers for them to get conversations going.
How I built it
- Our team tackled a problem from initial idea to MVP during the hackathon. We walked through the design thinking process to define our problem. We focused on empathy using pain points, gains and jobs to be done using Trello and Zoom. We conducted a research survey with TypeForm involving almost 50 people, gathering insights before we started building our MVP.
- Once we entered the UI design and software development phase, we split the team into three teams of designers, mobile app developers and API developers. The teams re-synced daily to make sure that everything stayed aligned and integrated as quickly as possible between the different aspects.
Challenges We ran into
- We spanned many different time-zones and countries (Canada, USA, Argentina, UK, and Australia), coordinating meetings and tasks between school, work and family demands throughout the week.
- A couple of our developers had to learn a new coding stack. For the front end, some learned Flutter (Dart), on the back-end they learned Flask framework (Python). This was an initial challenge to ramp-up but we were able to sail through. One of our designers learned XD in a day to help us develop a beautiful prototype.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
- Despite a steep learning curve for most team members, we managed to complete a simple but working prototype which showcases the most important aspects of the product. Over the course of the week, we achieved efficient communication within and between the teams and found a good modus operandi in the context of the team’s global distribution. Furthermore, this was achieved without compromising on user research and critical assessment of our value proposition. Having started with a project which was much more focused on the individual we pivoted to one which focuses on community as a whole. Eventually, our critical approach resulted in a split of two thirds of the time being spent on product design and only one third on the practical implementation.
What We learned
- One of the most important things we learned was to come up with a solid definition and requirements list to the problem we are trying to solve before we attempt to build a solution – as there’s no point in solving a problem that doesn’t exist. We conducted several meetings, brainstorming sessions, and public surveys to generate potential ideas for challenge we can tackle. We harnessed our diversity in nationalities, ethnicities, and age to discover a problem that can affect anyone – loneliness and lack of community. In settling on this problem, we wanted to make a platform that doesn’t attempt to solve issues directly, but rather uses technology to empower people in taking the initiative to foster community within their church, under the supervision of godly leaders.
What's next for Hello Neighbour
- We want to introduce more dynamic elements to our application – such as defining group constraints (size, gender, minimum age to sign-up, etc.), live group messaging to coordinate meetups, and user feedback with analytics at the end of each matching cycle so church leaders can monitor effectiveness. This is the type of application that becomes more valuable the more active users there are, so we want to start piloting it in churches to understand how it helps in promoting Christ-like community. This will also help us to discover areas in which we can continue to improve.