One of the holy grails of creating connected, supportive communities is figuring out how to drive members to contribute their unique skills to help each other in real life.
Connecting members is hard and usually done manually, relying heavily on admin memory and availability. Automating this process can exponentially increase the amount of connections per group.
What it does
Helpies is a chatbot and web platform that help members connect around volunteer help.
How we built it
We started out with creating a facebook page and messenger bot with it. We separated into two teams - one team focused on the bot, and another focused on the native application. For the bot, we used wit.ai for the natural language processing. we created the content for interactions, and stored the data in firebase. The React application used data from the bot and focused on the interface for organizers, and organizer discovery for volunteers. We included Facebook authentication to make it easy to pull data from both sides, and Graph API.
Challenges we ran into
The first challenge was knowledge - most team members didn’t have prior knowledge of Facebook APIs and had to learn on the go. The second challenge was teamwork - beginning stage was difficult as people came with different ideas and different cultures, and communication issues arose later into the project because we didn’t distribute work between teams well enough.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Working as a team and the communication was the greatest accomplishment. Overcoming documentation and getting used to deep reading was another one.
What we learned
We dramatically increased our comfort and knoweldge with Facebook platforms and APIs, and gained valuable insight on teamwork.
What's next for Helpies
Scaling Helpies worldwide can help with social training - increasing skill development with community mentorship, helping volunteers gain experience and build portfolios in new fields. If we had more time we would focus on creating recognition and progress for volunteers with badges and feedback. And focus on ways where helping can become a PR event to help increase audience and resources for smaller nonprofits. It can integrate with Facebook features like mentorship, Groups platform (“help” / projects tab), workplace (CSR discovery), and maybe even marketplace (as an upsell from volunteer to services).