Machbarschaft connects millions without internet access with their neighbours who are willing to provide help for basic supplies in order to keep vulnerable groups safe.
In this crisis, Machbarschaft allows to bridge human to human contact through a hybrid solution linking both analogue and smart digital technology. Our vision is to build a stronger community and a more equitable society where no one is left behind!
Every 9th household in the EU does not have any internet access. This makes it difficult for especially vulnerable people to request help. We are experiencing a huge movement of solidarity, especially in communities and neighborhoods. However, these volunteers are often are organized on digital platforms. Tens of millions are not able to access these platforms in the EU, leaving them in a drastic care gap.
Our mission is to close this gap through Machbarschaft. This solution enables vulnerable people to use their well-known devices to connect with their neighborhood. Especially in times of crises, strengthening neighborhood ties helps to build a more equitable and inclusive future. This way society can ensure everybody safe access to support.
Machbarschaft - how does it work?
We offer a smart bridge combining three key elements: the analog telephone, a phone bot powered by AI and an app. Our app and hotline represent the link between the digital-native generation and people in need of help and are not familiar with the use of the internet. With Machbarschaft, people in need can make a simple phone call and provide information about the category of their request and a few additional logistical information. The service hotline is run by an AI powered bot. The information will then be processed and finally displayed in our app which helpers download in advance. Registered and verified helpers receive push-notifications and they can look up requests near their current location on a map in the app. As soon as they select a request, they can contact the care recipient by phone to arrange further details. After, the helper sets off, and fulfils the request. In case of the much needed grocery shopping request, the helper brings the agreed items to the care recipient and receives the money for the groceries in exchange. In order to ensure appropriate protection against infection, the money is packed in an envelope and handed over at an appropriate distance and without any body contact. This way, we hope to make the ongoing crisis a little less threatening, especially for vulnerable groups and those in need of help.
The solutions impact to this crisis
Machbarschaft addresses the group that has been left behind so far: The vulnerable people without a wide social network and without internet access. Further, we offer our system to e.g. already existing societies that currently help in the segment of neighborhood aid, but perform their processes manually. We hope to enhance efficiency of their process through digitalizing the process.
Since every 9th household in the EU is possibly compromised in this crisis and beyond the crisis, there is a huge demand to cover. In addition, the gap between poor and rich is continuously growing leading to deteriorating situations. Therefore, scalability is key to Machbarschaft.
How did Machbarschaft improve during the Botathon?
Although our product is already in an advanced state, it is under constant development. Our main goal for the Botathon was to finish our Apps in order to start a first testing phase utilizing the whole "technology pipeline". We also tried to focus on our Bot Technology Part. With our Telephone Bot, it is possible to convert the resources of a central call center to a decentralized helper network with a direct connection to regional helpers. This provides protection against contagion, especially during corona, and also makes it easier to organize the process afterwards. Furthermore, we have tried to find approaches how we can overcome language barriers, which arise in particular from dialects of elderly people, by means of skillful helpers using artificial intelligence. A further important point for us is that humans remain humans and a psychosocial interaction is given despite the automation with the bot. Through the bot, a large network of helpers can be created, which gives people a sense of belonging and enables direct social contacts. We have also set our focus on digitalizing analog tasks.
What is needed and what are the next steps?
The immediate next step is to run further simulations and tests. In order to optimize our concepts and technology, we have already established various partnerships with civil societies as well as local authorities in Germany to run early testings with authentic target groups. This is why we already planned to our first pilot project in the city of Passau, Germany, we are already partnering with. After this proof of concept testing, we need more expertise in the areas of business strategy and product ownership, as the next steps will be constant optimization of our product while scaling up nationally. To prepare for scaling up, we already worked out a combined B2C and B2B concept. We will have to intensely expand our already large network in preparation for expansion. Further, our business plan has to be implemented in order to finance this non-profit project. Therefore, further partnerships and cooperations have to be established. At the same time, we plan to continue our already exisiting cooperations with similar non-profit projects with a similar solution. The reason is, that as a non-profit it is not easy to find ressources. Therefore, we aim to combine existing ressources and powers to really be able to implement our solution quickly and help people as soon as possible. Thus, we aim to quickly expand our easy scalable solution nationally, EU-wide and globally in order to support millions as soon as possible.
The value of Machbarschaft after the crisis
Machbarschaft has high sustainability goals. We aim to connect people beyond the current crisis. Why? Because, there are millions who struggle with everyday errands, and they still will also after the COVID-19. Machbarschaft hopes to contribute a small piece to solve this problem in the long-term perspective. We offers a smart platform to meet the age-old basic need of human to human connection - to be there for those who need it most. This is why we are not limited to the time of the current crisis. We aim to accompany those connections built through as well as fostering new connections to be built. As soon as there is no immediate infection risk, we are already planning on expanding our currently offered services far beyond of pharmacy and grocery shopping. Our vision is to build a stronger community and a more equitable society where no one is left behind!
Try it out!
Try out our hotline bot (24/7)! Our phone numbers for various countries:
+358 75 3250960 (Finland)
+44 131 510 5863 (United Kingdom)
+46 10 551 53 69 (Sweden)
+49 40 299960980 (Germany)
+420 910 902 652 (Czech Republic)
+1 779 201 6897 (USA)
Our apps and hotline are still under active development – please excuse any errors or bugs at this point and feel free to report it on our GitHub repository. You can download a first version of our Android app here. Also, take a look on the videos of our current Apps on iOS here and on Android here!
How we built it
In order to be able to process calls from as many people as possible at the same time without having to resort to a conventional call center (also regarding the COVID-19 infection risk of call center employees), we developed an automatic service with Twilio. In this service, we modelled an easily understandable call flow in which all necessary data for a request for help is collected. In order to scare older people by using robotic voices, we recorded the questions ourselves (German only). We are also currently trying new solutions with voximplant to directly coordinate the caller with a helper with our bot system and in case there is no helper currently available the bot will create the help seek in the app directly.
To ensure the best possible user experience, we program the app natively for iOS (Swift & UIkit for the frontend) and Android (Java). These apps communicate with the central database of Firebase, Cloud Firestore (NoSQL). For this we used the available SDK for Android and iOS from Google. Function and design of both apps are based on the created wireframe. After the users have verified themselves via an identification procedure. This is, for now, an optional step for us and may depend on the country and their legal requirements for the registration of phone numbers to be able to assist local authorities in case of fraud. After that, the user have to create their account via SMS confirmation. The user is informed about the process in the app and the procedure for dealing with requests for help. After the successful login, the user will see help requests in his or her area. These are visualized on a map (using the Google Maps API) and in a list. In advance, the user only sees the most necessary information in order to offer him a small decision support. As soon as he decides to accept a request for help, he has to confirm this and will receive further information. The user can contact the person seeking help again and exchange information about the details. Now the helper can go and take care of the request. As soon as he has completed the assignment, he can confirm this in our app. If an order has not been accepted after 24 hours, the person will be informed about the situation by a callback and it will be up to him/her to decide whether to continue the order or to withdraw it.
Our simple website serves as a central information platform for interested volunteers. The purely static website machbarschaft.jetzt is based on a bootstrap theme, which was implemented using HTML5 and CSS3 (SCSS) technologies. A CMS has not been implemented yet. Since the website can be called up in any situation, we attached great importance to a responsive layout. The website serves not only to recruit new volunteers for our native apps but also to promote our entire concept to future supporters. Since our target group of people seeking help is mainly informed via analogue channels, supporters can download an attractive Machbarschaft flyer which can be hung up in the neighbourhood or distributed in mailboxes. With this, both target groups can be addressed in parallel – volunteers and people seeking help.
Our hotline and backend are fully functional and secure. Data from orders completed with our hotline are saved in our Firestore database and are available in our apps. The apps are working as well, they are fully connected to our database and can communicate to it. We are doing bug testings and are preparing our next phase to test the app with more users in a closed beta. The hotline is being tested by our team and we are preparing to test it with old people as soon as possible. In the future, we are going to improve the underlying technology to be even more AI-driven and making the hotline more flexible and adaptable to our users.
Who are we?
We are a diverse team of more than 30 people from all over Germany with a unique and unstoppable team spirit! We were brought together by the mission to provide safe and fast access to neighbourhood assistance for elderly people without internet access during the Corona pandemic. We are convinced: Together everything is possible!
- University students and high school students
- Software Developers
- Designers (Marketing, Product and UX)
- Experts in Legal, Process management, Project management, Human Ressources, Design Thinking, Business Development, Data Specialists, Psychology, Marketing, Press, Public Relations
The supply of all people in need is secured.
We connect needy people of the risk group without internet competence with digital- affine helpers from the neighbourhood in order to guarantee the supply of the needy.
Strategic goals are long-term goals that make it tangible whether we are fulfilling our mission.
Offer help to those who are vulnerable towards Covid-19 disease and who at the same time have no access to the internet and online solutions.
Connect neighbors and bring them together across generations.
Qualify the future workforce of Europe with regards to AI and digital technology. Offer a sustainable solution, that will be used also after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Build the solution in a way it can be transferred to other use cases by NGOs.
Goal 1: Offer Help
Number of successful matches (in a period) Proportion of successful matches = Number of successful matches / Number of requests for help Number of verified helpers on the apps
Goal 2: Connect Neighbours over Generations
Proximity of residence
Goal 3: Qualification
Number of technical team members working on our solution (per year)
Goal 4: Sustainability of the Solution
Number of use cases for which Machbarschaft offers its services
Goal 5: Transferability of the Solution
Publication as open source for other non-profit organizations Number of institutions / associations that use parts of our technical solution
KPIs (different target numbers of KPIs depending on local, national, EU-wide or global setting)
No. of help requests, no. of downloads (android vs. iOS), no. of verified app users, no. of successful matches, proportion of successful matches, no. of recurrent requests from the same care seeker, no. recurrent request completion by the same app user and helper
Go to Market Strategy
Machbarschaft uses a combination of B2B and B2C approach. B2B is particularly important to reach the final target groups with the aid of already existing and care providing community services, civil society organizations, NGO´s etc.
care recipient main characteristic: does not use internet
- different segments (elderly, poor, internet illiterate, language barrier…)
- Channels: social welfare offices, community services, doctors offices, hospitals, pharmacies, nursing care, outpatient physiotherapists,. churches, communities, bakeries, supermarkets, TV, radio, local newspaper, magazines, kids, grandkids, family, friends...
volunteers main characteristic: wants to support vulnerable group and frequently uses internet
- different segments (between-14-55 yo., pupils to professionals, family or stand-alone…)
- Channels: mainly internet based, social media, TV, radio, newspapers, family, friends...
B2B and Strategic Partners
non-profit: NGOs, citizens society groups/ initiatives that already established contact with care recipients and/ or helpers industrial partners: telephone services, digital companies, marketing companies, companies specialized in elderly services public authorities: local, regional, national, EU, global
Customer Journey & Personas
There are three main personas and customer journeys to be considered: care recipient, helper and civil societies that use us as support for digitalization of their service.
On Boarding Concept
- care recipients: explanation on flyers, TV etc. and re-explanation on our hotline
- helpers: explanation on Social Media/ flyers and introduction within the app Retention measured through no. of recurrent requests from the same care seeker, no. recurrent request completion by the same app user and helper
Probably the greatest achievement was to digitally bring together about 30 strangers from all over Europe with different experiences and levels of knowledge, to implement a great idea together and to develop a runnable app that carries the core goal of the idea within itself. Despite the circumstances that a personal meeting was not possible at any time, the communication ran smoothly. The team members were reliable, punctual and it was no problem that the communication was purely digital. Thanks to some tools provided by the organization, data exchange, various uploads and even communication within the team was no problem. Thanks to high quality input throughout the EUvsVirus Hackathon we were able to very quckly improve and optimize our solution, we were able to achieve a goal-oriented implementation. Thanks to this, we have done a considerable amount of work and can deliver a presentable result.
What we've learned
We have learned that extraordinary situations require extraordinary actions and that with the right will and motivation you can achieve incredible things! We have also learned to get out of our comfort zone. It was necessary to get into direct and fast close contact with complete strangers. We then received excellent advices and support. Even if we came to our limits in terms of our abilities and energy from time to time, we were able to motivate each other because, for all of us at Machbarschaft, our work is for "the greater good" of helping people.
More detailed info can be found in our pdf: Machbarschaft Details Flyer
How did we work
Ticketing tool: Trello
Website: HTML, CSS, Bootstrap machbarschaft.jetzt/en