If, like our team members, you have led or participated in a social initiative before, you probably share our opinion that establishing a social project is not easy. Social projects that just start out face countless problems regarding establishing credibility, doing publicity, recruiting team members, and finding funding to name a few.
We believe that doing good should not be so difficult, especially given the vibrant community of people who care about social good (like all of you who participated in this Hackathon for social good!)
What it does
That is why we built OneSpark, an ecosystem for social good where people can help each other make their social initiative more impactful. OneSpark makes it easy for social initiatives to create their first public profile and broadcast their project ideas to a community who cares. Social impact groups can also find partners, mentors and donors for their project through the platform, hence receiving the support they need to launch their project.
How we built it
OneSpark is a cross-platform mobile app that was mainly built by Flutter framework. We used Firebase authentication to allow app users to create an account and store their information in Google Cloud Firestore database. All others data in the app are also stored in Firestore to make sure data is synced real-time to the app. The messaging system between organizations, mentors and users also utilize the Firestore for real-time chatting. We managed to work with Google Cloud Functions to set up the backend for Twilio Programmable Video API, so that we don’t need to generate the token by testing tools every time we set up a meeting room. The cloud functions do all the work to create a token, create a meeting room by sending requests to Twilio REST API.
Challenges we ran into
Since the app has many different user groups and components, we spent a lot of time wireframing and debating the user flows and features of the app to make sure it is intuitive and useful to all groups of users, including social project groups, donors, and mentors.
Twilio API was also a new territory for us. It took us a while to deal with the backend to generate the token automatically. We found the solution by using Google cloud function but none of us had experiences with deploying Google cloud function before. We wanted to make the app with a minimal but eye-catching UI, thus, it required a lot of speed coding for the front-end tasks.
Also, we are from different time zones (US Central Time, US Eastern Time and Moscow, Russia). Some long nights for some of us!
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We managed to successfully deploy the Google Cloud functions for the Twilio Programmable Video API. Also, we got most of the main functions working such as direct messaging, video meeting room, news feed for the project information page,... in the demo app that can basically demonstrate our ideas.
What we learned
We learned how to deploy backend functions on Google Cloud Functions. We also learned how to reduce the amount of time for coding but got the expected results by organizing well the code and making more reusable pieces of code.
We also realize that ideation and pitching processes take a lot of time, and one should not procrastinate till the last minute!
What's next for OneSpark - An ecosystem for social good
Verifying system for the accountability of the projects, mentors. Venmo API for donation features. Machine Learning to suggest or personalize interest tags for users.