The coronavirus global pandemic is a dark illustration of a popular definition of economics: the study of human decision making under conditions of scarcity.
The first wave of scarcity-based worry focused on ventilators. Currently, a new wave of worry is on the availability of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) needed both by frontline workers and the population at large.
While some projects (such as https://getusppe.org/) have addressed shortages in PPE among healthcare workers, there is less attention on shortages and lack of access to quality PPE for the rest of the population.
Of particular concern are school-aged children (K-12). Many states are trying to reopen schools, and when this happens it is inevitable that this will lead to some increase in transmission of the coronavirus. This is an issue we as a society need to address proactively, not reactively: in addition to preventing a rise in cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with coronavirus infection, there is a great risk in children serving as unwitting, asymptomatic carriers of the infection to their teachers and school staff, friends, and parents and other family members.
Access to PPE in schools is absolutely critical to mitigating the spread of coronavirus through our school systems and suppressing future waves of future outbreaks. To address this problem and the urgent need of many schools that may be unable to purchase their own effective PPE and may serve the most vulnerable populations, we have created a prototype web-app to streamline the process of finding and fulfilling school PPE needs. It is a simple window between schools in need and donors with resources to fill that need.
As schools are instructed to reopen in the fall, many schools are unequipped to provide safe learning environments for their students and faculty. Many school districts across the US have already undergone rounds of budget cuts in recent years, forcing them to make hard financial decisions as they prepare themselves to welcome their student body back into their halls again this year. We believe that many schools cannot afford to purchase face masks a la carte, in bulk, from online retailers such as Amazon. They need our support, and we believe our solution can help address that need gap.
What it does
Our web application acts as a donation marketplace, where schools can register as users and list their demand for PPE. Providers can access the website as visitors and can be put into contact with schools to coordinate a drop off or mail in. The schools are listed in order of need but also can be filtered by student body age (K-5 vs. high school). Providers can range from retailers to manufacturers to business owners to medical centers, anyone who is understanding and sympathetic to the budget crisis schools will be facing in the upcoming fall.
How we built it
We first went to the Figma drawing board and wireframed our app. Then we split into two groups: three in charge of the frontend and one in charge of user authentication in the backend. Our tech stack is React/Redux JS and Material UI in the frontend and node.js in the backend.
Challenges we ran into
Coordinating and delegating responsibilities was difficult at first as it took a second to get everyone on the same page. Once we finished the ideation stage, however, things went much more smoothly. We took advantage of Slack and Google Hangouts to coordinate.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Being able to build a full-stack web application in two days is incredible, and I can speak for my team when I say we are so proud of ourselves for pulling it together while working remotely.
What we learned
We learned that the ideation/brainstorming stage is often the biggest time sink and it's important to delegate a good amount of time discussing amongst each other in the beginning over video call to quickly assign responsibilities.
What's next for PPE for Schools
We would love to expand it to include two user journeys (schools and providers) so that providers can track the impact they've had on schools in a quantifiable and rewarding way.
What does our app do?
It allows schools to sign up as users and publicly display their information and needs regarding PPE. It creates a national registry of schools seeking donations of PPE that can be used by potential donors/suppliers to identify schools most in need, contact them, and initiate a donation or transaction for lifesaving PPE by schools.
What are the app’s strengths?
- It is easy for a new user/visitor to understand the purpose of the app upon reaching the home page
- It is easy to use and scales based on user engagement.
- It is not a paid (download) app so there is no barrier to entry for new users
What are the app’s weaknesses?
- The MVP of the app is mostly a database but does not immediately demonstrate a clear value-add for donors besides making information available. If a donor found a school through our platform, then contacted them, and forgot about our platform, there would potentially be nothing to show that our platform enabled/facilitated/made possible the transaction/donation.
GoFundMe Business Model
GoFundMe is now funded largely by donations — users are presented with a voluntary option at the end of a transaction to send a few extra dollars to the site.
- Verdict: Good.
- Socially acceptable, debatable profitability given that GoFundMe gains a lot of donations due to already having a very positive reputation.
Amazon Transaction Fee Model Charge a flat middleman fee for transactions over the platform, but this would require integrating Stripe or some other payment system probably…
- Verdict: reasonable, but needs work.
- if we can charge the donator (a large company) a reasonable flat fee, this would be reasonable.
- But we need to have some sort of value add that makes this an attractive option for would-be donators. Ideally the app should make it very easy for the donator to: find a school in need (ideally in their region), connect with the school, make the donation, use this donation as a positive PR event.
Subscription model: charge users (schools) a monthly or yearly fee for signing up.
- Verdict: unacceptable both business-wise and socially.
- Schools are in need, which makes this business model morally unattractive. It gives the appearance of praying on the needy at the same time as asking others (donors) to be charitable. Hypocritical.
- Schools are not likely to pay for an unproven service, and the current webapp is unlikely to demonstrate enough of a value add to convince schools the money is worth it (does the app host the transaction, or facilitate it through a third party platform like stripe, paypal? Does it promise donations to the school?).
Note on Subscription Model
- this could work if we allowed donors to sign up as users. This is an important goal for the app in the longer term since having donors as users would allow us to notify them of opportunities to donate and keep them in the loop. Donors are really the cash cow that make this app relevant; if we don’t have donors, we could get a thousand schools signed up and never match them with anything.