As a group we came up with the following definitions:
Social Isolation - Absence of safe space & deep, personal connections
Isolating Habits - A repeated action/behavior done with the purpose of removing oneself from social situations and friends
Over a period of time, isolating habits could easily lead to a socially isolated lifestyle. Due to the stress, social anxiety, and pressure that university can bring, social isolation is a common problem among students. However, in such a taxing environment, it is crucial for students to have a well built support system that they can trust and turn to in times of need.
What it does
Branch is an online platform that helps undergraduate students to find university-verified communities and clubs based on their personal values and interests.
Why we created it
Students are subjected to constant stress, deriving from personal experiences with rigorous academia and social struggles. Considering that for many, this is the first time away from their home community and have difficult time establishing a new support group. Not only can this often times lead to higher levels of depression and anxiety within the student population, but can further alienate the individual into reclusive behaviour, feeling further detached from the world around them.
Our findings (a collective discussion of shared experiences) suggest social isolating behaviour during one’s undergraduate experience may be a larger symptom of the lack of sense of community students may encounter, even beyond their undergraduate career.
In order to help prevent social isolation we decided to present Branch as a tool to facilitate the process of finding safe spaces for students to explore. Our hope is to support our students in fostering healthy interpersonal relationships
Who it works for: This is built to serve all students, especially those who are struggling to find representation within the student population, whether it be based on values, desire of deeper connection, or feeling misunderstood and wanting a like-minded friend.
Why this works: Our personalized search allows us to narrow down suggestions with tags such as "teamwork", "inclusion" or "latinx". By giving students a means to choose what is important to them (beyond activities), they can select organizations that reflect their values and create deeper connections.
How we built it
We thought it was crucial to focus on the foundation and purpose of our project through discussion and design. As a result, we had limited time and resources, we used figma to build a prototype and bring our Trees idea to life. As a group, we had multiple brainstorming sessions including crazy-8s that helped us narrow down a problem we saw was critical: lack of community among university students resulting in social isolation. Following, we came up with multiple solutions before deciding that having an online platform that helped students join clubs and communities was the best way to help this issue. The team then brainstormed features and ideas before letting the designers come up with the overall look and prototype.
Challenges we ran into
The biggest challenge we ran into was pinning down a specific problem that could result in a feasible solution. Even after narrowing down the problem for social isolation in university students, there were so many directions that we could have taken it. While discussing, we realized a critical issue: everyone’s needs are different and everyone has various definitions of what social isolation means to them. This made it very challenging to define the scope of our project and how to tailor it to as broad of an audience as possible while keeping it personal enough to be helpful and relevant to the user.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
An accomplishment that we’re proud of is the depth and thought process that we all shared during the ideation process. Not only was our group about finding a solution to a critical issue, but along the way, we shared so many thoughts and opinions filled with our personal experiences and those of the ones around us. Through these conversations, we helped each other gain perspective on the issue and develop a well-established product.
We enjoyed seeing passions and interests come together as teams bridged the gap between technology and mental health to solve problems. The weekend was full of meaningful conversation as we learned about each others experiences and ideas. We encourage everyone to continue being a part of this important movement and discussion.