What happens to used, old items, or simply objects that no longer suit the purpose of the organization itself? We researched this dilemma and were shocked. In one UK Amazon Warehouse, millions of unsold products (laptops, headphones, books) were discarded or burnt. On a personal note, I worked at a community non-profit organization that educated youth on computer science and was surprised to see all their old and used computers being donated to a nonprofit that refurbished and sold them to individuals and families with low-income. But if you are a for-profit store like Target or a non-profit, how do you know which organization to give items that you were going to discard anyway? If you are a nonprofit organization, how do you know who, within the unknown assembly of businesses and organizations, would be a steadfast partner in your mission for years to come? In creating our possible solution about a closed marketplace and an easier way to create meaningful community connections, we considered both the nonprofit and for-profit needs. Nonprofits needed more connections and more help in reducing health, racial, and social disparities in their communities. For-profits needed positive social externalities (ways that their economic activity affect social capital and lives in their communities) and a way to get rid of items. Wanting to make sure we were not just inventing a problem that did not exist, we conducted customer surveys, reaching out to various community organizations, businesses, and professionals. On a scale of 1-5 for likeliness to use the product, 60% indicated 4, while 40% indicated 3. Interestingly, 60% noted that they would be both a buyer and seller, which helped us plan for a more seamless way to do both options (buy and sell). Thus, we created WeConnect.
What it does
Imagine a website that allows your organization to receive supplies for free or get rid of quality items that are no longer relevant to your purpose. In this closed marketplace, you enter your organization's information and select whether you intend to "buy" or "sell", then notate the items of interest. WeConnect connects your organization and delivers the packages, enabling you to form long-term collaborations with both for-profits and non-profits. Buyers pay a percentage fee for each request that is fulfilled, while sellers do not need to pay for items they are discarding. Each organization will have its own profile with a corresponding social externality metric that ranks the positive impact they have on the world, based off factorings including their carbon footprint and size. Nearly 60% of Americans want to buy from companies that have a position about social issues in the world, including racial discrimination and social justice. Corporate social responsibility is generated when for-profits partner with nonprofits; Nonprofits Source states that 90% of corporations enhanced their brand by partnering with reputable nonprofits. WeConnect allows for-profits to form meaningful connections with nonprofits that can tremendously boost their community standing and prestige. WeConnect links together like-minded nonprofits that can work together towards a common social issue in a way where 1 + 1 is greater than 2. Each organization will be able to learn about groups that they did not even know about before, supplemented by our own analysis and metrics. There is such a large target population for this, given the 1.8 million nonprofit organizations in the USA, with over 5000 in Baltimore City.
How we built it
Other than the typical bug issues involved in programming, one of our biggest dilemmas is trying to find out how to make our product stand out from similar counterparts. We had the help of Chinat from Quest2Learn who greatly helped us with our steps to our final product.
Challenges we ran into
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are extremely proud of our product and its vision. While we recognize that several features that we planned in the beginning were not implemented in the website, we still have the drive. This product is meant to improve community connections, uplift those in the community that want to reduce disparities but are still struggling. We are also very pleased with the connections our team members were able to form. We barely knew each other when we first met, so it is amazing how this hackathon was able to bring like-minded people together.
What we learned
What's next for WeConnect
Even when researching about competitors for this solution, WeConnect is both unique and actually functional. One potential competitor, Simply the Basics Nonprofit Marketplace, is free between individuals and nonprofits, but was simply non-functional. WeConnect is different, as it connects organization to organization, not organization to individual and has an actual working prototype. This is why our team is excited to continue working on WeConnect after this competition to complete all the features necessary to create the perfect user experience, including a chat room to facilitate better connections, a Mongoose database to better connect organizations together in terms of purpose and interest, tracking the distance between organizations, and a feedback page.