Digital Solutions To Help Tackle Homelessness

Homelessness is sadly an ongoing challenge for people all over the world, and it affects those from many different cultures and social backgrounds. Fortunately, there are organizations that help them break the cycle of homelessness, find permanent housing, and rebuild their lives. One of these organizations is Teen Challenge, whose Wrocław branch sought support in creating a new website. Their goal was to explain the organization’s work and target different audiences to boost donations and other forms of support.

 Teen Challenge reached out to Tech To The Rescue and was matched with Digital New Agency (DNA), who got to work on coming up with a solution. We spoke to Radosław Lont, Head of Agile (DNA) and Bolek Rosinski, Product Designer at DNA, to find out more about the project and partnership.

Welcome. Could you introduce DNA and tell us a little bit about what you do?

 Radosław: Digital New Agency (DNA) is a tech partner supporting other companies in solving a range of technological challenges. We enter into long-term partnerships with clients, but recently we’ve also started supporting NGOs, which we’ll talk more about today.

Could you tell us how you first came across Tech To The Rescue?

Radosław: Yes. We started looking for CSR projects we could take part in during the second half of 2020. We felt that our company had grown to the point where we had the resources and capacity to take on such a project. Tech To The Rescue had done some great advertising during that time, and I found them very quickly online. The great thing about Tech To The Rescue is that you match projects based on companies' capabilities and availability. That way we can save the time we would need to put into searching a project on our own.

What was your motivation for getting involved in pro-bono projects?

Radosław: We’ve always been very purpose-driven and we’re passionate about providing solutions to complex problems. If our product ends up making someone’s life better, it gives us extra motivation to work. We offer each employee four hours a week (so-called ‘Slack time’) to spend on things that matter to them. It can be used on education, pro bono projects, wellbeing or anything else. Of course, when individuals or teams are not engaged in any product for a while, they can dedicate even more time for pro bono activities. 

Great. Could you tell us about the project you worked on for Teen Challenge Wroclaw?

Radosław: Yes, certainly. At the beginning I would like to explain the nature of Teen Challenge’s work. It’s an organization that helps young people find a way out of homelessness. They wanted to create a new, engaging website, which would not only explain their mission, but also encourage support and donations. This is where we came in. We were tasked with creating both the desktop and mobile versions of the website.

And how did the process begin?

Bolek: We used the UX process that we use when working on these types of projects for clients. It begins with the discovery phase, in which we identify the needs of the organization. We also take a deep dive into the target audience - including their challenges and pain points. Then we define our hypotheses, based on which we ideate and later create the first prototype of the product. The idea was to create a feedback loop on our designs and iterate until we came up with the best possible solution.

The initial research was conducted within a week, and it included several surveys of different potential target audience groups. We wanted to find out what would motivate potential website users to support a given organization. Here, Tech To The Rescue’s support was very valuable in helping us connect with the right people. Thanks to the results of this research, we were able to verify our hypotheses, create a site map and a low fidelity mockup. 

Great. And could you tell us a bit more about what happened when you designed the pages?

Bolek: Yes, definitely. In the phase of creating the low-fidelity wireframes, we were able to map out the different building blocks that would form the in-page taxonomy of each page. In this phase, we also considered the messaging and user journeys of each target audience because there were several: businesses, individuals, media and churches. In each case, there were different ways they could support Teen Challenge.

Were there any challenges that you faced along the way?

Bolek: One of the biggest challenges was establishing an effective hierarchy of information. Teen Challenge had a lot to say and they wanted to put a lot of information on the homepage. We were able to help them focus on their messaging so that the homepage didn’t get too cluttered. The organization has its roots in the Catholic Church, and initially a lot of their messaging was centered around this, while the target audience had evolved. So it was a matter of deciding how to reframe the narrative without offending anyone. 

Did you have any ‘aha’ moments during the project?

Radosław: For me it was about the fact that it was just as important to show the people supported by the project — i.e. the homeless young people, as it was to show those who were helping them. It’s crucial to create a sense of credibility to an organization like Teen Challenge, which has been doing important work for years. But the end users of the website, who may not yet be aware of their work, need to develop trust in them. And that’s why it’s so important to use images on the website to show who they are and what they do, and to describe their mission effectively.

What are your future plans when it comes to further NGO support?

Radosław: We currently have two projects on the go. Since we’re doing them in the before-mentioned ‘Slack time,’ each project is progressing at its own pace — one a little faster than the other. The great thing about these projects, particularly when organized by Tech To The Rescue, is that they need very little formalities or paperwork. This means you can get started quickly and add value immediately.

Is there anything else that you have learned from the process which you thought was worth sharing?

Radosław: I thought it’s worth adding that of course every NGO is different — they vary in size and scope of work. Some have permanent employees on the ground, others are volunteer-driven. Many have never worked with an IT consulting company before, and need to be taught how the process works from start to finish. So you need to approach the collaboration with a very open mind and know that you might need to adjust the way you’re used to working. That goes for both sides. It’s important to find a common language, review things along the way and make sure that everyone is in agreement, and also to set some clear expectations from the start. Here’s where Tech To The Rescue plays a big part, sending out surveys to each NGO before they start working with their tech partner. That’s a real game-changer when it comes to matching NGOs with tech providers.

 

Thank you Radosław and Bolek, and we wish you all the best of luck in your future endeavors!

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