A growing number of non-profits and social enterprises are doing their best to engage the population in solving social issues. In fact, it’s the best time for people who want to make a difference. Advances in technology, numerous advocates for change, and years of hard work made it very easy to participate in all sorts of social activism. Nevertheless, constant exposure to a multitude of problems makes people overwhelmed. People get paralyzed by the scale of the world’s problems, especially in comparison to their own perceived limited capabilities.
BlueFuture is a youth-led civic engagement startup focused on organizing people around progressive electoral campaigns. The opportunity to design a product that could make a difference was the reason I was so excited to take on this project.
It was a two-week project as part of General Assembly’s UX Design Immersive course. The main task was to develop a mobile app that would help engage people aged 16–25 in solving social issues, with the following points in mind:
- Understand the ways their communities use technology to advocate for change
- Find creative ways to empower and engage young people aged 16–25
- Re-design the experience of being a young person who wants to make a difference
Before I began to brainstorm solutions I knew I had to do user interviews first. Asking our target audience about their actual experiences is the best way to identify users’ real pain points and design a user-centered solution.
Questions asked of the user
- What social issues are you most concerned about? Why those issues over others?
- Tell me about a time in the last 2 weeks when you were directly engaged with this issue?
- What prevents you from being more engaged? What has to happen in order for you to get more engaged?
- Are your family/friends concerned and engaged with the same issue or something else?
- What do you think about your ability to make a difference in local or national elections?
User Research Insights
After conducting a series of user interviews, I used affinity map to find a common themes. As a result, I was able to discover three major trends that influenced my further design decisions:
I interviewed volunteers who were standing on the street in the rain. Even in such poor weather conditions they were committed to sharing their stories and encouraging people to vote. Here’s what they had in common:
- They had personal life experiences with the social issue they volunteer for
- They engaged their friends or made new connections in the organization they volunteered for
- They said “I know I can make a difference. I have to.”
People who said they engage in social activism “a little” to “not actively engaged”:
- They read/heard about issues from in the news or witnessed issues but didn’t have any experiences that affected their lives
- They say: “I wish I had more people in my immediate surroundings who know and care about this issue”
- They feel overwhelmed when thinking about getting engaged with this issue. Too big, too much time, etc.
In summary, to engage youth we need to solve the following pain points:
- How can we help users focus on social issues they can relate to the most?
- How can we create engaged and connected communities around each social issue on the local and national levels?
- How can we help users become engaged with their social issues of choice in an easy and simple manner?
- How can we help users feel like they’re making a difference?
Paper Prototype & Clickable Prototype in Marvel
First, I focused on community-building feature in my sketching and prototyping.
The prototype shown below allowed users to choose social issues they relate to the most and view stories from other users and organizations around the same issues.
The major feedback from this prototype was that “Sharing and reading information is great but how does this app lead to people taking action?”
To address this feedback I had to refocus towards the toughest, but ultimately the most important, feature of taking action.
Developing Action Taking Feature
First, I created an empathy map that helped me gain a deeper understanding of our target user.
Then, through multiple iterations and usability tests, I discovered the following design solutions:
- Reducing choices to ease the process: too many choices overwhelms users, and I wanted to remove this feeling as much as possible.
- Creating a daily limit on taking action: this allows for users to feel accomplished (even if they didn’t do a lot), and it also reduces the feeling of overwhelm caused by the magnitude of all the things that need to be done.
- Incentives through career advancement: creating a strong association between volunteering and getting ahead professionally. We can achieve this through helping users develop and track relevant skills. Furthermore, we would be able to connect our most active and advanced users to our Hiring Partners — companies that trust leaders developed by BlueFuture and our other for-cause partners.
- User-centered content strategy: help users with gradual, seamless transition from small-time “slacktivism” (engaging with social issues through social media only) to hands-on, long-term engagement
- Gamification: Profile Level Up and progression, Competition and Leaderboards, Energy (Action-Taking) Limit and Skill Development
Link to clickable prototype in Balsamiq: https://balsamiq.cloud/sgc85k9/pcfx1t3
To continue development of this app, we would need to:
- Design a way for organizations to add their Action Items (whatever our users can help with).
- Design a content strategy. We need to create a strategy for matching users with an action that would fit their activity level.
- Develop and test features for connecting with people and interaction with stories.
It would be a great pleasure to continue working on this project and see it come to fruition. A big part of BlueFuture’s vision is “…To develop and sustain a pipeline of young progressive leaders…” — it is a vision I can support with passion, and I did my best to do sothrough this application.
Nevertheless, our two-week design sprint is over, and now we are moving on to the next challenge. It will be a three-week project with a lot of work to be done, and I’m thrilled to start working on it!
Thank you for reading! Let me know if you find this article helpful!