Thesis Midway Point: Progress & Prototype

Here is a continuation of my research for my Masters Thesis project for connecting individuals affected by homelessness to financial resources. Stay tuned for a refined prototype on my next post. Previous Documentation

Background

It’s been a wild ride and my thesis project has taken many turns. My thesis project first started as a fever dream in August, using historical data to predict homelessness. Using machine learning and data(eviction notices, job turnover, education level, rent prices etc.) to predict if someone was likely to be a victim of homelessness in the next five years. I moved away from this idea once I figured out how hard this data would be to find and then structure within a machine learning algorithm.

My next idea focused on the other end of the spectrum: if we can’t solve homelessness how can we aid their struggle. My interest in the blockchain led me down the path of starting to flesh out what a platform of donating crypto to people in temporary housing would look like. If we can’t predict homelessness perhaps we could financially support peoples journey to permanent housing. As much as I was interested in the blockchain for my audience blockchain felt like more of a solution looking for a problem.

My blockchain infatuation still exists but its a little milder these days. It could end up being the underlying database under my prototype but for now, I’ve come to a much simpler solution. The current platform has more modest goals.

Current

Right now the basic idea is a platform that connects individuals who have been recently housed to resources whether they be financial or not via donation. Heres where I give you the “imagine blank but for blank”. Imagine Kiva, but donations, only for homeless people. As I’ve stated in previous articles, one of the major proponents to overcoming homelessness is a connection to a social network: family, friends, doctors, social workers etc. The more human interaction one has, the more encouragement, guidance, and assistance one has access to.

Village, as a platform, aims to bring people from different sides of the spectrum together to use their best efforts for upward mobility.

How it Works

Contributor

This platform aims to aid assistance by aggregating networks between people who have resources and are willing to share and people who need them the most. Contributors can donate money, services or solicit advice or merely even friendship.

Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries post goals to the platform on bills, job hopes, need for training, financial assistance etc. Once a goal has been contributed to beneficiaries send milestone updates on the progress they have made for that specific goal to the contributors. The platform encourages communication and conversation to develop deeper relationships with participants. The fundamental idea is that it takes a Village to get back on your feet, and we help you see the forest through the trees.

Prototype

First Iteration mobile prototype

The first prototype was designed with the purpose of getting feedback: from contributors, stakeholders, beneficiaries and potential users. I focused less on the interface and more on the content. Was I asking the right questions? Was everyone in the user journey included in the product? The questions brought up by my peers helped me focus on details that needed more attention. Should there be a character limit on goal input? Ceiling on money requested? A cap on the number of goals one individual can have.

Thinking through these in the next iteration will help me narrow my focus on the product capability and even narrow the focus on the type of user. The mechanics of the app will remain but the next few weeks will be spent ironing out the details.

Next Steps

For the next round of progress, I need to do a lot more user interviews. The success of this app is highly dependent on homeless people and how it helps their problems. On the donation side, I have to validate users desires to donate. Part of me wants to explore what features in this app could be credit building. Exploring how the interaction within the app could help homeless people contribute to building up their credit is an area I want to flesh out in the next prototype. I’ll save that for the next iteration.