Designing for Social Impact: CitizenStory

The cause

Today I participated in the Hackathon for Social Impact, presented by The General Assembly Social Impact Board. The theme of the hackathon was “How can we increase voter turnout among 18–30 year-olds in the upcoming November election?” This was my first experience participating in a hackathon, and what an invigorating experience it was.

The team

The event started with pitches: “I’d like to use storytelling as a way to connect with potential voters,” said Ray. Being a fan of “This American Life” and “Storycorps”, his pitch appealed to me immediately. After the pitches I approached him, and joined what would come to be known as Team Story. Soon after we recruited Xiaowan, Claudia, and Nidhi and our team was complete.

Our design process

After agreeing on Ray’s initial pitch to use storytelling as way to compel voters. We got to work fleshing out how we would execute this idea. We started by using the MoSCoW prioritization technique to help select our MVP features. For those wondering, “MoSCoW is an (almost) acronym designed to reflect the four categories used by the technique to determine priorities; Must have, Should have, Could have and Would like but won’t get. (The lower case “o”s are added simply to give the acronym a pronounceable form.)” (source).

Ray at the whiteboard and the back of my head.

The great thing about our group is that each of us contributed ideas and opinions as to how the app should look or work freely. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but each of took the time to listen hear each other out. No one person’s ego dominated the group. I was very luck to join such a group!

We then conducted a round of Design Studio. The Design Studio methodology is a process of sketching, presentation, and critique, leading to a shared vision of the project at hand. We timed our session so that each team member had three minutes to explain their design and thought process without interruptions. The critique was also limited to just a minute per person. Doing this exercise before opening the computer allowed everyone to see eye to eye, and it facilitated the next step of the process: going digital.


It was From there we synthesized all of our design ideas and began to create the slide deck and wireframes. a mobile app called “CitizenStory.”

The MVP of the app provides a platform for people to share — and hear — personal stories about voter issues they care about in a safe, non-judgemental environment. The philosophy behind the app:

Hearing the storyteller’s voice is the best way to capture the diversity and eccentricities of the storytellers, much more than through text alone.

The app allows users to select a story to listen to via an interactive fill in the blank, with content in the blanks generated based on current issues.

An interactive way to discover citizen stories.

An alternate way to filter stories is by location: showing the all stories represented as pins on a map of the United States and allowing users to browse the stories by state and city. An important feature for users to find stories on issues on state election ballots.

A low-fi wireframe of the map. Each pin represents a story.
Presenting the project. That’s me!

Our deliverables included: a prototype of the animated-mad-lib-story-picker, low-fidelity wireframes of each screen of the app, and a slide deck to present in front of the judges and other participants.

And the winner is…

After submitting the deliverables each group got 3 minutes to present their project. In the amount of time given all of the groups had managed to create something. Some had clickable prototypes, some had even written demos of their apps in code! We presented our app 4th, which meant we had seen the incredible projects of the other teams before presenting our own. After the presentations the judges went into deliberation. The judging criteria was:

‣Originality + Impact

‣User Experience + Functionality

‣Technical Difficulty

During the deliberations I did not expect to win. But I was still glad to have participated in the event, to have formed a team and made a project I can use in my portfolio. I was even happier to feel like not only had I teamed up with 4, formerly unknown to me individuals, but I had connected with them in a meaningful way, and it was because of that I had such a wonderful experience in my first hackathon.

…Oh yeah, and we won :-).