The theme of Global Issues/Local Solutions challenged us to find value in doing a small scale solution. It made us think about how we can participate in solving a big issue, knowing we have limited time and resources. We initially chose poverty to be our global issue as despite being a first world country, New Zealand suffers from multiple facets of poverty. We later expanded our scope to ‘social issues’ because of the opportunities we were exposed to.
With the knowledge of how much time we had for this project, we thought we would yield more progress if we worked with local organisations already tackling social issues in their community. In doing this, we’re collaborating with people that are experienced and knowledgeable in their specific social issue, with the purpose of building on the foundation they have already built. Our goal was to identify a need within two Auckland organisations and provide solutions that have the potential to improve their process. This aims to equip organisations with better tools/methods at combatting social issues.
The Organisations and Our Solutions
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) aims to help people who are in debt by providing them with a budget and talking to creditors about a longer term payment. To build trust, CAP provides a food basket during an initial visit but do not have enough to give to every potential client. As one facet of social issue consists of poverty through financial crises, helping more people receive help from CAP creates a local solution to poverty.
Initially, we had the idea of sponsoring some of the food baskets. Pak n Save is one company that shares similar views and goals towards helping people save money, however, we were declined due to the fact that too many other charitable groups also seeked their sponsorship. Piko Café at AUT also rejected us as they run as an independent commercial entity and wasn’t a viable option. The inner workings of a company can drastically change the viability of a concept and that a sponsorship model was going to be more difficult to acquire.
Reflecting from these experiences, we determined a partnership would be more reliable than sponsorships for CAP. Companies will have a positive outlook on the proposal as a partnership encourages growth for both parties, while a sponsorship has one party supporting the other. We also started looking for companies with a more social goal than most.
We found out about a company called FoodTogether from discussing with one of our colleagues about our project. FoodTogether is a social enterprise that aims to provide access to fresh fruit and vegetables at a great price while supporting local communities. We proposed a partnership between FoodTogether and CAP and they were interested in developing a relationship with each other. They would be able to expand the network of people they’re helping; CAP introducing FoodTogether to their clients and FoodTogether providing food baskets for CAP’s initial visits. While we didn’t establish a partnership between FoodTogether and CAP, we’ve given them a number of ideas on how it could work, as well as clearly communicate the possible benefits. Red Frogs is the second organisation we worked with. They act as a support network for events to ensure that everyone is safe and primarily target alcoholic culture. As volunteers tend to people, they have to document details about the person and Red Frogs’ response to the situation. They currently have a rudimentary method of using pen and paper to fill in information that they need. This makes the process inaccessible, with records easily lost and difficult for analysis. By providing a solution that will allow Red Frogs to operate with more effectiveness, we’re helping Red Frogs tackle the alcohol issue in the community.
Our first instinct was to propose a prototype app that interacts and populates a database. Red Frogs’ volunteers can use this to fill in any necessary details with any smartphone/tablet. As each record is saved digitally, collecting this information with an app not only reduces the risk of losing data, but is also a great use of resources that’s widely available. To clearly explain the specific functions the app must meet, we created an accompanying design brief. This document serves as a structure for Red Frogs to use if they wish for the app to be professionally made.
With Red Frogs’ support, the app’s development went ahead, reaching to a functional prototype that interacts with an Excel database. We ran into a few issues, primarily the scale of the system. For our prototype, we planned features would take too much time or not part of the core functionality of the app. To stick with our timeline, we had to strip some features from the overall desired design of the app and work with a scaled down version. As a possible alternative for getting the app professionally made, we’ve contacted the Computer Science department at AUT to ask if they’re interested in making it a 3rd year project.
Where We Ended Up
This semester, we set out to assist local organisations tackling social issues with a need to improve their process. By collaborating with them, we were able to create solutions for Red Frogs and CAP. Through reaching out and learning more about the people who are already helping those in need, we’ve come to realise that there are many other social issues that we can help with.