In an introductory boot camp-styled graduate course, the professor challenged students to come up with a major innovation in the home. The innovation had to utilize either Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Robotics.
Finding an Opportunity Space
Before coming up with a concept to test, I felt like I had to get more insight into what a ‘home’ meant to people.
User Insight: “A home is a community. It’s knowing where your places are on the corner of what street.”
I learned that a home is more than just an emotional connection to actual physical property but beyond to the community. A couple of participants who had recently moved told me how that the emotional connection does not quite exist if they also aren’t familiar with the area around them.
There are a number of products, groups and blogs out there to help people who have recently moved, feel more at home. However, refugees have the same feeling of an emotional communication to their new communities, but with fewer resources.
The Refugee Integration Agency (RIA) is a civil-service program, similar to the Peace Corps, that uses volunteers and artificial intelligence to not only match refugees to local communities, but initiate communications and provide long-term resettlement services. Volunteers conduct physical reconnaissance and additional research in order to improve the data model as well as act as intermediaries for the refugees and local communities. In the long-term, the program would create and staff local centers that provide or supplement more traditional resettlement services.
I conducted 1 Subject Matter Expert interview with the Strategic Manager of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Innovation Services to review the concept. To understand what motivates and frustrates civil-service volunteers, I interviewed 3 former Peace Corps volunteers, 2 refugee camp medical volunteers, and a local refugee services Director.
Participants mentioned that that a feeling of temporariness is a constant source of frustration. For the volunteers, the rotation of volunteers means a need for re-establishing community relationships and starting projects over again. For the Director, federal program incentives are only for the first 90 days of a refugee’s transition, so program effectiveness really drops off after that. This insight became a valuable part of the journey mapping.
I created quick personas of RIA volunteers and then created a storyboard.
Prototyping and Usability Testing
The goal of the prototype was to see if the site clearly articulated the program and whether or not the user wanted to sign up.
I conducted the usability tests with 2 of the same former Peace Corps volunteers, iterating once between them. The first participant mentioned that “You’re looking for 27 months of service; can you show what that looks like… provide a tangible example?”
As an iteration, I created a mock testimonial video and included that for the second usability test. The second participant had the same issue. While the video was a good start, the other participant wanted to know more than just about her journey, but specific projects and accomplishments.
Both participants said that needed more details about the qualifications and work asked of volunteers but interested in signing up for the concept.
The conceptual program is intriguing to both users and SMEs, but due to the time demand of the program, users wanted to know more details about the specific projects, requirements, and expectations of volunteers.
In the end, my research found a gap in a current process (refugee resettlement) and then I successfully prototyped, tested and iterated on my concept.