When I joined the Volary Foundation as a product designer, it was focused on solving problems for other non-profit organizations that structured themselves as a national body with many local groups. It was our mission to provide open source solutions for these organizations and their individual groups because they typically did not have the same resources available to them as a for-profit company would.
The challenge is that each group needs to be able to establish and govern itself to some degree while staying within the guidance of the organization’s overall mission so that it can retain the benefits of being part of a larger organization. It’s about achieving a coordinated image that balances a grassroot and national presence, allowing for all levels of the organization to benefit from each other’s efforts. It is a complicated structure where balancing a certain amount of autonomy and collaboration is extremely important, and the fact that these local groups are usually run by volunteers only serves to make working within this structure more difficult.
A searchable directory list and map of all the groups within the organization that pulls in data from various sources in order to create group profiles.
Eagle: A service for gathering a groups information from various sources and normalizing it into a cohesive dataset that powered each group’s directory profile.
EagleEye: The interface for administering group data on Eagle. It allows for the establishment of a new group entry, the connection of social networking and other data sources, and the delegation of administrative rights.
Pigeon: A library of embeddable widgets allowing for the use of the directory list or map on any website.
A platform for the creation and moderation of individual group websites utilizing a standardized template.
The platform would allow for groups to easily share data among one another, such as cross promoting events or highlighting local news updates at the national level.
The platform would have a unified user system across all groups within an organization, allowing for cross-group user participation.
The platform would have a gamification system that rewards user participation; possibly allowing for users to earn different levels of privileges and reputation through dedicated contribution.
A platform for the creation of online awareness and fundraising campaigns that could be co-run by any number of groups within the organization.
A donation system that encourages transparency, such as showing how any money collected would be used.
All of the designs can be seen on Invision
One of the hardest challenges that we faced was trying to encourage our personal values of openness and transparency on our customers instead of strictly imposing them, two very different approaches that we constantly debated. It would have been a risky move to immediately alienate our platform by pushing controversial features, especially as an unknown startup in a crowded market. Instead of trying to force our customers to embrace our ideals, such as transparent donations, we should explain through research why doing so is the right decision and highlight those who have benefitted from it.
The biggest mistake that we made was trying to create these general platforms and services while actually developing them as products for a specific organization. The reasoning behind this decision was to secure a niche of customers and to possibly gain insight from working with our intended audience. However, the result was an imbalance between the overall goals of our platform and the specific needs of the client’s product, swaying development too far towards one organizations personal requirements.