A representative of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) came to us expressing how they would like to implement a mentorship program in 2020. To encourage this mentorship program, they wanted to develop an app to help connect their mentors with immigrants in the Greater Nashville community that are struggling with their naturalization process.
Currently, there are a large number of immigrants (3,000+) in the Nashville metro area who are eligible and ready to complete the naturalization process but, for various reasons, have not done so. TIRRC’s preliminary research showed the process was too intimidating. Owners need an online solution to help people navigate the naturalization process.
How can we introduce members of the TIRRC community to a new mentorship program and build a more connected environment for immigrants and refugees in the Greater Nashville area?
From the outset, TIRRC introduced us to a unique perspective regarding the naturalization deficit by sharing the results of their initial survey.
Between our two groups, a total of seven interviews with immigrants with varying degrees of residential status were conducted, providing us with a solid spectrum around which to base our decisions.
We took a step back from the concept of mocking up a brand new app as a whole and conducted an audit on the TIRRC site and unanimously decided to start there.
RE-FOCUS NEED FOR APP AND ZOOM UP
We believe that an initial bigger win for TIRCC would be to focus on creating a better user experience for their website both for mobile and desktop. Reconfiguring the information architecture would be the main focus. By dividing up navigation into a top navigation with high priority subjects and then a lower navigation with lesser important sub sections, it will guide users to the correct information without overwhelming them. This is a deep area of information that our team only went into a little because to truly rework the information of this site we would need the guidance and expertise from members of TIRRC.
CREATE A MENTORSHIP PROGRAM BUT START SMALL
From our initial research it was made clear that a mentorship type program would be valued both from a mentor and mentee standpoint but we think there are some processes and testing that need to go into this before a large investment is made in creating a mobile app for this program.
TIRRC had yet to start recruiting mentors for this program and was unsure of what amount of time each volunteer mentor would be able to give. On the other side, during our interview process, each potential mentee gave varied answers on what amount of time they would want or need to receive from a mentor. With ambiguous time variations as these, it would take some trial and error to find a working balance in how the mentorship pairing would work and play out.
We recommended creating a Mentorship Program within the already existing site after reconfiguring it's layout and information architecture. From this section, users looking to find a mentor could easily sign up here and be paired with a mentor from TIRRC that would have a small about section creating a more personal experience, which was a large part of the feedback we received from interviews.
EXPLORE OTHER OPTIONS IN THE MARKETPLACE
We know that an online community could prove successful for TIRCC however before spending money developing an app specifically for this we believe first testing the success and adoption of this type of option with existing applications such as mobilize would save money and time for TIRRC.
If the mentorship program proves successful after adapting to the above recommendations, TIRRC could then create their own branded app very easily through Mobilize. This would allow more personalization and communication tools that are easier for their users to use but without the overhead of creating a new application from scratch.
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We strongly recommend a website update for 2020 as a way to start using the mentorship program, possibly promoting the app and testing the adoption of the mentorship program in the community.
After presenting our findings, solutions, and outcomes to our main point of contact with TIRRC, we found out that there was financial backing available for the nonprofit but only through the solution of creating an application for a mentorship program. The potential financial backer was present during our presentation and although they liked our idea, it's not the solution they had in mind to support.
Although I still stand behind our idea of taking the mentorship program one step at a time and not putting the 'cart before the horse' so to speak, I did learn a valuable question: make sure to discuss funding. We made the mistake of assuming that a nonprofit did not have a lot of money to spare, and with that assumption we developed our plan and design. We had asked our point of contact why he was adamant about an application over anything else and he had only replied with the fact that a lot of their users only own cell phones (not stand alone computers) so an app would be easiest.
This was one of my favorite projects while at NSS for several reasons;
1. This is a real world problem where myself and our team had the opportunity to help people within our community.
2. The key takeaway and missed opportunity is also a real world problem in that design teams don't always ask the right questions and that the stakeholder is also the key holder to what will most likely move forward.