Hubbub has gone into hibernation.

Project TEDASUKE – a self-development and self-organisation tool for volunteer children’s book readers

Voor­lee­sEx­press is a project by social inno­va­tion agency SodaPro­duc­ties. Vol­un­teers read books to chil­dren in need of extra help learn­ing the Dutch lan­guage. The project is a huge suc­cess. It oper­ates in 100 munic­i­pal­i­ties, employs 4000 vol­un­teers who read 3700 fam­i­lies annu­al­ly.

In the sum­mer of 2015 we worked with SodaPro­duc­ties to devel­op a design con­cept for a new tool for Voor­lee­sEx­press vol­un­teers. We designed a respon­sive web appli­ca­tion which helps the vol­un­teer read­ers keep track of their work with their fam­i­lies, sup­ports them in the devel­op­ment of their read­ing skills and con­nects them to oth­er vol­un­teers.

Our design con­cept was bro­ken down into three deliv­er­ables: a user jour­ney map, mock­ups and a func­tion­al spec­i­fi­ca­tion. Togeth­er, these pro­vid­ed SodaPro­duc­ties with the nec­es­sary input for them to cre­ate a plan and bud­get, acquire funds, and find a devel­op­ment part­ner. Our work laid a sol­id foun­da­tion for the tool’s fur­ther devel­op­ment in 2016.

User journey map

Our user jour­ney map tells the sto­ry of a volunteer’s work with Voor­lee­sEx­press, from signup, through the 20 weeks of read­ing to a fam­i­ly, to cel­e­brat­ing and shar­ing her accom­plish­ments. It sheds light on the goals, activ­i­ties, thoughts and feel­ings of the vol­un­teer at every step in their jour­ney. For each step it also describes what the future tool will pro­vide her with to sup­port her in her work.

We pro­duced the map in col­lab­o­ra­tion with SodaPro­duc­ties lead­er­ship and experts. Dur­ing a dis­cov­ery work­shop we sketched out a first draft of the map. In the stu­dio we refined the map over sev­er­al iter­a­tions and used data from a wide range of research reports to enrich the sto­ry. Even before com­ple­tion the map was already in use by SodaPro­duc­ties to tell the sto­ry of their plans to their part­ners.

Sketching the user journey map during the discovery workshop

Part of the finished user journey map

Mockups

Using the user jour­ney map we iden­ti­fied a num­ber of key screens to visu­alise. We iter­at­ed on the mock­ups with fre­quent review ses­sions at the SodaPro­duc­ties offices, going through rough hand drawn sketch­es and more detailed wire­frames. Final­ly, we brought in fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor Simon Scheiber to cre­ate high­ly detailed mock­ups.

We built on the exist­ing Voor­lee­sEx­press brand and devel­oped it fur­ther into a visu­al lan­guage suit­able for respon­sive web appli­ca­tions. We also includ­ed exam­ples of real­is­tic con­tent in the mock­ups so that they could be used along­side the user jour­ney map to tell the sto­ry of the tool as if it was already real.

Sketch, wireframe and mockup of a screen side-by side

Functional specification

Being strong believ­ers in agile plan­ning, we pro­posed to not cre­ate a detailed func­tion­al spec but in stead to write a list of user sto­ries. These user sto­ries were based on the user jour­ney map and mock­ups but also cov­ered func­tion­al­i­ty avail­able to SodaPro­duc­ties through the tool’s back­end. We also esti­mat­ed the ‘weight’ of each sto­ry using t-shirt sizes. By extrap­o­lat­ing from our own expe­ri­ence design­ing and devel­op­ing sim­i­lar prod­ucts we could sub­se­quent­ly pro­vide SodaPro­duc­ties with an esti­mat­ed bud­get, which they used to bench­mark pro­pos­als from poten­tial devel­op­ment part­ners.

Part of the functional spec

The user jour­ney map, mock­ups and func­tion­al spec togeth­er paint a suf­fi­cient­ly detailed pic­ture of a tool that helps SodaPro­duc­ties take the next step in grow­ing Voor­lee­sEx­press and helps vol­un­teers devel­op them­selves and organ­ise their work in a has­sle free and fun man­ner.

Pay­ing close atten­tion to vol­un­teer moti­va­tion proved key—as it does in any Hub­bub project. Voor­lee­sEx­press read­ers do the work because they enjoy becom­ing a bet­ter ver­sion of them­selves and feel­ing use­ful to soci­ety. Vol­un­teer­ing is a great expres­sion of auton­o­my and we were very care­ful not to make any design choic­es which would neg­a­tive­ly affect this sense if auton­o­my. This is chal­leng­ing, because of course there are cer­tain things a vol­un­teer must do. Vol­un­teer work is not with­out com­mit­ment. Our strat­e­gy was to con­nect such chores to learn­ing activ­i­ties. As read­ers improved their skills through var­i­ous dig­i­tal resources and reflect­ed on their own devel­op­ment, they also auto­mat­i­cal­ly record­ed the data required of them. In short, the per­ceived chores were giv­en a new con­text and in this way were made mean­ing­ful.

We think much vol­un­teer work can ben­e­fit from dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion sim­i­lar to project TEDASUKE. Our col­lab­o­ra­tion with SodaPro­duc­ties has pro­vid­ed them with new expe­ri­ence that will help them not only trans­form their own organ­i­sa­tion but con­ceiv­ably makes them well-posi­tioned to help oth­ers in the field make progress. We look for­ward to see­ing the results.

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