Rebuilding Alliance

Project Brief

How many people do you know have actually contacted a Member of Congress to talk about a problem they want to solve? Not many. While attending a hackathon after coming back from traveling abroad, I joined forces with a NGO, Rebuilding Alliance, to change this. Their mission: to stop the demolition of villages in the war-torn areas of Israel and Palestine. I helped bring their vision to life by architecting and designing a mobile app for Android. The end result is an app that fosters citizen engagement by making contact with legislators easy and taking action simple.

Type
Android Mobile App
Role
Product, UX, UI, Visual Design, Web Development, Marketing
When
Ongoing current project
Team
Rebuilding Alliance and AppsTown

How can we enact change through our congressional leaders?

The Problem

A depressing number of people in Israel and Palestine are losing their homes due to demolitions and war. This leaves them without light, food, water, and a home. Rebuilding Alliance has been working to rebuild these communities and fight for these people’s rights since 2003. However, they need more help.

The primary method of advocacy to rebuild these communities is through contacting legislators, whether it be via phone call, e-mail, letters, or petitions. Rebuilding Alliance wanted to get more people to advocate for the rights of people in war-torn communities. However, not only do people not know how they can advocate, but also they have no idea who they can advocate to. And at the heart of the problem, Rebuilding Alliance needed more information to show to legislators about where and how many people care, and how to get more supporters.

Our Goal

Get people to take action

The end goal was to motivate citizens to advocate for human rights in this particular region. This meant establishing specific actions people could take that are effective forms of advocacy.

We would achieve this by making contact with legislators as easy as possible. A mobile app would provide people with information about their Members of Congress automatically to make contact happen instantly. We also wanted to see where concerned constituents are located and how many in each district— a count that is valuable information to legislators to learn which issues are most important.

Research

Through user interviews, market research, and some government investigating, I was able to discover valuable information that defined the product requirements:

General lack of knowledge

Members of Congress listen to the constituents in their assigned districts and areas only, but the vast majority of people cannot even name who is representing them.

Calling is the best form of advocacy

We found that with just 20 calls (or fewer) regarding an issue, a legislator would bring up the issue in Congress and even cosponsor a bill in support.

People are scared to speak up

It's not that people don't care about making a difference, but that they are unsure of what they can even do. General distrust in the government and skepticism that their voices will be heard prevent them from doing anything.

Congress keeps a tally

Though it may seem surprising, Members of Congress do listen and hear their constituents. Staff make note of every issue mentioned in calls or e-mails, keeping an actual tally of what is most important to constituents.

Wireframes

Prioritizing the most important features

Based on user research, I was able to determine which features were key to solving the problem at hand and meet our objectives. These included specific actions, a map, information about the user's Members of Congress, an address entry form, and a calling script. Each feature fulfilled a user need.

An early idea for using icons as action items, including calling, signing a petition, and donating.
An initial design of the map showed the number of people who have taken action in a district.
Having extensive information about legislators was important to make contact easy.

Insights

Too much information is overwhelming

Through user tests, I was able to discover which tasks indeed made advocacy easy, and which still left people guessing. While making calls to Congress, users found it extremely helpful to have a detailed script telling them exactly what points to make. It relieved much of the stress and anxiety they felt about making a phone call. However, the map ended up being a very confusing feature for users, due to unclear data points that did not clearly correlate. As a result, I dialed back to ensure only information that would be useful to the user would be shown— everything else was extraneous.

Our Solution

The first version of the application features a single challenge that highlights a specific issue that needs to change. After signing up with their address, the app knows which district the user is a constituent of and can connect the user with his or her correct representatives. Users can take action in different ways: by calling a Member of Congress, signing a petition, sending an e-mail, making a donation, or joining a conference call. It was important to limit the actions the user could take, so we could guide the user down a certain path of advocacy. The app automatically presents the user with information regarding all the legislators who represent them, and the map shows them who else in their district also cares about the issue.

Use Case A

Making a Call to your Member of Congress

When calling a Member of Congress, the user has the option to first read a script to prep them for a call. They are presented with three options: their district representative and two state senators to make the call to— information gathered from the user's home address. During the call, the user can still refer to the script so they never feel lost.

Use Case B

Seeing the number of constituents in a district

This feature puts citizens on the map, a valuable visual resource for legislators when making a tally of how many people care about an issue. Users can see the number of advocates in each district (all around the country!), as well as how many e-mails and calls are made.

Use Case C

Find your legislators' contact info

The app asks for the user's home address in order to automatically provide the user with the Members of Congress who represent them. Legislators only count action taken from those in their district specifically. Generally people have to look up this information, but the app clearly states the user's district number and Members of Congress.

Use Case D

Making a Donation

Sometimes users want to take action in a way that requires the least thought and commitment. Donating money is a simple and easy way to make a difference and still feel good.

Use Case E

Signing a Petition or Sending an E-mail

We take out all the work for the user. A pre-written e-mail or petition is provided, and with a tap of the button, it will be sent off to all three of the user's representatives. E-mails and petitions are another very effective method of advocacy that are tallied up and taken into consideration.

Status

Getting ready for the next launch

Evincible for Rebuilding Alliance has currently been released as an MVP on the Google Play store. With the two month time constraint to plan, design, and develop the app, it was most important to get the critical features out there first, and only focus on one specific challenge. We're ramping up for the next version, which will feature additional issues for people to advocate for, and adding more action features that will diversify the way people can use the app. We have a big vision— we're only just getting started.

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