connectivity

Objective

Connect a global community to add value to membership. 

Solution

Online platform members can access to learn from one another's events, and find the right person to reach out to for offline conversations.

Storytelling ecosystem strategy to connect members through inspiring highlights.

Project:

Strategy + product design

Industry:

Social sector

Duration:

3 months

Team:

Bobby Archuleta, Ben On, Natalia Vasquez

My role:

Lead design researcher, ongoing advocate of user needs

Tools:

Survey Monkey, Google Forms, Excel, Adobe Xd Ai Pr Ps Id

please use a desktop computer for best viewing and complete portfolio

key results

 

First ever connection research shared with full team

Online platform concept advanced to live beta prototype, evolving to better support user needs

Improved org-wide storytelling on member and Chapter accomplishments

Connection to be built into 2018-19 program portfolio

Initiated thinking on alumni engagement

01

02

03

04

05

01

 

background

Net Impact

 

Net Impact is a nonprofit that inspires and equips university students and early-career professionals to make a real impact using their skills. It does this through a 100,000+ membership organized into 375+ Chapters on campuses and in 40 countries.

I joined their team full-time to launch the ImpactXDesign program and over time became their lead human centered designer - conducting user research, translating insights into strategies, prototyping and testing programs and digital features, and designing programs.

Members are very siloed into their local Chapters, hardly ever even communicating with another Chapter within their metropolitan area, and never connecting across borders. In February of 2018, the executive team asked me to figure out how to connect the global Net impact community. They had already set into motion one solution - the concept of an online platform where each Chapter would have its own page.

02

 

define

why connect?

 

I started by guiding the executive team in getting more specific on our business objectives and working hypotheses: Why did we want to connect these people? What was their working hypothesis on why the network wanted to connect? How did we think the online platform would help? Here's what I discerned.

Business objectives

Net Impact needs to deliver on its value proposition tenant of connection with a global community, which it currently doesn't.

Net Impact thinks connection will contribute to Chapter survival, supporting network growth goals.

Connection might support a sustained relationship between Net Impact and members which could be fruitful for giving back as a funder or mentor.

Specifically with the digital platform, Net Impact thought it could more complete data on members and enforce requirements, two chronic challenges.

Hypothesis on network desires

Connect to use network to find jobs

Discuss topics of interest

Better lead Chapters by sharing best practices  and ideas

Hypotheses on solutions

Digital platform

Slack channel

Virtual book club style "Circles"

Based on

Five year strategic plan, executive direction

Based on

Anecdotal hear-say

Gut feeling

Based on

Hunch

what kind of connection?

I was curious about what kind of connection the team had in mind. I made this diagram to help spark conversation. I learned that the team was open to any kind of connection, as long as it supported business objectives.

become aware of another's existence

deep ongoing relationship

who should connect?

I was also curious about who the team was picturing when they said "connect." I worked with our Chapter support lead to diagram stakeholders.

CHAPTER

ALUMNI

CHAPTER LEADER

CHAPTER LEADER

CHAPTER LEADER

MEMBER

MEMBER

MEMBER

ALUMNI

CHAPTER

NET IMPACT HQ

SPEAKER

MEMBER

MEMBER

CHAPTER LEADER

CHAPTER LEADER

MEMBER

MEMBER

ALUMNI

ALUMNI

PROGRAM

PARTICIPANT

PROGRAM

PARTICIPANT

PROGRAM

PROGRAM

Possible permutations

PARTICIPANT

SPEAKER

X

CHAPTER LEADER

SPEAKER

X

...

There were more possible permutations of connection than Net Impact could accommodate well with custom solutions. If I found during research that many of them wanted to connect, it might indicate a need for a solution that allowed members to custom search to find their niche person.

I asked the executive lead to prioritize.

Prioritized connections

CHAPTER LEADER

X

CHAPTER LEADER

MEMBER

MEMBER

X

MEMBERS

ALUMNI

X

03

 

research

guiding questions

 

I wanted to understand why each group wanted to connect, how they found each other currently, how they interacted once they'd found each other, and what pain points they experienced.

research methods

3

Surveys

6

Live Prototypes

11

1:1 interviews

2

group conversations

surveys

 

I started research by looking at the network-wide surveys from the previous year. I found a handful of relevant quotes in the open comments boxes, and one survey question that got at the connection issue. Social media was the most used connection tool. My hunch was the this was because most Chapters had at least a Facebook page, even when they couldn't afford a website. What were the other?

Since Net Impact was about to send out its 2018 annual surveys to Chapter Leaders, I asked them to include a few questions for me. This one made it into the final survey, and again, I saw a reliance on social media.

"Net Impact Boston organized a regional summit where we met a number of Chapter leaders "
"I would like to connect with other members outside of our Chapter but it's hard to find up to date information on who is leading a Chapter  "

live analogous prototypes

 

Net Impact had 6 live prototypes running, mostly previous unintentional attempts to deliver on connectivity. They included Facebook and LinkedIn groups, an app forum, and two job networking sites. Each were serving a sub-need within connectivity, but none delivered widely. For example, Chapter leaders were only using their Facebook group to advertise events.

group conversations

 

I held 2 group conversations and several 1:1 interviews with 5 Net Impact front-line support staff to pick their brains on what they had been hearing related to connection. 

I also sat in on a group call my teammate Bobby was hosting with Chapter Leaders to go over the digital platform concept. I listened for anything related to connecting. It wasn't particularly fruitful, but it was useful to know that the topic of connecting did come up organically. Here's a short soundbite:

1:1 interviews

I was now eager to have some longer open ended conversations with Chapter Leaders to understand the context, feelings, and goals they had that were behind the live prototypes and survey data. I worked with the team Chapter support lead to send out a user interview recruiting email, and set up 30-45 minute calls with anyone who expressed interest.

I let the conversation go where it wanted, but generally led with with prompts around how they became involved and what challenges they faced.

In the second half of the call, I'd move onto testing an interactive prototype that my teammate Bobby built in Marvel of the digital platform to collect specific feedback on that concept.

04

synthesis

use cases

 

After my research, I went through dozens of documents of notes and picked out trends. I summarized use cases to help guide design.

X

CHAPTER LEADER

CHAPTER LEADER

X

MEMBER

MEMBER

ALUMNI

MEMBERS

X

  • An MBA Chapter leader wants to connect with other Chapter leaders in Michigan to get ideas and share documents

  • Columbia University Chapter wants to partner with a Chapter in Cameroon when they visit for a food security business plan

  • ...

  • A program leader alumnus wants to stay in touch with other program alumni

  • A program leader wants to ask other leaders for advice on explaining climate change

  • ...

  • A Chapter leader at Berkeley wants to connect with its own Chapter alumni for speakers

  • An undergraduate student wants to talk to a former Net Impact member who works in energy policy

  • ...

pain points

I also created a chart to be an ongoing reference on findings in conversations with other team members.

Why connect

Who

  • Learn best practices

  • Share documents

  • Get ideas

  • Promote stuff

How find

How interact

Pain points

  • In person at conference + events

  • Social Media

  • Ask NI staff

  • Search online

  • 1:1 live communication in person, by phone

  • Regional GroupMe

  • GDrive

  • Finding up to date member information

  • Figuring out what other people and Chapters are up to

  • Talk to others in same niche

  • Jobs and mentorship

  • Web search

  • LinkedIn

  • Conference

  • 1:1 live communication in person or by phone

  • LinkedIn search for 'Net Impact' has too many kinds of unsortable results

  • Alumni are interested in engaging, but there is no structure so its hard to initiate

  • For members, its hard to find alumni

  • 1:1 live communication or by phone

  • Websearch, LinkedIn

  • Jobs and mentorship

X

CHAPTER LEADER

CHAPTER LEADER

X

MEMBER

MEMBER

ALUMNI

MEMBERS

X

iterating on the digital platform

I summarized insights, supported by selected quotes from my recorded calls, to share with the design team for the digital platform. I compared my learnings against our business objectives and updated hypothesis of Chapter leader needs. I shared specific small feature changes that would improve the user experience and desirability. We then cooked up some ways to adapt the design based on these insights.

Key learnings

Chapter leaders loved the idea of a dashboard to keep up with Net Impact requirements. They also struggled to find resources. There were opportunities to add a progress bar or prompts to the  dashboard since it would be highly trafficked and move resources to the dashboard so leaders could find them at the moment they cared most.

Chapter leaders wanted to feel more connected to Net Impact HQ. There was an opportunity to sprinkle Net Impact staff faces and HQ voice throughout the platform.

Engaging members on the ground was a major challenge. We could prioritize 'events' on the Chapter profile to enhance marketing potential, since Chapter leaders saw highest engagement with event posts on their Facebook pages, in place of the current 'past blogs and announcements' feature.

The platform's searchable map was helpful, but Chapter leaders were equally interested in being able to search a worldwide event feed - filtering for topics, content, and geography - to make it a learning and inspiration tool.

filling in the gaps

 

We had confirmed that the digital platform was helpful, but there were still large unmet needs it wasn't going to solve. 

Chapter leaders learn best practices from one another?

Chapter leaders collaborate with other one another on activities?

Members connect on topics?

People in our network get career advice and an "in" on jobs?

Alumni who are eager and able to mentor or speak do so?

We needed more than a digital platform.

How might Net Impact help...

05

ideation

Since the team was in crunch time, I mostly went ahead with brainstorming alone, but did some quick polling and ideation with team members in passing. We came up with about 60 ideas, narrowed down to a final few, and surveyed Chapter leader interest:

06

concept development and next steps

Digital platform

 

After the digital platform team had updated the design based on learnings from my research, I ran a second round of tests with the same cohort - primarily focused on:

  • task analysis

  • use cases

  • first clicks

  • usability testing

This resulted in a large number of small change recommendations from me, including:

  • gate some personal information for privacy

  • provide historical data on dashboard for context and competition

  • create progress bar checklist for leadership transitions

  • add 'add to calendar' for events

  • copy edits, filter options, color coding

 

I'm currently managing a group of beta testers who are using the live prototype for the summer. I am measuring KPIs via:

  • Google Analytics

  • Percent of data population uploaded

  • Late summer debrief survey and 1:1 calls

database

 

An idea we are moving forward with is a page on the platform where members could search for people based on filters. I did competitive research on member directories, polled leaders on fields they'd need, prototyped something basic, and hope to get a live prototype into the next development cycle.

Key features:  Customizable privacy, forgiving predictive search, up-to-date info

alumni engagement strategy

 

Another repeat idea from the team was the need for a strategy to engage and gather data on alumni so that they would be more accessible to members (Net Impact currently does nothing with alumni). I have done initial lifecycle mapping, and next I hope to talk to some alumni to understand where we lose them.

better storytelling

 

A number of pain points for Chapter leaders and members could be easily solved if Net Impact did a better job of telling its story. I have mapped the ecosystem, conducted competitive research, created an inspiration board, and prototyped an initial webpage concept.

programs

 

Connectivity has been defined as a key design criteria for the upcoming cycle of program design, happening this summer for launch in fall 2018.