While staying in Lisbon for a few weeks, I decided to see more of the country and planned a trip to Porto for a long weekend at the end of May. After booking my trip, I stumbled upon a MeetUp group, makesense Portugal, and discovered that they had a SenseFiction event planned over the time I was there. Naturally, I signed up.
From makesense.org: makesense is a growing community that is mainly run by volunteers with about 35,000 members worldwide. makesense is a playground with a purpose: we offer a chance to get involved and to make a real difference to the world by working on issues that citizens really care about with other people who share the same passion.
The SenseFiction event was held at the wonderful Porto Design Factory (PDF), created to advance knowledge and nurture leaders and innovators to anticipate, serve or solve societal and economic needs, through an integrated, interdisciplinary education program. There was a team in residence the day the event took place that was working alongside CERN to propose applications of CERN technology that benefit society in the future for 2020, 2025 and 2030, colliding technology with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
I was impressed by all that was going on in the makesense and PDF communities and was excited to participate in this exercise. The attendance was lower than expected so there were only about 6 people that were split up into two teams. Before deciding which team to join, we heard idea pitches from a couple of the attendees, myself one of them.
One attendee proposed working on a solution to provide solar power to remote communities and I proposed an idea I had many years ago. My proposal was to create a platform that allowed grocery shoppers to donate food to local organizations and charities at the click of a button while doing their shopping online, for delivery. Donating food is something that is top of mind in the US during the holiday season but tapers off the rest of the year. If there were a way to integrate the foods needed by these organizations with the online shopping platform, shoppers would be more aware of the need, year-around, and have an easy solution for donating. The current method for collecting food donations is to have people bring it to a designated location, whereas, if they were able to add an item to their cart, the grocery delivery could drop off their items and then make a second stop at the organization that the donations are meant for.
After teams were divided up, myself and two other women were set to work on the food donations project.
Identify why the problem exists: Many people have so much going on in their own lives that taking food donations to organizations in need is not always top-of-mind or feasible with schedules. There currently is no platform that connects the willing contributor with organizations in need of food donations.
Analysis of Existing Projects
Identify other possible solutions that already exist: There are a few companies which are working in the food donation/general donation space already. Amazon smile gives a percentage of purchases to specified organizations, as long as users make their purchases with that organization’s unique Amazon link. Refood is a Portugese company that takes restaurant leftovers and donates them to local organizations at the end of the day and eSolidar allows users to donate valuables for auction or sale on the site. The proceeds then go to the supported charities.
None of the above directly address the solution we had in mind, however.
After our initial research, it was time to brainstorm our own solutions to the problem: We established solutions/ideas that fell under the below five categories.
- Tech Solutions
- Offline Platform
- Online Platform
- Rewards System
- Transparency Concerns
The Solution: Bridge
After brainstorming, the last step was to present an image of what our solution would look like.
Bridge: Connecting Superheroes
Bridge is the name we chose for this project, with the goal of connecting Superheroes – both the organizations serving communities and those who support those organizations. Bridge would be divided up into two categories of contributors: Automatic and Involved.
This category is for contributors who are able to donate food items either while shopping online or at the store. Those who choose to shop at a physical store would still have the ability to donate via a board at the register with items listed & a bar code that cashiers could scan at the shoppers’ request.
The online platform would take advantage of API integration with grocery store sites which allows organizations to create their own lists and notify shoppers at checkout to add an item to their own cart for their preferred charity.
We realized that only having the ability to donate online or while grocery shopping may not be enough for some people who wanted to dedicate more time to this cause. For those people, we would create an online platform that allows volunteers to connect, be more involved with local organizations and sign up for more responsibility.
These extra responsibilities could include downloading an Google Maps-like app that volunteers could turn on while driving around during every-day activities. This app would be able to access their starting and ending locations and suggest food/donation pickup and drop-off locations along their route that they could assist with.
Another possibility would be a Tinder-like app that directly connects those in need with someone in their immediate area who is able to help right then. This would also include a visual map of the need areas around the user’s current location.
With a focus on transparency and repeat volunteerism, this platform would include a leaderboard area in order to add a gamification element and reward contributors, through local business partnerships, for their continued contributions to their community. It would also provide a story-telling area where organizations and users could connect, follow delivery journeys (think Domino’s Pizza order tracking meter) and show how contributors’ donations are making an impact in their local communities.
Although this was an exciting and wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon, there are no plans to work on this platform, as of now. If anyone has more to add to this or is interested in working on it, get in touch!