DonorsChoose.org

DonorsChoose.org is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. Public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on the site, and donors can give any amount to the projects that most inspire them. Projects range from classrooms requesting books for students to teachers looking for magnifying glasses, binoculars, and bird feeders for environmental science projects. When a project meets its funding goal, the requested materials are shipped to the school. The teachers follow up with photos of the materials in action in the classroom and a thank you letter.

DonorsChoose.org recently made a large amount of their data public. They have many exciting projects in mind using this data, but not the bandwidth to complete them all. Their data teams periodically shares insights on http://data.donorschoose.org.

Challenges:

1. What makes ____ unique?

What: An interactive web page allowing for visual comparison of two cities or states side by side.

Why: Data is too often either averaged or absolutes are compared. For example: Chicago has 10k teachers, New York has 20k. However, the real gem in educational research lies in finding outliers, not stating averages. The goal of this web page is to create an interactive way for users to discover that New York has twice the amount of teachers than Chicago, and that this number is 35% larger per student head than U.S. average. As an inspiration, we have produced a similar infographic for Chicago, comparing it to the rest of the U.S. and discovered these unique trends in Chicago school needs: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1007031/linked/chicago_pres_pages_final.pdf

Who: journalists, educators, upworthy/buzzfeed audience

Data: 15 years of data in projects, donations, requests, teachers, donors, schools, etc as CSVs.

Mockup: For inspiration, not a requirement: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1007031/linked/needometer.pdf

Must have features: as per mockup and Chicago infographic + birds-eye view into most similar states and cities.

2. Analyze and map school needs across the country. Create an interactive webpage that visually answers a single question: "What are the needs of American public schools?"

What: An interactive web page/dashboard that explores trends in school needs over time, by geography and other user input dimensions.

Why: DonorsChoose.org brings something very unique to the table: We know what’s happening in the hearts and minds of teachers in over half of American public schools. What are they missing in the classroom? What are they innovating with? This data has never been released before, and now is the time to make it both beautiful and effective in influencing budgeting decisions on state levels—and to ensure that no kids are left without paper, biology kits, microscopes, books, and art supplies.

Who: journalists, educators, politicians, upworthy/buzzfeed audience

Data: All requested products by teachers for the past 15 years have been taxonomized like so: ti-smartview™ emulator software for the ti-84 plus family: Electronics > Accessories & Supplies > Office Electronics Accessories > Calculator Accessories brush-test tube: Industrial & Scientific > Lab & Scientific Products > Lab Supplies & Consumables > Lab Cleaning Supplies > Lab Cleaning Brushes > Tube Cleaning Brushes 10" x 14" canvas panel, art supplies: Arts, Crafts & Sewing > Art Supplies > Boards & Canvas > Canvas Panels

Concepts: For inspiration, not a requirement: http://crisistextline.org/trends/ http://www.socialexplorer.com http://public-schools.startclass.com/compare/58149-111404/the-Academy-I-vs-Infinity-Institute http://public-schools.startclass.com/l/60868/Middle-School-245-the-Computer-School http://city-salaries.startclass.com/compare/16497-120595/Lawyers-in-San-Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa-Clara-California-vs-Physicians-and-Surgeons-in-Chattanooga-Tennessee

Blue Ridge Labs

Blue Ridge Labs @ Robin Hood is a social technology incubator inside the Robin Hood Foundation. Our programs help top talent build and launch technology-enabled products and services that improve the lives of low-income New Yorkers and communities that are often overlooked by technology.

We engage mid-career engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs who bring skills and best practices from the for-profit sector. Utilizing the techniques of human-centered design, we emphasize direct collaboration with the communities these products are being designed to serve—all of our teams participate in interviews, focus groups, and user testing sessions to ensure their products are delivering real value to low-income New Yorkers and the organizations that serve them. Finally, we utilize lean startup methodologies to quickly and cheaply validate products directly with our user base.

The program is only in its second year, but we're already seeing exciting concepts emerge:

  • Multilingual tools to help home cleaners increase their income
  • Microcredit products that help individuals improve their credit score while also saving money
  • A platform to help households easily apply for government benefits directly from their mobile phones
  • Communication tools for community organizers
  • Digital rotating credit associations for recent and undocumented immigrant students to build credit and save for tuition
  • Helping shift workers find more work while building a portable digital resume
  • A digital concierge service to help tenants effectively advocate for their rights
Challenge

How can we use technology to bring high-quality outside of the classroom learning and support to low income children to ensure they do not fall behind when school is not in session?

What: Anything! You decide: Is the solution a mobile application? Website? New service/product?

Who: Three different user profile options:

  1. Home-based child care providers: There are over 20,000 informal child care providers in NYC and an additional 9,400 licensed home-based child care providers. They offer a financially feasible alternative to more expensive formal daycare options, however because they are often understaffed, under-credentialed, and lack strong curricula and support, there is no guarantee that they are up to date on the cognitive and socio-emotional benchmarks for the children they supervise. Can technology empower these caregivers through the dissemination of best practices, by increasing the amount of resources available, or by building more robust support networks?
  2. Parents of low-income students: The average NYC academic summer program costs over $2,000 per month, which is out of reach for many families. Unsurprisingly, low-income youth are less likely to participate in this programming than children from high-income families. There are a wide range of free and low-cost programs across the city, but they can be hard to access. Can technology better connect low-income families to existing low-cost out of school programming?
  3. Wider network: parents, teachers, childcare providers, extracurricular leaders: A child’s educational development is dependent on an entire network of stakeholders. With the challenges of coordinating across schedules, languages and expertise, it can be easy for information to slip through the cracks. Are there ways that technology can facilitate better communication between these individuals so that when challenges for children arise they can be addressed quickly and comprehensively?

Must have feature: Remember, this is for parents and caretakers. Studies have shown that it’s not good for kids to spend too much time in front of a screen.

For inspiration: Khan Academy: https://www.khanacademy.org/ Providence Talks: http://www.providencetalks.org/ Join Vroom: http://www.joinvroom.org/ All Our Kin: http://allourkin.org/ Cool Culture: http://www.coolculture.org/

Department of Homeless Services

As an agency comprised of 2,000 employees and over 3,500 provider staff, with an annual operating budget of over $1 billion, DHS is one of the largest organizations of its kind committed to preventing and addressing homelessness in New York City. Collaborating with other public agencies and nonprofit partners, DHS works to prevent homelessness before it occurs, reduce street homelessness, and assist New Yorkers in transitioning from shelter into permanent housing. Furthermore, DHS remains committed to meeting its legal mandate to provide temporary emergency shelter to those experiencing homelessness in a safe and respectful environment. DHS requires shelter clients to gain employment, connect to work supports and other public benefits, save their income, and search for housing, to better prepare for independent living.

Challenge

What do you wish you could do when you see a homeless person on the street?

What: Mobile-based resource

Why: When New Yorkers encounter a homeless person on the street they don’t know the best way to help. Currently, people who encounter the homeless on the street in any of the 5 boroughs can call 311 and be connected directly to an outreach provider. Additionally, users can access the 311 app in order to report the location of the individual, request a callback, etc. Some providers may use other mobile apps as well.

Who:New Yorkers with mobile devices

Content: Any content currently available on the DHS website: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dhs/html/home/home.shtml