Notes from the 2016 IxDA Newcomers Design Jam

Earlier in January, I took part in IxDA Toronto’s 2016 Design Jam for Immigrants and Refugees. It was my first pseudo-hackathon experience and a bit out of my comfort zone, and I can happily report that it was a really fun day! I learned a lot, met some great people from the UX community in Toronto and from refugee service providers, and became involved in a really exciting project. Not only that, but my team also took home the Most Impactful award at the end of the day and won ourselves all the Kijiji swag a girl could ever wish for (thanks, Kijiji!).

The challenge

Groups were given the opportunity to choose from a variety of problem areas that were generously brought to the group by some amazing local social organizations. My group went with a challenge brought to the design jam by COSTI Immigrant Services, which asked for groups to design solutions oriented towards empowering refugees and immigrants to take control of the settlement process.

Monica Abdelkader, a Program Manager at COSTI who volunteered her time as a domain expert at the design jam, explained that newcomers to Canada often experience a sense of disempowerment as they rely on various service providers to get set up in their new country. They often have to depend on unreliable and conflicting information. Our challenge was to design a solution to help refugees and immigrants take control of their settlement process and avoid delays prompted by moving around between multiple service providers.

The process

With my four teammates, we started out the day by brainstorming initial ideas and pain points that emerged from listening to Monica describe the challenge and discussing it amongst ourselves. Right away, we were inspired by the concept of peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, and we sought to approach this idea through a mentorship service. The more we fleshed out the idea, however, the more problems seemed to emerge, which we discussed at length with Monica. In that conversation, a collective lightbulb seemed to turn on for the group and we came up with the idea of channelling knowledge-sharing more specifically onto a review service.

To explore the idea further, we created personas, journey maps, and use cases that provided valuable insights into user pain points and potential challenges that could emerge from our solution. Sustained by pizza and burritos, we made it to the end of day prepared with wireframes, some basic branding, and a preliminary business plan for our pitch.

The solution

Our solution was a service called MySettlement which provides immigrants and refugees with a mechanism to post and browse verified, anonymous reviews and experiences of service providers and programs written by fellow newcomers. Our solution stuck to our original concept of peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, but rather than employing mentorship to advance this goal (which is already offered by many agencies), we realized that an online interface would have broader impact and allow for immigrants and refugees to more effectively research their options to make informed decisions about where and how to access services.

So what’s next? My team is still in touch and hoping to continue to refine our idea and work with like-minded volunteers and organizations to collaborate and see where it goes! I’m excited to carry the idea forward, and to participate in more events like this in the future. That, and I am now in possession of a Kijiji-branded baseball jersey, which I’m hoping to pass off as a Jays uniform this summer. Updates on that, and advancing MySettlement, to come!