Volunteer coordination app wins Idea Farm
Held Feb. 22-24, the Idea Farm was sponsored by Microsoft and organized by the USG and the Keller Center. Ziegler and Lin will receive $3,000 and the chance to have their idea developed by Microsoft into a Windows Store app.
Ziegler and Lin said they were motivated to enter the competition by their shared passion for community service. Both wanted to improve the efficiency of some nonprofit groups and felt, according to Lin, that their efficacy “could be so much better if they had some form of organization.”
Sum of Good hopes to “reduce this inefficiency by stimulating communication,” Ziegler said, explaining that the platform will improve communication on three levels: between nonprofit organizations, between organizations and their prospective volunteers and among volunteers.
The first level includes an app that allows people to perform “impulse volunteering.” In other words, if someone wants to sign up for an activity on short notice, Sum of Good enables him to see what activities are available in the area, Ziegler explained.
The second level focuses on organization and volunteer communication, providing a systematic means for groups to connect and coordinate their efforts. Ziegler and USG social committee member Richard Polo ’16 noted that natural disaster response would be a possible area of impact, citing Hurricane Sandy as an example. In Sandy’s wake, several organizations tried to band together to distribute food, clothes and other supplies, but time constraints prevented them from doing so effectively.
The third level, communication between individuals, allows volunteers to “volunteer with friends [and] volunteer with people you want to volunteer with,” Ziegler said, explaining that the app allows friends to coordinate efforts to work together. In the event that a conflict emerges to prevent someone from volunteering, the app allows a volunteer to find someone else to take his place.
One of the platform’s key strengths, according to Idea Farm judge and Microsoft marketing executive Justine Li, is that it “doesn’t currently exist on our market.”
Polo said the app’s combination of creativity and practicality made Sum of Good stand out from its competitors.
Unlike other University pitch events such as TigerLaunch and Hackathon, Idea Farm did not require its contestants to submit a prototype with their ideas. According to Ziegler, the duo most likely could not have completed the platform if a prototype had been required. The idea had been in the back of their minds for some time, but most of the work was done during the three days of the competition.
Lin explained that from a coding perspective, a prototype would have been difficult to produce. The open-ended nature of the competition allowed the pair to formulate an idea that would not have to be limited to going “as far as they could code,” she said.
Li said that she does not yet know how Microsoft will develop Lin and Ziegler’s platform. According to Idea Farm judge Patrick McGrath, Microsoft will need to have a conversation with the winners to determine where Sum of Good will go next.
Both Lin and Ziegler expressed definite long-term plans for the platform. Ziegler said they will continue their collaboration over spring break and the summer, and possibly even after graduation. Lin expressed a desire to disseminate the platform in metropolitan areas such as New York City.
“It’ll be a huge time commitment,” Ziegler said, “but it’ll be a time commitment that’s totally worthwhile because it could really do a lot of good.”
He added, “working together, we can do more than the sum of all the parts.”
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