Connecting Veterans

November - December 2016 (3 Weeks)
 
 
TEAMMATES: Cameron Davis, Justice Juraschek, Mishael Sedas
MY ROLE: Brainstorming & Sketching, Documentation, Iterations & Prototyping, Presentation, User Interviews
DELIVERABLES: Pecha Kucha Presentation, Slide Deck
 

Problem Space

Our team was challenged with the CHI 2017 Student Design Brief of Leveling the Playing Field. The challenge was to address and design for a population that often is excluded or forgotten, the unexotic underclass. Within this vast population, our team decided to narrow our focus to transitioning veterans.

"How could we transform the way veterans, service members, and their families navigate and coordinate the maze of services and resources that they have earned, and unlock a better, more efficient and person-centered approach for service providers to deliver?"
– Jim McDonough, Institute for Veteran and Military Families

 

Our Concept

Our concept is a desktop application which allows non-profit organization employees to assist transitioning veterans in finding experienced mentors. The goal is to help active-duty soldiers’ transition back into society in a supportive way. Please check out the interactive prototype here.

 
 

Research & Insights

We conducted interviews with personnel at non-profit organizations, such as the Charlotte Bridge Home in North Carolina and America Serves, social workers and the Veteran Affairs office who all interact with veterans. Many of these interviews were done in-person or over the phone.

In these interviews, we learned how veterans interact with social workers, specific linear process non-profits record during the intake process, and benefits most requested by veterans.

 
 
 
 

During our interviews we began to notice some major insights:

  1. After being released from military service, veterans no longer have the structural support to help them accomplish daily tasks

  2. The current focus for most non-profits is on veteran needs and not looking at the “whole person”

  3. Veterans feel isolated and alone upon returning and have trouble integrating back into society

  4. Navigating the web of benefits can be difficult and overwhelming

 

Concept Generation

As a team, we generated ideas about how we could help transitioning veterans create a supportive connection during this unstable time in their lives. We then turned to social workers at non-profits as they were the primary resource for veterans.

 
 
 
 

Iteration & Prototyping

Utilizing pencil and paper, we sketched various ideas about how a non-profit organization could implement a service to pair transitioning veterans with mentors. After voting, the agreed upon sketches were transferred to a whiteboard and later to a paper prototype for further exploration. Please check out the interactive paper prototype here.

 
 
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The desktop displays information that a social worker would need to make a strong connection between a veteran and a mentor. The left side displays the transitioning veteran or protégé, including a brief bio and any case notes provided by the social worker. The right side displays the potential mentor and includes a brief bio. The center section consists of the needs the transitioning veterans has requesting assistance with along with mentors’ skills. Next to each potential mentor is an overall match percentage rating predicting the suitability of each pair. The labels are referred to as “tags” and belong to the top three needs each veteran has requested help from during their meetings with a social worker.

 
 

Final Design

Based on our feedback from user tests, we were able to deduce that users were confused about the meaning and placement of the tags and how the match percentage was calculated. Tags were iterated to be weighted by size to emphasize the hierarchal importance. Additionally, headings were placed at the top of each column to help users differentiate between transitioning veterans and potential mentor’s information. A star rating was also given to each mentor to allow the social worker to review mentors feedback and pair connection based on previous evaluation without strictly relying on the match percentage. Please check out the interactive prototype here.

 
 
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I Learned...

...how maintaining open communication between team members is crucial in the well-being of the design. Having an open dialogue allowed our team to work incredibly well with each other and create an environment conducive for creativity.