It’s fascinating to watch the cycle of feedback between the UX designers and representatives of the nonprofits. So often technological and “business school” solutions don’t truly meet the actual problems faced by organizations. But as these UX folks test out some ideas with StreetWise’s executive director, they seem like they’re learning more about it and incorporating it into their ideas.
For example, a problem everyone in the room knows they need to address is the fact that people are carrying less and less cash. There seems to be a consensus that StreetWise vendors probably can’t carry high-end technological devices — even if theft or loss or the devices is rare, it could be a major expense for the organization. The technology, then, would have to come from the buyer (probably their cell phone or other mobile device). An UXer asks whether people will be afraid to pull out such a device near a StreetWise vendor. But this actually highlights the level of implicit trust that exists in the StreetWise transaction — despite some perception problems, hundreds of people pull out wallets full of cash a foot away from a StreetWise vendor every day. The commercial transaction can be a foundation for empathy and trust — and the UXers get it.
Another aspect of the public perception problem is fear over what StreetWise vendors do with the money they make.
The UXers wonder whether there is a way for StreetWise buyers’ resources can be translated more directly into things they feel will benefit the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. Jim LoBianco (their executive director) shares that those needs are often quite different from what people think. One of the most common, he says, is transportation — StreetWise vendors need things like CTA passes to reach the next opportunity in their lives. So perhaps the direction in which StreetWise needs to move is closer to something like an airline rewards program than we would have thought? It’s hard to imagine this kind of conversation taking place in any other forum.