REACH Edmonton and the 24/7 Mobile Assistance Program – Rapid Prototyping 

Participants: REACH Edmonton, 24/7 Mobile Assistance Program, Homeward Trust Edmonton, MARS Lab

Summer/Fall 2013

The MARS Lab is proud to be collaborating with REACH Edmonton partners to explore real-time information sharing for the 24/7 Mobile Assistance Program run by Edmonton’s Bissell Centre.

The 24/7 MAP Team works closely with police, emergency services and other first responders to connect vulnerable citizens to community and government-based services that can address the underlying causes of crises (e.g. lack of housing, addictions, mental/physical illness, poverty) and decrease the unnecessary reliance on police and other crisis/emergency services.

We have been using this collaboration as an opportunity to develop a rapid prototyping method that will enable us to quickly create, test, and evaluate enhanced information sharing applications using low-cost ICTs.

For this collaboration we have used the open source crowdmapping application Ushahidi to deploy a real-time information sharing service that enables MAP staff members to quickly and accurately record times and locations as they receive and act on calls to assist individuals.

We met with REACH partners on Monday, July 8 to discuss information needs.  From that meeting came basic needs requirement, which we were able to translate into a working prototype within about 4 hours using Ushahidi’s Crowdmap.  We then introduced it to 24/7 MAP staff on Thursday, July 11.  MAP staff used the application over a period of 36 hours and then provided feedback on their experience with it.  We then met again with the REACH partners on the following Monday, July 15 to review the results and discuss next steps.  At that meeting we decided to continue with the prototyping through the summer to allow MAP staff members to gain more experience with the application and to further refine the prototype.

Our experience with this project has helped us to advance our work on rapid prototyping as a method for collaborating with community groups to provide a quick and cost-effective means to identify, test and evaluate information sharing needs.

We believe that rapid prototyping is a method that will help us gain insight into how information sharing happens in real-world contexts and provide valuable input for community organizations to plan their communications strategies and investments in app development or deployment.