I'm a data scientist working at the intersection of technology and design. Reformed astrophysicist & former e-Research/data consultant.
Kensington Neighbourhood House

Kensington Neighbourhood House


RHoK Melbourne Summer Hack

December 2018

Kensington Neighbourhood House came to Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) with a very simple problem.


The Problem

The House relies on volunteers to support many of their programs; each of which has a very clear position description requires quite specific skillsets. Many of their volunteers are international students, wishing to gain valuable work experience and meet people within their new community; or retirees, seeking a new purpose and meaningful work; and locals who just want to help build a better community. There is no shortage of volunteers, in fact the House regularly receives a steady stream of people dropping by who want to volunteer, but don't necessarily have the skills to match their current volunteer needs.

Rather than send away potential volunteers, Carolyn (KNH Manager) & Rebecca (KNH Education Coordinator), wanted to find a way to harness their enthusiasm by referring them to another Kensington organisation that might also need volunteer help. Kensington is an amazingly connected little suburb in terms of residents and community organisations, and like many “villages” interactions are mostly face-to-face. By acting as an intermediary, KNH could help foster meaningful relationships between volunteers and employers.

The idea for the online aspect was driven in part by a desire to digitally capture information about volunteer skills. Kensington Neighbourhood House’s current process are still very pen-and-paper, and it was felt that an online solution might (a) reduce the administrative burden, and (b) facilitate follow-up and tracking in the event that volunteers couldn’t be placed straight away.

The Pitch

Carolyn and Rebecca realised that there was an opportunity to create an online volunteer portal specifically for people wanting to volunteer in Kensington, and based on their interests and skills could matches them with a Kensington organisation that needed volunteer help. More than that, it had to give the prospective volunteer a sense that they could join a community of like-minded people that also cared about the community that they live in. It should be user friendly and more engaging than the typically impersonal job-seeker websites, and needed to be able to be used by KNH house itself, to help the tech–adverse who still preferred to drop in for a chat.

Managed by the Kensington Neighbourhood House, it would be a place where community organisations could advertise for volunteers as well as a place where potential volunteers could offer their services. As a co-convenor of the local Kensington Community Network – a network which meets bi-monthly and has over 20 members, Kensington Neighbourhood house is well placed to work with other not for profits to make this initiative a success.

An effective MVP

Despite the relative simplicity of the problem (or opportunity), determining what should be designed or built over the weekend was still quite a challenge. The project would undoubtably benefitted from creating personas and mapping the various aspects of the volunteer journey. But then again, Carolyn and Rebecca already had a really good understanding of their volunteer demographics and the motivations for why people want to volunteer in their community.

We find that people who volunteer in their own community are often more committed to their role so the turn over of volunteers is less and as a result the volunteer experience is very beneficial for both volunteer and organisation.
— Carolyn Webster, Manager of Kensington Neighbourhood House

In the first instance it was decided that developing an online form that could capture prospective volunteer information and skills would be an appropriate minimum viable product (MVP) – an achievable and usable solution that would certainly add value. At the same time, the idea was still very much early stages. While KNH engages with many local organisations and co-convenes the local Kensington Community Network, no partner organisations had been secured for this particular project. Wouldn’t a prototype website (or set of well designed wireframes) be more useful for demonstrating what such a volunteer portal would look like?

About half-way through our first day, we decided that we would create two MVPs:

  • a low-tech prototype website that could be built quickly, that would adequately communicate the projects purpose, could be used immediately to recruit partner organisations, and could be managed by the team with very little tech burden, as well as;

  • a simple website with a fully-customisable volunteer sign-up form, with a more interactive and engaging user interface, and would allow the implementation of volunteer skills and project matching (based on form-field keywords) later down the track.

The later would also enable two of our hackers to work on an end-to-end React prototype; to serve as a showcase project to complement their General Assembly 12–week immersive web development course.

Design Process

Project Team

Project Pitch  Carolyn Webster & Rebecca Smith (Kensington Neighbourhood House), assisted by Arna Karick

UX Advice | Alexsar Pandashteh

Squarespace Design Arna Karick, Carolyn Webster, Rebecca Smith

Website Content Arna Karick, Ben Dalley

Logo Ideation/Creation Ben Dalley

React development Ajay Raveendran, James Bedwell, Jackie Ng, Richard Weissel

React Project Manager/Mentor Richard Weissel

RHoK Tech Mentor & Buddy | Arna Karick

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