Neighbors helping Neigbors
NbrlyU is a website that allows neighbors to perform small acts of kindness for each other. This would reduce loneliness and social isolation among neighbors and build a sense of community and belonging.
Problem Space - How might we complete small acts of kindness for our neighbors so that we build relationships with each neighbor, which will strengthen the community and reduce loneliness among neighbors?
Since pre-pandemic times, it was an issue that a majority of people do not know their neighbors and if you happen to know your neighbor’s name, it is likely that you barely talked to them. This is very unfortunate because communities used to be a place where everyone knew and cared about each other. Once the pandemic hit the United States, this issue unfortunately got worse.
Based on a survey conducted by a Pew Research center, 57% of the people surveyed say they do not know their neighbor. That climbs up to 72% for 30 to 49 year olds and 78% song 18-29 year olds.
This is resulting in poor community involvement, feeling lonely and like you are living amongst strangers. A good neighbor is someone to be trusted and is a courteous, friendly source of help when help is needed. To have good neighbors, we must also be good neighbors. Our survey also showed that people feel they would benefit from knowing their neighbors.
Using Apps like NextDoor is not solving the problem of neighbors not knowing each other. Most often in the Nextdoor app, neighbors are complaining and not helping each other outside of referring a good plumber or electrician. The same goes for other neighbor apps out there. There are plenty of ways for neighbors to receive the help that will cost them, but we wanted our approach to be different from the current options out there.
Through user interviews, surveys, and secondary research, we determined that the reasons why people do not know their neighbors have to do with a few of the following:
1. Fewer walkers in the community lead to less opportunity for in-person interactions. Neighbors are getting in their cars and going to where they need to be leaving little chance to introduce or talk to your neighbor.
2. Our homes and neighborhoods are not designed to encourage neighborly interactions. Some homes no longer have porches, allowing neighbors to talk to passers-by.
3. No one takes the initiative to know their neighbor.
The goal was to make it quick and easy for people in a community to help each other, and as a result, get to know what wonderful neighbors are around them and build their sense of community. Our hypothesis was: If we can help neighbors interact with each other by doing something kind for one another, this will solve the issue of neighbors not knowing each other. This, in turn, will improve trust within the community which leads to higher rates of health and well-being than those who said they did not know or trust their neighbors. Making a little time for small talk or helping your neighbor with a simple task ultimately makes your day more enjoyable while building community.
As a team, we discussed whether this should be a web application or a mobile application and ultimately landed on a web application. Based on our target users’ pain points, we knew we wanted to provide users with two options:
Give Help or Ask for Help. We then needed to collect details of the “Ask for Help” to match them with neighbors that want to “Give Help”.
NBRLYU is hosted at https://nbrlyu.netlify.app
Below is the Tech Stack used to develop our Product:
People will need help to send their requests to the front end via a form. The app then sends the data to the Firebase database under corresponding categories. People who wish to offer help retrieve suitable requests also via the form. Based on their inputs of category and zip code, the requests stored in the firebase matching the selected category and zip codes within 5 miles radius of the original zip code are then dynamically updated and displayed to the people who wish to offer help.
We had a few technical challenges, and early on in the project, we lost our backend developer. We panicked initially because we knew we needed all parts of the puzzle for the project to be successful. We decided to configure as much as we could for the front end.
We will have a scaling issue because, due to the npm package being based on the US zip code system, this app is currently limited to US customers only; also due to the lack of backend support, I have to use Firebase database which limits the structure of data and the search parameters.
Below are a few takeaways that we learned during this process.
Although we had a lot of fun creating this product, we will not be continuing the project, however, this is what we learned from speaking to customers:
During my time at Colab, I learned the following:
Collaborating as a product team at Co.lab has been a valuable learning experience.
Our team worked well from the beginning due to open and honest communication. We were all ready to conquer the challenges of making this product come to life. We learned that although you may not agree on ideas, it is important to develop a product that would be widely used by users. We also learned just trust in the process and lean on the expertise of our mentor to get to the finish line.