Ideation 9: Project Canvas

Project Canvas

Ideation 9

This lesson can help you stay on track to submit on time. It can also help in the "Future Goals" line of the judging rubric.

In this lesson, you will…

  • Create a project canvas
  • Identify any partners who could help you complete your project
  • Set a timeline and a plan for your project

Key Terms

  • Project Canvas -  a tool that will help you and your team organize your  work
  • Partners - people or companies who can help you create your project
  • Timeline - a schedule that will help you finish your project
  • Milestone - a big piece of your project that you want to get done

Project Canvas

In this lesson, you will create a project canvas.  A project canvas is a tool that will help you and your team organize your work and get ready to submit to Technovation Girls. You will use your project canvas as a guide to help your team plan and stay on the same page as you create your project. Below are the parts of your project canvas that you will complete. There are a couple of things that you haven’t learned yet: partners and planning. Don’t worry! You will learn them now.

  1. Problem Statement

You wrote your problem statement in Ideation Lesson 6. Look back at your work. Has your problem statement changed at all?

  1. Users and People Affected

In as much detail as you can, answer these two questions. Use the work did you describing your community in Ideation Lesson 2 and your market research from Ideation Lesson 5.

  • Who does your problem affect?
  • Who will the users of your app be?
  1. App Features

In as much detail as you can, answer these two questions. Use your work from Ideation Lesson 7.

  • What features will your app have?
  • What will some future features be?
  1. Project
  • How will your app meet your user’s needs? (Ideation Lesson 5)
  • How does your app solve your problem? (Ideation Lesson 4)
  • What will your project look like when you submit to Technovation?
  • What will your project look like in 1 year?
  1. Partners (Optional)

You will learn how to answer these questions in this lesson.

  • Who will you ask for help?
  • Who could help us complete the project?
  1. Planning

You will also learn how to answer these questions in this lesson.

  • What are your next steps in completing your project?
  • What do you need to do to get the project done? 
  • What technologies will you use to create your app?
  • Who will be responsible for doing what? (this can change each week)

There are a couple of things that you haven’t learned yet: partners and planning. Don’t worry! You will learn them now.

Partners

Sometimes technology can serve as a connection between different services.  For example, Uber connects drivers to people who need a ride. Uber isn’t an expert in buying cars and hiring drivers, so instead, they partner with drivers who get paid for each ride they give. The partnership is a good idea for both the drivers and for Uber, because, without drivers, Uber wouldn’t be able to exist, and the drivers get to make some money for their work.

Sometimes, you can work with a partner, instead of building everything yourself. Partners are people or companies who you work together with. A partner is more than someone who is helping you with your project, such as a teacher or parent. A partner can help you meet your goals and will also get something in exchange. Sometimes they get money in exchange for helping you, but they might also get other things, like the ability to use your app for free or publicity. Here are some examples of how Technovation teams have partnered with members of their communities to help meet their goals.

Partners who can help get your app to people who you want to use it

You may be able to find partners who are well connected to people you want to serve. For example, if you want your app to be used by students, you might be able to partner with a school district that can tell students about your app. In exchange, you’ll be helping the school district better serve its students.

Partners who can provide a service to use with your app

You may find that your business needs a service that is beyond what you can build as an app. For example, imagine you want to create an app that lets people call a garbage truck to pick up large items left on the street. Instead of buying the garbage truck and driving it yourself, you could partner with a local company that has garbage trucks and drivers. In exchange, you could pay them a certain amount for each pickup they do.

Can you think of any people or organizations that you might want to partner with? Try googling to see if there might be partners who could help with your project.  If you find a partner you might want to work with, ask a parent a teacher to contact them for you. Here are some tips on what to say.

  • Send an email or make a phone call. If you found your partner on the internet,  look for a contact page.
  • Explain who you are and why you are contacting them.
  • Explain that you are working on a project for social good.
  • Explain how you could benefit from a partnership
  • Explain how your app will benefit them

If you contacted partners but didn’t hear back, that’s okay!  It still shows that you are an entrepreneur who is determined to make your project possible.

 

Planning Tips

Here are some tips that will help you plan out your project and stick to your deadline!

  • Set a schedule
    • Assign tasks to team members, and set deadlines and goal reminders on your calendars!
    • If you are using the 12-week curriculum, your team should leave at least 5 weeks to program your app
  • Break the tasks down and divide them up
    • Have everyone on the team work together in pairs and tackle different tasks simultaneously. This can help move the project along faster.
  • Prioritize
    • Make sure your app is functional first, and then it can be made to look better afterward. Remember, you are submitting a digital prototype and the judges will be interested in knowing that it works, gets the job done, and is easy to use. You can use your demo video and your business plan to let the judges know what your future plans are for the app in terms of new features you would add. Remember to focus on your MVP from Ideation Lesson 7.
    • Ask your mentor to help you if you are having a hard time prioritizing your tasks
  • Focus
    • Turn off all devices you are not actively using during your team meeting or your programming time. You can also mute notifications and anything that will distract you.
    • Make sure you finish one task before moving on to the next. Multitasking doesn’t usually save time.

It is a good idea to document your process and save everything (back up). You will be able to access things like different versions of your app, your flow chart, or your paper prototype in case anything gets lost, so you don’t lose time. You can also use these when discussing any hurdles you come across to more clearly state the issue with your mentor.

Activity: Making your own Project Canvas

Your project canvas will be your guide for the rest of the Technovation Girls season. It will help you remember what the most important parts of your project are and what you want to accomplish. Remember, although it is important to have a clear idea of what your project will be,  parts of your project can always change. However, you have worked hard to get to this point, so try to avoid starting over or picking a completely new problem. Keep your project canvas as a guide for your team to remember the most important parts of your project.

What you will need:

  • Pens or markers
  • Paper to write on or this worksheet

What you will do:

  • With your team, fill out the project canvas
  • Look back at the work you’ve done so far
  • Brainstorm to fill in any sections that are blank

This activity was inspired by open Austin

Reflection

Now that you have your project canvas, do your best to stick to it. Remember that you can always change parts of your app idea or the problem you are solving, but don’t completely start over. There will be rough patches to work through with your team, but you have worked hard, gathered research and spent lots of time getting to where you are right now. Use your project canvas to help you keep faith in your idea and the problem you are solving.

Additional Resources

Pair Programming

Pair programming is when two programmers share a single workstation (one screen, keyboard, and mouse among the pair), and either work together or take turns “driving” and “navigating”. In this scenario, the person sitting at the keyboard or touchscreen is the driver, and the other person is the navigator. The navigator is also actively involved in the programming task but is focused more on the bigger picture, answers questions that the driver has, and keeps her eye on the code to check for bugs. The driver and the navigator swap roles every so often.

There are advantages to pair programming, such as:

  • Better quality of code since the navigator can check the work of the driver.
  • Better communication between team members because the driver is providing a running commentary on what she is doing (or programming out loud), and the navigator is able to respond or ask what is happening if the driver is quiet.
  • Knowledge can be shared and transferred to your team, especially if one person is more of a beginner and others are more advanced.
  • It can help make your teamwork more efficient because the driver can attend to fixing a bug while the navigator can keep focused on the task and help regain focus afterward.

Don’t be afraid to say, “Let’s try out your idea first!” Sometimes when you’re driving, you need to know when to listen to your navigator. The goal is to use the best ideas and to arrive at them through collaboration and to avoid errors.

 

“None of us is as smart as all of us.”

–Ken Blanchard, author and management expert

Ideation 8: Paper Prototyping

Paper Prototyping

Ideation 8

This lesson can help you earn points in the entire Technical section of the judging rubric. This lesson will be especially helpful with "User Experience and Design".

In this lesson, you will...

  • Learn about common UI conventions
  • Create a paper prototype of your app

Key Terms

  • Prototype - an early model of a product
  • Paper Prototype -  a hand-drawn representation of what your app will look like
  • Paper Prototyping - creating a paper prototype
  • Conventions -  is something that is common or is used a lot

Paper Prototyping

Now that you have an idea for your minimum viable product, it’s time to sketch out some ideas and think about what your app and user interface might look like.

A prototype is an early model of something. There are different kinds of prototypes, but we will be focusing on paper prototypes in this lesson. A paper prototype is a hand-drawn representation of what your app will look like.  It typically looks like screenshots.

What are the benefits of paper prototyping, or creating a paper prototype?

  • You can quickly communicate your ideas in a visual way. For example, you can show what happens when you click on buttons in your app.
  • It’s collaborative! When you work on paper, it’s more casual and conversations spring out of experimentation.
  • It’s inexpensive! You don’t have to spend a lot of money and time to create a paper prototype. You can use materials like paper, magazine cut outs, post-its, markers, stickers, tape, and glue.
  • You don’t need access to a computer or the Internet.
  • You don’t have to be a technical expert for this part of the process.
  • You can see how your users react to your paper prototype to quickly learn what may or may not work in your design.
  • Prototypes can help to confirm design decisions before you spend more time developing and coding your app.

 

Conventions

Before you start, here are some basic UI conventions that you can use in your app. A convention is something that is common or is used a lot. Here are a couple of common user interface conventions. You don’t need to use all of these conventions, they are just suggestions for certain things you might want to include in your app.

Buttons

Buttons are used everywhere in mobile user interfaces.  They are used to prompt the user to take an important action such as “sign up” or “submit”. Be careful not to over use buttons, too many buttons can look cluttered and confusing, and the user won’t know which one to use.

Splash Screen

Many apps will use the full screen to display their logo when you first open it. This is called a splash screen. Sometimes they will put a navigation menu or buttons on this screen.

Logo and Header

Most apps have a place at the top for a logo on the main navigation menu.


 

Navigation Bar

A navigation bar helps users find what they are looking for in an app. Many apps put a navigation bar at the bottom of the screen containing icons. You should limit your navigation bar to five items or less so it doesn’t get cluttered.

 

   

Full Screen Menus

You can show your user a full screen menu to help them navigate your app. This can look like a list, or you can get creative and use blocks of color or images.

 

 

   

Hamburger menu

A hamburger menu looks like this:

It is used when a full navigation bar or menu can’t fit on the screen. When you click on it, it will bring a hidden menu out.

   


 

More options menu

A more options menu looks like this:

Similar to a hamburger menu, this menu will also bring out information that can’t fit on the screen.

   

Search Bar

Having a search bar is an extremely common way to help users navigate your app.

Adding a magnifying glass next to the search bar helps your users know it is a search bar.

Scrolling Feed

Most users are used to scrolling down to see more information.  A feed can be used to show more information than will fit on one screen.

 

 

Look through some of the apps that you have on your phone. What parts of the user interface do you see being used over and over again? What parts do you think look nice or make the app easy to use?

Although you might want your app to look really different to stand out from your competitors, using conventions can actually help your users understand how to use your app more quickly. For instance, most users are familiar with a hamburger menu, so including one in your app could help a user quickly understand what to do when they open your app. You could also design a new type of menu, but it might be confusing to users and they might not be able to figure out how to use your app. Of course, you should get creative with your app if you want to! In the additional resources section there are tips for how to test out different parts of your UI with your users. Later on in Entrepreneurship 5: Create a Logo, you will design a logo and choose a color scheme for your app.

  • Download a new app from the app store right now. Does it have any of the conventions mentioned above? Try using the app for around 5 minutes. How long did it take you to figure out how to use it?
  • Need some suggestions?
    • Try All Trails (iOS and Android) or Spotify (iOS and Android).

Before you start, you can learn more about paper prototyping, user flow, and color theory in this short video with Melissa Powell who is on the Google Developer Relations team, and Mariam Shaikh who is a Senior User Experience Designer at Google.

Ready to start? It’s time to create your own paper prototype. Sketching is a fundamental part of the design process and can help you make key decisions about what to design. Your paper prototype can be as simple as drawing on a piece of paper and is helpful when you are working with your initial ideas. You can show your basic app structure and experiment with how people will interact with your app. You can also test colors and where buttons will go. Spending time now to test your ideas on paper will help save you time later when you transfer your ideas to your digital prototype.

Activity: Paper Prototyping

What you will need:

  • Plain paper
  • Markers

Optional:

  • Printouts of the worksheet
  • Stickers
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Magazines

 

What you will do:

  1. As a team, sketch each screen of your app. Put your ideas down as they come and try not to judge them yet. You can question them later! Remember to focus on creating features that are a part of your MVP from the last ideation lesson. Start designing the features that are included in your MVP first. As you do this, you may want to consider:
    • Will it have a logo?
      • What is the color scheme going to be?
      • What would the first screen look like?
      • You will spend more time working on your color scheme in Entrepreneurship 3 and creating your logo in Entrepreneurship 5.
    • Does your app need a menu for navigation? What will that menu look like? What will be on that menu?
    • Will a user log in to your app? What could the login screen look like? What about a profile page?
    • What happens if you click on a button to get to the next screen?
    • What will each screen look like?

paper prototype example

2. Check out the example of a paper prototype above. Notice the way the stickers are used to show where users can click on buttons. Also, in some cases there are sketches underneath, which would possibly be the next screen a user gets taken to once a button is clicked.

3. Once you have a working prototype, create a run through of how the user would navigate the app. You can take pictures as shown in the video above and create a .gif or video.

Reflection

You just created your paper prototype! We recommend that you save your paper prototype because you may need to refer back to it as you work through building your app. Make sure to leave it in a safe space so you don’t lose it, or ask one of your team members to be responsible for it.

  • If your app’s design should be the “minimal viable product”, what features must be included and what features are you removing from your design?
  • Did you choose to follow any conventions, if so, which ones?

Additional Resources: Using digital tools to prototype

If you are on a remote team, you might also wish to create a digital prototype of your app. You could try a tool like InvisionApp or even something simpler like Google Slides. Here’s an example of a digital paper prototype using Google Slides:

Ideation 7: Minimum Viable Product

Minimum Viable Product

Ideation 7

This lesson can help you earn points in the "User Experience and Design" and "Potential Impact on Direct and Indirect Users" lines of the judging rubric.

In this lesson, you will...

  • Learn what a minimum viable product is and why it is important
  • Choose the most important features of your app to build first

Key Terms

  • Prioritizing - Figuring out what the most important parts of your app are, and working on those first
  • Minimum Viable Product (MVP) - is an app that has just enough features to get the job done and test with users so that improvements can be made later.
  • Future Features - features that will be created once the first prototype of your app is finished

Minimum Viable Product

Now that you have an idea for your app and a problem statement, you probably want to start coding right away. But hold on! Before you get started, you can save a lot of time by doing a little bit of planning. It is better to create an app that does one or two things really well, then to try to create an app that can do everything. Here’s an example.

Imagine your friend tells you that she always wakes up late and is late to school. You create an app for her that has:

  1. An alarm clock to wake her up in time for school

2. A notification that tells her when she should go to sleep so that she can wake up on time

3. A journal so your friend can write down her dreams if she wakes up in the middle of the night

4. A music player that plays relaxing music to help your friend fall asleep more quickly

5. A chatbot that your friend can chat with if she can’t fall asleep.

You show your app to your friend and she’s really excited to use it! She uses the app for a couple of days and then tells you what she thinks. She tells you that she really likes the alarm clock feature, and the notification that tells her when she should go to sleep. However, the notification doesn’t always work correctly and sometimes gets sent in the middle of the night, which wakes her up.  She also wishes the app would let her pick a custom sound for the alarm clock. She also tells you that the relaxing music keeps her awake, and she doesn’t have any dreams, so she has not used the dream journal. Additionally the chatbot is buggy and she doesn’t like using it.

You just spent several weeks working on all these cool features for your app, but it turns out that many of them didn’t help solve your friend’s problem, and now, she isn’t even using them! You could have created a much simpler app and saved yourself a lot of time. With that extra time, you could have improved the alarm clock and the notification system, to make sure that they work really well.

Creating an app that does just one or two things really well will help you solve your problem and create something that your users like. You only have a few weeks to make your app in Technovation Girls, so it is especially important that you use that time wisely. In this lesson you will learn how to prioritize different features of your app, or work on the most important features first.

A minimum viable product (MVP) is an app that has just enough features to get the job done and test with users so that improvements can be made later. In this lesson you will decide which features you will include in your MVP and which features you will create later, as future features.

Right now you probably have a long wish list of things you want your app to do. In order to create an MVP you will decide which of these features is most important to build first. You will need to think about which of these features really solve your problem and which features your users said they wanted. Before you get started, review your problem statement and your user research from Ideation Lessons 5 and 6.

Activity: Deciding on a MVP

Create a list of all the things that you want your invention to do. Make sure to break down big ideas into smaller features. Here's an example:

Big Idea: 

 

Social network that allows users to friend each other, post pictures, and exchange private messages

 

Smaller Features: 

  1. Users can connect to other users
  2. Users can take pictures from the app and post them on their profiles
  3. Users can see a feed of pictures others have posted
  4. Users can message each other

Now with your team, discuss your features. Which are the most important features to build? Consider:

  1. Which features are needed to solve the problem?
  2. What features did your users say they would use?
  3. What features will help you stand out from competitors?

After you discussion, write down the features your app will do, this time, in order of importance, with #1 being the most important feature.

 

For your MVP, you should focus on the first two features only. You and your team should decide if you need to add the third feature to your MVP, or if it should be a future feature. 

  • Remember, less is more! Focusing on a smaller number of features will allow you to build them really well and will give you more time to test out your app with your users and get their feedback.

 

Time to double check if your MVP will solve your problem.

  • Have one member of your team pretend to be someone has the problem that you are trying to solve. Present the MVP to her without mentioning your future features. 
  • Does it help solve her problem? Be as critical as you can of your MVP. 
  • If your MVP does not solve your problem, you might need to try prioritizing your features again.

Reflection

You should now have a better idea of what you will include in your MVP. Remember, your MVP is just your first prototype, and you can always iterate on it to make it better, even after the Technovation Girls season is over!

  • Did you and your team struggle to prioritize the best features for your app? Why or why not?
  • How did you compromise on your favorite features versus the best features to solve your problem?
  • What are your next steps to coding some of the features of your MVP?

After finishing your MVP, you might want to get your user’s feedback about it. Follow the activities in the additional resources to learn how to collect user feedback and user stories.

Additional Resources: User Centered Design & User Stories

Want more information about MVP'S? Check out this great article from adc Calculator!

 

User Centered Design

UX Design (short for user experience) helps people create technology that is easy and intuitive to use. It has to do with the quality of the experience that someone has when using a system or a piece of technology. You can think of it as improving the ‘user’s experience’ which means that a user will have an easy time using the technology and will keep using it. You want your app to be easy and fun to use while also solving your problem. You will want to make it usable. But what makes an app usable?

It’s not just a matter of what you think might look good, or what you think you would like because you consider yourself a user of the app you will be creating. It’s about context. Think about who else will be using the app and what their needs are. Will people use it once a year, once a week, or once a day?

Where will people be using it? We used to think of applications as something that people use while sitting at their desk. What are some of your favorite apps, and what do they do? Where and how do you use them? Do they do many things, or do they do a few things really well?

Stakeholders

First, you need to define your stakeholders, which are the people who would use your app or would be impacted by your app. These are the people that you need to talk to learn more about what they need the app to do. You and your team might think you are typical users but you should still talk to other people, interview them, get their feedback, and observe them in the environment that they would be using your app when possible.

Imagine that you are making an app that allows students to pre-order food from the school cafeteria to help reduce the waiting line. Students can use the app to request the food in the morning and then go and pick it up at lunch time. The potential stakeholders for this app would be:

  • Students (who will be using the phone app)
  • Cafeteria staff (who will be receiving requests through the app)
  • Parents (who would need to buy their kids a smartphone so they can use the app)
  • School administrators (who might not think phones should be used during school hours)
  • School IT support (who would need to help students who can’t figure out how to work the app or connect to the network)

Are you ready to try this out for your app? The following two activities will help you identify who your stakeholders are, and how you can gather interview and user stories about your them.  

Next Steps

Once you have gathered this information, you should do the activity in this lesson again to see what has changed about what features you think are most important for your app. Remember, user centered design is an iterative process, which means you’ll probably get better and better with every cycle of developing and testing your app! After you have created your MVP, you will want to test it with your stakeholders to see what they think.

Ideation 6: Write a Problem Statement

Write a Problem Statement

Ideation 6

This lesson will help you craft a meaningful problem statement that aligns with your goals. It will also help with the "Evidence of Important and Meaningful Problem" and "Potential Impact on Direct and Indirect Users" of the judging rubric.

In this lesson, you will...

  • Learn what a problem statement is
  • Write a problem statement for your app

Key Terms

Problem Statement  - a brief piece of writing that explains the problem that your team is addressing

What is a Problem Statement?

Now that you have an idea for your project and have done some market research, you can start working on your problem statement. A problem statement is a brief piece of writing that explains the problem that your team is addressing. It should outline the basic facts of the problem, explain why the problem matters, who it affects and how, and present a direct solution.

It’s important that you write the problem statement together as a team so that you all agree and remain focused on the problem you are solving as you move through the rest of the curriculum. Otherwise you might work on something only to find that it doesn’t meet the original goal!  

Your problem statement should answer 4 questions:

What is the problem?

What is the need your community faces?

Who does the problem affect and how?

This is important because the people who are affected by the problem will be the users of your app.

Why is it important to solve?

Why is this problem compelling and do you have any evidence of the problem to back up your argument? What insight do you have to offer in solving the problem?

What is the solution?

This does not need to be a long response right now, just enough to give a little understanding of how the problem will be addressed.

For your purposes right now, the problem statement should not be longer than a paragraph. You can definitely explore your ideas and write them down, but as a team you should narrow down your problem statement together.  

Example: Discardious by Team Charis

Here is an example of a project statement from a past Technovation Girls finalist team. Your problem statement will similarly become polished as you do research and build upon your idea:

“Calabar is densely populated and results show that 70% of individuals and businesses there store refuse, 95% use open dumps and 65% dump their refuse into gutters. This effect has led to inefficient waste disposal and an unhygienic business and home environment. Business and homeowners have a tight schedule that prevents them from disposing their waste regularly and there are no frequent visit from waste disposal agencies. Our team proposes to provide a platform for fast food companies, hotels, and individuals to dispose their waste conveniently and on time. We will provide pick up carts to get their waste in order to reduce associated health risks, will educate citizens on the effect of improper waste disposal, and will provide updates and tips on best practices.”

In the Discardious app, the user can:

  • Login
  • Select a location for a cart near them
  • Select the number of waste bins that are needed
  • Enter the address for the waste bins to be brought
  • Agree to the terms of conditions
  • Report a hazard by entering a location, writing a short report, and taking a picture of the scene
  • Receive a message that the report has been logged

Here is a pitch and demo of the Discardious app that Team Charis created:

Activity: Create a Problem Statement

 

Work with your team to write a problem statement by answering the following questions. You can use the worksheet or write it down on a sheet of paper.

  • What is the problem? In design terms, this also translates to: what is the need?
  • Who does the problem affect and how? This is important because the people who are affected by the problem will be the users of your app.
  • Why is it important to solve? Why is this problem compelling and do you have any evidence of the problem to back up your argument? What insight do you have to offer in solving the problem?
  • What is the solution? This does not need to be a long response right now, just enough to give a little understanding of how the problem will be addressed.

Once you are done, combine your answers into a finished problem statement in paragraph form.

If you can, share it with your mentor for feedback.

Reflection

Now that you’ve written your problem statement, you can refer back to it when throughout your project. It will be helpful as you create your business plan, code your app, and write the script for your pitch video. You will also be able to use it as your app description when you upload your submission.

Additional Resources: Example Problem Statements

Here are a few examples of problem statements from past Technovation Girls students:

LexisLearn

Problem Statement:

People have a problem with not reading enough. This is particularly a challenge among young people. Research has shown that 71% of teenagers use multiple social media platforms, whereas only 53% of 13-year-olds and 40% of 17-year-olds read at least weekly. Our aim is to address the habit of students not reading sufficiently. Our solution is LexisLearn, an application that monitors students' reading time personally. The app enables students to develop the habit of reading sufficiently daily. The app allows parents and teachers to encourage students as they read. LexisLearn ensures that students learn vocabulary they acquire as they read to improve their vocabulary. We believe LexisLearn can effectively solve the difficulty of reading because 75% of teenagers currently own a smartphone.

StoneSoup
Kuza Talent

Ideation 5: Market Research

Market Research

Ideation 5

This lesson can help you earn maximum points in these lines of the judging rubric: "Potential Impact on Direct and Indirect Users" and "Competitor Analysis". It can also help with "Evidence of Important and Meaningful Problem".

In this lesson, you will...

  • Learn about who your target market is
  • Interview your target market to learn more about them
  • Decide how to react to user research findings to improve your idea
  • Research your competitors to learn how to stand out from them
  • Decide how to react to competitor research findings to improve your idea

Key Terms and Concepts

  • Target Market - the people who will use your app
  • Research - gathering information about a subject
  • User - someone who will use your app
  • User Research - learning from your target market, or the people who will use your app, to help you understand their wants and needs
  • Competitors - the people or companies making things similar to your app
  • Competitor Research - gathering information about your competitors
  • Interviews - asking a person questions and recording their answers either in-person or over the phone
  • Surveys - asking a group of people questions either by using paper or online form
  • Multiple Choice Questions - questions that have a set of answers that a person can pick from
  • Scale Questions - a question in which the response is chosen from a range of values, i.e. 1-5, where the values mean something

Market Research

Now that you have an idea for your app, you probably want to get started building it right away. But wait! Before you get started you have a little more work to do. Just because you think something is a great idea, it doesn’t necessarily mean that other people will think it is or that they will want to use it. 

When creating a business, your goal is to get as many people as possible to use your app. Before you spend a lot of time and effort building your app, you will need to make sure that people will actually use it once it is ready.

This lesson will walk you through different ways of gathering information about your target market, or the people who will use your app. You will also gather information about your competitors, or the people or companies making things similar to your app. Using this information, you’ll be able to adjust your app idea so that more people will use it and you’ll be even more successful. Here are some of the questions that you will be able to answer by the end of this lesson:

  • Will people use my app if I build it?
  • Are there enough people who will use my app to justify building it?
  • Will my app solve the problem I think it will?
  • What can I change about my idea to better meet my target market’s needs?

 You are saving yourself a lot of time by figuring out this information before you start building your app! You can continue to do more market research as you build, too, if you want a really strong product.

Target Market

The first thing you will do is figure out who your target market is. Your target market is the people who will use your app. So how do you figure out who your target market is?  You can start by thinking about who is affected by the problem you identified. Maybe you are solving a problem for teenage girls, elderly people, parents or someone else in your community.

If you are getting stuck, review your work from Ideation Lesson 1 about who your community is.

Market Research 

Next, you will do some research. Research is gathering information about something.  In this lesson, you will learn about two types of research: user research and competitor analysis.

  1. User research is learning from your  target market, or the people who will use your app, to help you understand their wants and needs. A user is someone who will use your app. Figuring out this information will help you create an app that people want to use.
  2. Competitor analysis is gathering information about your competitors. Competitors are people or companies making things similar to your app. By gathering information about your competitors, you can look for ways to stand out from them so that people will want to use your app instead of something else.

In order to do user research, you can interview people who you think will use your app. To perform an interview, you will ask a potential user a series of questions either in-person or over the phone. You can also ask them over email, but it helps to hear their voice and their reaction to your questions.

There are different types of questions that you should ask. 

  1. Questions about the problem you want to solve. This will help you figure out if your target market has the problem you think they have.  You could also interview experts in your community to understand the problem. For example, if your app is about clean water, you could interview a local environment official or an NGO who studies this issue.
  2. Questions about the app you want to create. These questions will help you understand if someone will use your app and if your app is able to solve the problem you are trying to address.

Here are a few examples of questions you can use for each type of interview:

Gathering answers to these questions will help you make sure that you are creating the best app possible. After each interview you should ask yourself, “How can I change my ideas based on what I just learned?’

Surveys

Surveys allow you to ask a lot of people questions at the same time. Surveys will help you gather more data quickly, and you will be able to learn a lot  from the results. In addition to your interviews, you should also use surveys to get information.

You can give paper or online surveys. If you want to use paper surveys, it might be helpful to give it out to a large group, such as a classroom or to everyone who enters your school library. If you want to give out your survey online, here are two popular websites to use:

  • Google Forms - easy to use; you can create your own questions, but limited types of questions
  • Survey Monkey - very popular, some features you’ll need to pay for

So what do you ask in a survey? This will be similar to what you ask in an interview. You should ask questions about both the problem and the solution. However, since you will give the survey out to a lot of people, you want to make sure that their answers are easy to understand. Instead of using open-ended questions in which each person has to write an answer,  you should try to use multiple choice questions, or scale questions. This will save time for the people taking the survey and will be easier for you to analyze. You should try to get at least 15 responses to your survey.

Multiple choice questions have a set of answers that a person can pick from. Here are some examples:

  • How often do you find yourself stressed out?
    • Always, Sometimes, Never
  • Have you ever taken a selfie?  
    • Yes or No

Scale questions ask the person to answer a question using a number, where the numbers mean something. Usually you tell the person what the lowest number means and what the highest number means. The person can then pick any number in between from  highest to lowest to answer the question.

  • On a scale from 1-10, how happy are you at your job?
    • 1 = Extremely Unhappy,  10 = Extremely Happy
  • On a scale from 1-5, how often do you exercise?
    • 1 = Never, 5 = Every day

Here are two example surveys:

Once you get the results back from a survey you need to figure out what they mean and how they can help you. Did most people say they would be interested in your app? What was the most common answer to the different questions? Here’s an example of how to analyze survey results:

Once you have your survey results, you can turn the information into an infographic.  There are many online tools (try searching “How to create an infographic” or “easiest free infographic tools”) that can help you create infographics or you can always use Google Charts in a Google Slide! 

 

Competitor Analysis

Competitor Analysis will help you understand what type of companies already exist that are solving the same problem you are. You want your target market to use your app instead of using something else. In order to get them to use your app, you will have to make sure that you are better than what already exists out there.  Remember that your competitor might not be an app or it might not even use technology!

Here are some examples of apps and their competitors:

App Competitors
Instagram Facebook, Snapchat
Kindle App Books, Libraries, Other e-reading apps, magazines
Uber Regular cab service, bus, public transport, bike sharing
Whatsapp Google chat, FB messenger, emails, letters

By looking for these companies and studying them, you will be able to figure out how to make your app better. Here are some questions that you can answer with your competitor analysis:

  • How does your competitor’s product work?
  • What problem does it solve?
  • What is special about what your competitors offer?
  • How can you stand out from your competitors? 
  • Who is the target market for this product?
  • What can you learn from this product?
  • What is your competitor missing that you could include in your app?
  • What isn't working for your competitor?

Are you ready to make your app idea better? Complete the activities below!

Print the worksheets to get started!

If you do not have access to a printer you can also use blank sheets of paper or follow along with the worksheet online.

Activity: User Research Interviews, User Research Surveys, and Competitor Research

Use the worksheet above for this activity. Click through the tabs below to find the steps for each section.

User Research Interviews

What you will do:

  1. Interview at least three people who you think are in the target market for your app.  You can use the worksheet to get started. Interviewing more people is better.
  2. Add more questions in addition to those in the worksheet . Think about what you want to learn from your potential users.
  3. When you are done, reflect on what you have learned. What will you change about your app idea?

Tip: For even more meaningful feedback, talk to more than three people and re-interview after you start creating your app as well. You probably will have different questions you want to ask, for example about features you are thinking of including.

User Research Surveys
Competitor Research

Activity: Business Plan Preparation

[Senior Division Only]

 

What You Will Need:

  • Place to record your ideas that you can save and use again. You'll need this for the next Ideation lesson and when you write your full Business Plan
  • Computer or pen and paper 

 

What you will do:

Synthesize the information you have gathered with your market research. The Market Analysis section of your Business plan includes:

  • The sketch of your target users.
  • Description of the market: Who are the key competitors?
  • How you think your mobile app will perform and why?
  • Competitor analysis: a detailed evaluation, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.

Tip: You’ll probably want to talk about how your ideas or app changed in response to your user and competitor research. You can choose where it fits better for your team: in the Business Plan or the Pitch Video.

Remember to save this information for use in the next lesson and to use it in your Business Plan.

Reflection

Congratulations on doing your competitor and user research. Remember that it is okay to change your idea and that you should change your idea based on what you’ve learned.  As you develop your app, you should do more competitor and user research. You should make sure that you are always asking the people who will use your app what they think and that you are always looking for ways to stand out from your competitors.

  • How will you change your idea based on what you learned from your users?
  • How will you stand out from your competitors?

Ideation 4: Selecting Problems

Selecting Problems

Ideation 4

This lesson will help you narrow down a problem to tackle and help you earn maximum points in the "Innovation" line of the judge rubric

In this unit, you will...

  • Check the scale of your problems and solutions
  • Decide on a problem and solution with your team

Key Terms

  • Solution  - an app you create to solve your problem
  • Scale  - the size of your problem or solution

Problem and Solution Scale

In this lesson, you will check the scale, or the size of the problems and solutions you want to work on. By the end of the lesson you will be ready to start work on a problem with a solution you know will be meaningful and important to you and your community.

Check the scale of your team's selected problems by asking these questions about each one:

Daring
  • Is this a really big problem?
  • Has the problem appeared in national or global news?
Room for Innovation
Relevant

Once you decide on a couple of top problems, you can continue to brainstorm solutions and check the scale of your top solution ideas.

As you brainstorm solutions, revisit the types of innovations from the Brainstorming Problems lesson: Improve, Reduce the cost, Educate, Apply, Invent. What type of innovation do you think is needed for your problems from these categories?

Then check the scale of your solution ideas by asking these questions about each:

Daring
  • Does the solution try to solve a really big problem? Or a part of a really big problem?

It's ok to break a big problem down into smaller problems.

Room for Innovation

Once you have a lot of ideas of how to solve your problem, you should start thinking about which solution would be the best created with a mobile app and which ones are innovative. Some of your ideas might already include a mobile app, while some will not. Think about all of your ideas and try to come up with ways to take advantage of the capabilities of a mobile app.

Here are some examples:

Potential Solution How to make it better with a mobile app
Help the city figure out which trash cans should be emptied more often Ask people who live in your community to take a picture and tag the location of overflowing trash cans. This information will be sent directly to the city for them to come empty the trash can
Add bigger trash cans
Give out tickets for leaving large items on the street
Start a community club that cleans up the streets on Sundays to help people feel more involved Create an app that lets people connect who want to start their own clean up groups
Make it easier for people to get rid of these items by starting a service that will come pick them up at people’s homes Use a mobile app for your service for people to call you directly and send you a picture of what they need you to pick up
Put up posters asking people not to throw trash on the ground
Get the city to put in more trash cans Set up an app that lets people donate money to the city to get more trash cans in their neighborhood

As you can see, not all of the solutions you think of will be made better by creating a mobile app. For instance, creating an app for people to donate money to the city might not be the best use of your time. There are already a lot of websites you can use that will already do that. Additionally, designing a bigger trash can that can hold more trash does not necessarily need to make a mobile app.

Are you ready to select your problems and solutions? Move on to the activity section.

Activity: Selecting Problems

  1. Add any new problems you have thought of since the last meeting to your problem list from Ideation 2: Brainstorming Problems.
  2. Select a few of your team’s favorite problems. To check the scale of each problem, ask these questions:
    • Is this a really big problem?
    • Has this appeared in national news?
    • Does the problem affect a significant number of people?
    • Are there national foundations, nonprofits, companies, or startups interested in the problem?
    • Can you find 3 existing companies or solutions that are doing what you want to do? (If yes, it will be more difficult to come up with an innovative solution)
  3. If you can answer yes to most of the first four questions and you are still interested in the problem, move it to your short list. If you can’t answer yes to many of the first four questions, you may want to brainstorm further and explore more ideas.

Activity: Brainstorming and Selecting Solutions

What you will need:

  • Post-its or paper
  • Pens or markers
  • Or, if you are on a virtual team, you can use ideaboardz.

If you do not have access to a printer you can also use blank sheets of paper or follow along with the worksheet online.

Brainstorm solutions

  1. Draw large boxes on the board or big paper for each type of innovations from the Brainstorming Problems lesson: Improve, Reduce the cost, Educate, Apply, Invent.
  2. For each of your top problems, take a few minutes to brainstorm types of innovations that could help solve your problems from these categories.

Select solutions

  1. To check the scale of each solution, ask these questions:
    • Does the solution try to solve part of a really big problem?
    • Can you find 3 existing companies or solutions that are doing what you want to do with your solution? (If yes, how will your solution be different and innovative?)
    • Are you keeping the user, aka the person or people whom the problem affects, in mind?
    • Can the solution leverage the features of mobile phones, such as GPS, accelerometer, camera, etc? If it does not, try thinking of how you could make it using a mobile app.
  2. Once you have at least two ideas that your team thinks solve the problem, meet your user’s needs, is innovative in some way, and makes good use of mobile phone features such as GPS, accelerometer, camera, etc., then move on to the next ideation lesson.

Reflection

Congratulations! Now that you have identified a solution to your problem, you can move onto Ideation lesson 5 and Ideation lesson 6, to complete market research about your idea and to write a problem statement. Your idea will probably change as you do this program, you might end up with an app that looks completely different than what you are envisioning now. Don’t worry, this is all a part of the ideation process!

  • What problem and solution will you focus on?
  • What are some problems that your team has identified that can NOT be addressed by an app solution?
  • How will your solution be innovative?

Additional Resources

Example Technovation Girls Apps

Here are some examples of Apps that solve problems relating to trash and trash disposal.

Eedo  by The Cantavits

81% of people dispose of e-waste improperly, which results in toxic fumes and polluted water. Eedo is an Android app solution that provides an end-to-end connection between e-waste producers and authorized recyclers.

ZeroWaste (0 Waste) by 3BigTomatoes

ZeroWaste provides a simple way to help people recognize different types of waste in their home and how to recycle, reuse, and reduce them properly. It provides pictures, videos and games to help people, especially children and new comers with language limits, to understand local waste collecting rules, and also promote the awareness of "0 waste" to protect our environment. It can be used in different cities and by everyone. It's fun and educational, and most importantly, it's free!

Discardious by Team Charis

Discardious is an app that helps to solve the problem of improper waste disposal in Nigeria. When using the app, users can elect a location using Google Map to get started. The app allows them to either report a hazard in their environment or request a mobile cart to pick up their waste.

Ideation 3: Solving Problems with Mobile Phones

Solving Problems with Mobile Phones

Ideation 3

This lesson will get you to start thinking about the advantages of mobile phones when creating apps and help you earn points in the "Innovation" line of the judging rubric

In this unit, you will learn...

  • How to solve your problem by taking advantage of the features of your mobile phone
  • What to consider in order to make a good mobile phone app

Key Terms

  • Mobile App - a program that runs on a phone
  • Sensors - Hardware on your phone that allows it to interact with the world around it

Abilities of a Mobile Phone

Mobile phones are extremely powerful devices with lots of sensors and functionality. Since you are developing a mobile app to solve a problem, you should take advantage of all powerful things mobile phones can do.

 

Here are some important components and sensors that a mobile phone has:

Component What it does
Camera, speaker, microphone Allow you to take pictures, videos, record sounds
GPS Shows the location of the phone
Storage on a phone Allows you to store preferences, images, sounds on the your phone
Connectivity to the web Allows you to connect the phone to information on the web
Accelerometer, gyroscope Shows how fast the phone is moving
Phone calls, text messages, contacts lists Allows you to make phone calls, send text messages, and connect to people

 

Mobile Apps versus Mobile Websites

Another way to develop technology for a mobile device is through creating a mobile website, but mobile websites are different than mobile apps. Since Technovation Girls is a mobile app competition, you’ll need to develop a mobile app rather than a mobile website. So what is the difference?

  • Mobile Website - A website that works on screens of all different sizes. A mobile website is accessed through the browser on a phone.
  • Mobile App -  A program that is downloaded and installed on a phone or tablet. It can be directly accessed from the memory of the device.

Mobile apps run on the actual phone, instead of inside a browser on the phone. Because of this, apps are much better at accessing the sensors and features on a phone. Here are some advantages that mobile apps have over mobile websites.

Key Capabilities Reason Example
Ability to access functions on the phone, such as the camera, sensors, phone calls, SMS, GPS etc. A mobile app is much better at accessing the phone’s features and hardware, such as the camera, GPS location, and so on. Any apps that use this functionality would be better suited to use a mobile app.

  • Push notifications
  • Tap-to-call/email
  • Device vibration/ alerts
  • Camera
  • Instant and automatic updates
Apps like Instagram access the camera, location sensor, and more on your phone.
Ability to be very interactive - good for gaming Mobile apps are better at accessing the accelerometer sensors on phones. Gaming apps such as Angry Birds are very fun to play due to their interactivity.
Easier to use regularly It is much more convenient for someone to use an app than to navigate to a website on the web. Social media offer both an online site and mobile app so that frequent users can download the app.
Ability to be personalized Mobile apps can store information on a users’ phones, so this makes them a better choice for apps that need a lot of customization. Health or period trackers can store information and allows you to track your health.
Ability to function offline Since mobile apps are stored on the phone, they can perform functions without a network/wireless connection.

However, mobile apps require the user to regularly download updates. Web apps will update themselves.

Spotify can save your songs to play offline.
Has a nicer interface Since mobile apps are designed for the devices that they are used on, the interfaces often look better than those of mobile websites. Notice how different the Facebook app looks on your phone compared to the Facebook website.

Of course there are also some downsides to mobile apps. They require the user to go to the app store to download them and also require updates to be downloaded. Also, most apps only work on iOS or Android and not both.

When you develop your solution you will want to make sure that what are you creating really takes advantage of the features of a mobile phone. 

Here are some ways you can check if your solution takes advantage of mobile phone features.

Ask Yourself Consider
Could this be done without any technology at all? If so, does adding technology make it better? For example, you could spread awareness about earthquake safety by hosting information sessions and classes in your town. How can you use technology or a mobile app to add to this solution and make it better?
Could this be a mobile website instead of an app? If so, does turning it into an app make it better? For example, a quiz about heart disease could just be a website. Before turning this into an app, you should brainstorm how you can take advantage of the capabilities of mobile apps.
How can we take advantage of the key components of mobile apps in our solution? Check with the table above and make sure that your solution uses at least one of the key capabilities of apps. This will prevent you from developing a solution that is better as just a mobile website, or using no technology at all.

Check out the activity to practice identifying how apps are using the abilities of a mobile phone.

Activity: Features of your Favorite Apps

This should take around 20 minutes

Brainstorm at least 2 of your favorite apps.  Answer these questions either out loud or on a piece of paper.

  • What features of your phone do they use?
  • Would it still work as a website or as something different than a mobile app? Why or why not?

Example:

App Name Mobile features the App uses Would it still work as a website or as something different than a mobile app? Why or why not?
 Snapchat
  • Camera, video, microphone
  • Frequent use 
  • Sends push notifications
  • Connecting you to friends in your contacts
No, this would not work as well as a website because I use it frequently and I like to get push notifications when I have a message.

Reflection

When you develop your solution you should ask yourself these questions:

  1. Could this be done without any technology at all? If so, does adding technology make it better?
  2. Could this be a mobile website instead of an app? If so, does turning it into an app make it better?
  3. How can take advantage of the key capabilities of mobile apps in your solution?

Move on to Ideation Lesson 4 and start to brainstorm solutions to your problem!

Additional Resources 

Artificial Intelligence

Today’s phone can also take advantage of artificial intelligence quickly and easily.  You may have heard a bit about artificial intelligence before.

Artificial intelligence or AI is a technology that allows computers to learn and make decisions. The idea to create ‘intelligent machines’ developed in the 1950's when scientists became inspired to get computers to learn the same way humans learn. Since then, scientists have been trying out lots of different ways to get computers to learn new things and have invented a lot of new technologies along the way.

In the past 30 years, scientists have developed new algorithms (processes for computers) to get machines to learn and they have worked really well. This is reason why we have been hearing about AI so much recently! Some of the artificial intelligence inventions that have recently been invented are voice assistants, like Siri and Alexa, and facial recognition that lets you tag pictures of your friends on social media. In both of these inventions the computer has to learn something to work well. Voice assistants need to learn what human voices sound like and how to respond to them. For facial recognition to work, the computer needs to learn what faces look like. 

Here are some examples of artificial intelligence that your phone can use:

  • Image recognition: The ability your phone recognition things in pictures or in the viewport of the camera
  • Speech recognition: The ability for your phone to understand spoken words and translate them into text
  • Sound recognition: The ability of a phone to recognition what a sound is
  • Translator: The ability of your phone to translate text from one language to another
  • Text to speech: The ability of your phone to speak words out loud

If you want to learn more about AI, you can check out our bonus AI lessons and our other program, Technovation Families!

 

Using other technology

Many Technovation Girls teams have used technology in addition to a mobile phone in their solution. Here are some examples:

Team TMWZ utilized a virtual reality headset in their app that helps raises awareness about fire safety.

Team /flash uses a button to allow users to alert a friend if they are in danger while walking home.

Ideation 2: Brainstorming Problems

Brainstorming Problems

Ideation 2

This lesson will go over brainstorming problems and help you earn points in judging rubric, specifically the "Evidence of Important and Meaningful Problem" section, the "Potential Impact on Users" section, and the "Innovation" section.

In this lesson, you will...

  • Brainstorm problems that you’d like to solve in your community
  • Use this worksheet to understand types of problems and solutions

Key Terms

  • Brainstorming  - A way to think of a lot of ideas quickly
  • Sustainable Development Goals - The global community's commitments to reduce poverty and help the environment
  • Innovation - Creating a new product or way of doing things that adds value to the world

Types of Problems and Solutions

In the last lesson, you gathered evidence of issues in your community. Now it’s time to identify problems to solve.

Understanding types of problems

Before brainstorming problems, it can be helpful to think of some problem categories. Many of the following categories include Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or goals that countries around the world agree are important to solve to reduce poverty and help the environment.

  • Basic human needs and rights such as water, food, sleep, clothing, shelter, good education
  • Environment such as climate action, access to clean water, renewable energy
  • Additional Sustainable Development Goals good for individual action such as equality, peace and justice
  • Safety needs such as health, well-being, safety against accidents and illness
  • Social needs such as friendships, family, acceptance by others, respect, productivity

Understanding types of solutions

While you brainstorm problems it is also natural to think of solutions at the same time. Before you think about solutions, it may be helpful to think about ways solutions can be innovative. Let’s consider what makes something an innovation, or creating a new product or way of doing things that adds value to the world. They can:

  • Improve something that already exists
  • Reduce the cost of something that already exists
  • Educate by raising awareness and helping to cause changes in people’s behavior
  • Apply an existing approach to a new situation, or even 
  • Invent a completely new solution, technology, or way of doing things

Solutions can belong to multiple categories. For example, self-driving cars could be an improvement on something that already exists (normal cars) but is also a completely new technology that has never been able to exist before. Keep these categories in mind as you start to think of problems and solutions.

Also see the Additional Resources for more information about themes.

Tips for the ideation process

Brainstorming is a group activity that is meant to generate a large number of ideas. As you brainstorm you might feel vulnerable as you contribute different ideas. This is normal! Here are some tips for good brainstorming:

  • Be sure to capture all ideas, even wild ones!
  • Defer all judgement, on other people’s ideas, and on your own!
  • Build off each other’s ideas.
  • Be visual – you can draw instead of writing words.
  • One conversation at a time – don’t cut each other off.
  • Go for as many ideas as you can.
  • Stay focused.

Here is a video that shows examples of less effective ways to go about brainstorming, and more effective ways, so you can better understand this process.

 

Activity: Understanding Problems and Solutions

This will take around 45 minutes 

For this activity you will categorize problems and solutions with your team. 

What You Will Need:

  • Pens or markers
  • Paper to write on or post-its
  • This worksheet
  • Or, if you are on a virtual team, you can use ideaboardz.

What You Will Do:

Activity: Brainstorm Exercise

Now it's time to brainstorm your own ideas. Think about your own life and your community observation.

  1. In pairs or small groups, share with your partner about a time when you felt frustrated recently. What made you frustrated?
  2. Discuss: How would you convince someone to come join your team and tackle this problem with you?
  3. Add the problems that arise in these discussions to your problem categorization board!
  4. Discuss problems you uncovered in your community observations in Ideation 1 - Understanding Your Community. Make sure to add those problems to the board as well.

Reflection

Make sure to hold onto your problem brainstorm. You will need it for Ideation Lesson 4 - Brainstorming Solutions.

Reflection Questions:

  • Did the exercises help you uncover new or different problems? Did you think of any new solutions?
  • What activities worked best for your team?

Additional Resources 

Searching for past Technovation Girls apps

While you are brainstorming your problem and your solution, it can be helpful to see what other Technovation Girls teams have done in the past. Here are some tips on how to find pitch videos from past Technovation Girls teams:

Themes

Here are some themes inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that you can use for inspiration when brainstorming problems.

You can learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals here.


 

Why Trees and Behavior Maps 

Here are some more resources to help you understand the root causes behind the problems you've chosen. Building out these maps will organize all your thoughts about your problem in a single, visual place and it'll be a great resource for when you start thinking about how to solve them.

Ideation 1: Understanding your Community

Understanding Your Community

Ideation 1

This lesson will help you earn points in the "Evidence of Important and Meaningful Problem" line of the judging rubric.

In this lesson, you will...

  • Identify different communities that you belong to
  • Use this worksheet to begin documenting your community’s needs

Key Terms

  • Community - A group of people who have something in common.

Identify your Community

Congratulations! You have registered to take part in Technovation Girls and you and your team are excited to solve a problem in your community by creating a mobile app. Your team may or may not already have an idea for a problem to solve.

Either way, let’s discuss what it means to be a part of a community.

We all belong to or are a part of groups, such as our school peers or sports teams.  Many groups are also communities. A community is a group of people who have something in common.   You can think of a community in a lot of different ways; it could be the people who live in the same place or a group that shares similar interests. You may be surprised by how many communities you belong to.  Here are some examples, see if you can think of some more.

Type of Community Example
Location based communities People who go to the same school, people who live in the same city or country
Interest based communities People who play on the same sports team or play the same online games
Identity based communities People who identify as a certain race, ethnicity, or gender
Religion based communities People who follow the same religion

Finding an idea for your Technovation Girls app requires you to identify your community’s needs. Sometimes the people in your community are used to dealing with to problems they have, and are not seeing that there might be more effective solutions. Your job will be look at the world around you and observe your community closely. You will gather observations and evidence which will later be used to help support the argument for why your team has arrived at a particular solution, and how it effectively solves your community’s needs.

But first, how well do you know your community? You can live somewhere or be a part of a group for a long time and come to realize that there’s a lot going on there that you weren’t even aware of! The next three activities will help you become more aware the communities you belong to, and the problems they might face.

Print the worksheets to get started!

If you do not have access to a printer you can also use blank sheets of paper or follow along with the worksheet online.

Activity: Community Brainstorming

This should take approximately 20 minutes

This will help you identify the community that you want to solve a problem for. Even if you already have an idea of a problem to solve, thinking about which communities you belong to will help you come up with the best idea you can.

What You Will Need:

  • Pens or markers
  • Paper to write on or use the worksheet

What You Will Do:

  1. Brainstorm at least four different communities you are a part of or interested in helping
  2. Pick two communities and write down the following characteristics for each.
    • Age
    • Group
    • Language
    • Cultures or Traditions
    • Geographic Location
    • Interests
  3. Once you are done, decide which community you want to focus on. Once you have settled on a community, move on to the next two activities.

Activity: Community Documenting

Optional - This should take around 2 hours

This activity will help you gather information and characteristics about your community so that you can better understand its needs, and should take about 60 minutes to do. In advance, the team should agree on where or who they are most interested in observing and then plan a time to go there to do the activity. This could be a meeting, a day of work, a classroom, or a place, depending on the community selected. Afterwards, the team should find a place where they can write responses to questions, and then discuss their responses together.

What You Will Need:

  • Pens or markers
  • Paper to write on or use the worksheet
  • Clipboard (optional but good to have)
  • Camera (optional but also good to have, you can use the camera on a phone)

What You Will Do:

  1. Schedule a time to observe if your observation involves people.
  2. Go to the place your team has chosen to observe. If you have the worksheet, you can use that to record your responses. Otherwise, write down where the place is and details about who is present on a piece of paper. Be specific.  
  3. Quietly observe. If you are in a meeting or place with people, tell them you are there to watch and learn. Make sure to take notes and, if you have permission from the people present, pictures. If you are in an open space, slowly walk around the area and make note of or take pictures of the major structures (e.g. churches, stores, buildings, schools).
  4. Look for less obvious things. Some examples: a person's silence, a look between people, a community garden, a vacant lot, billboards. As you observe this time, write down not only what you see, but also what you hear, smell, or feel.
  5. When you finish, respond to the following questions:
    • What surprised you the most about the community?
    • Can you see any problems that are impacting the community? If so, who is it affecting and how?
    • What do you think this community needs to help solve the problem/s?
    • Who would be responsible for making that change and how?
    • How might the community needs be solved by technology?
  6. Discuss what some of the common things your team noticed were. Were there any surprises? What were some of the problems that you noticed in the community? Do you have pictures that can help illustrate your points? Does your team feel strongly about any of these issues? Why?
  7. There are other ways to gather information. Below is another activity you can do to help visualize the community in another way.

Activity: Our Community A-Z

Optional - This activity should take around 45 minutes

Note: Get your mentor involved! They could provide some good insight with your ideas.

Another way to visualize communities is by the brainstorming words that describe them. After you discuss your observations from the community documenting activity, you can try this too. It’s fun!

What You Will Need:

  • Write out the letters of the alphabet on a chalkboard or a whiteboard for each team member. You could do this on paper instead, with one piece of paper per person. You can also use the worksheet.
  • Something for each person to write with.

What You Will Do:

  1. Each team member should write one word that describes the community for as many letters of the alphabet as possible, as fast as she can. For example, "R=Rural". To make it more fun, you can make it a competition. Don't overthink this—it should be spontaneous!
  2. Afterward, everyone should take a look at all the words that came out of this activity and discuss them. Are there any commonalities? Any surprises? What kind of new information came out of this activity that didn’t happen with the physical observation?

Reflection

Now that you’ve studied the community that you belong to and have gathered evidence of the problems, you are ready to start brainstorming problems and solutions. 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Which community did you pick and why?
  2. Do you feel differently about this community than when you started this lesson? Why or why not?