|Client:||United Way of Atlanta|
|Dates:||Feb – May 2016|
|Skills/Subjects:||Axure, interaction design, interface design, research, UI design|
Veterans transitioning out of homelessness significantly benefit from managed support and guidance but also experience issues that hamper their transition. For example, they may have difficulty in asking for help, having been institutionalized by the military to be self-sufficient. The longer people stay on the street, the more their previous social connections are replaced with street survival connections . Similarly, this orientation to seeking immediate, short-term solutions to unstable situations is at odds with having a more future oriented perspective to secure long-term benefits. The transitional period is a critical time for shifting this orientation and cultural perspective, making goal-setting an important topic for development. As such, it is important that these transitioned veterans be afforded a network of support from both institutional (e.g. Veterans Affairs) and community sources.
The United Way (UW), an organization that engages people and resources to support the wellbeing of the local community, has a program, the Achievement Club (AC), which helps veterans who have recently experienced homelessness better acclimate to normal life. The AC helps members determine their future directions by helping them set and achieve their personal goals. Currently that entire process is done by UW employees called community coordinators. They talk to them, help them come up with a goal, find them necessary information, and provide other forms of support. The AC functions on “peer pressure” as the founder told us, or “peer motivation” as we and works cited refer to it. Community coordinators want members to be able to see goals that other members are setting and watch how their peers are progressing. This is meant to build a sense of community and let members know they are not alone. Our goal was to assist the AC community coordinator by reducing the members’ dependency on the community coordinator, improve the sense of community among the members, and provide a more robust means for their goal setting process.
We designed a mobile application called Goala for AC members to help facilitate the process of achieving their goals.
The app has an emphasis on peer motivation and focuses on the tasks of setting a realistic goal, monitoring progress towards their goals, and providing easy access to information needed to achieve the goal. In this application, we incorporated elements of peer motivation by allowing members to see others’ goals, posting questions they may have to Facebook, directly messaging members, and reading notifications from coordinators. In this paper we attempt to understand the effects of having peer motivation in the goal setting process in our application, Goala.
In evaluating Goala, we found that it could be effective in the goal-setting process, although we had extremely limited access to actual members. This outcome suggests that the principle of peer motivation the AC was founded on, as well as the literature reviewed supported, may be upheld by Goala’s functionality.
The prospect of including peer motivation in our goal setting application is of particular interest because it would require members to share and openly engage in a community. For these members, actively engaging in a community could be the necessary thrust to achieve their goals. Future works on engagement in the community, including how engaged are members in the community of our application and what can increase engagement will be necessary. Furthermore, studies on the effects of the application acting as a forcing function for members to engage will need to be done. The study conducted here could have more broader implications for the design of online communities for homeless or newly transitioned veterans. More information on this study can be found in our report.