5 Insights From Our 2016 Summer Fellowship

November 9, 2015

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In a previous post we shared the five exciting applications that resulted from our 2015 summer fellowship. But while it’s always tempting to only look at the end results, we’d also like to share some of the interesting insights our teams learned along the way.

To get kids to out-of-school programs, make sure their parents have friends there too

Grapevine spoke with many parents and providers of out-of-school programs to get a holistic sense of people’s patterns of behavior when it comes to finding activities for their kids. Interestingly, they learned that many parents would prefer to take their children to programming if there is some sort of social component for the parents.

Most of us can relate. Going to events where we don’t know anyone can be intimidating. Also, when we hear about something cool we want to share it with other friends we think might be interested. Building from these insights, the team identified the need for a tool that makes it easy for parents to find small groups of friends in their neighborhood who might be interested in the same activities they find for their children.

To get people to valuable programs, help them bridge the vigilance gap

When the Populace team began the fellowship they heard time and again stories of people exposed to valuable services, programs, and events yet – due to time gaps between hearing about these programs and their actual start date – people would not attend. This is what they dubbed the vigilance gap.

Take, for example, a young man who hears about an informational session for a job-training program that is being held in two weeks. He might write the date and time down on a piece of paper. Perhaps he puts it in his phone. Maybe he makes a mental note or takes a flier. As two weeks pass between this moment of intent and the actual event, there are many, many variables that can interfere with his ability to attend. There are competing demands on his time and attention – work, family, all the other stressors of day-to-day life. The Populace team began to think about the most effective ways to help individuals better tackle the vigilance gap.

When reporting housing issues, report everything you can

JustFix.nyc engaged with many different stakeholders involved in the resolution of housing disputes, including tenants, landlords, housing attorneys, housing court judges, and community based organizations that advocate on behalf of tenants. One interesting thing they learned is that people are much better off if they report all their housing issues all at once, instead of reporting them one at a time. Collecting, documenting, and reporting housing issues at the same time builds a better case with a higher likelihood of favorable resolution, especially since 80-90% of tenants show up to housing court without legal representation.

It’s hard for restaurant managers to cover for their employees

The Nova team was interested in helping shift-workers connect to available restaurant work and part of the genesis for their idea came through interviews with small to mid-size restaurant managers. The team learned that when a dishwasher, busser, waiter, or bartender was unable to make a shift, often it was the manager or owner who had to step into that person’s role. Skills, and often payment schemes (tips vs. hourly wage) were unique to each position, meaning that instead of having an extra waiter take over for the dishwasher, the manager had to spend the evening in the kitchen instead of managing the floor. This type of role replacement was often very disruptive.

The most surprising college costs are not tuition

Over the summer months the Duckling team dug into existing research on college financing and talked with many college students firsthand. During this time they learned that tuition accounts for only 38% of higher education costs. Many students were wholly unprepared for the unexpected financial burden of college. The cost of textbooks, supplies, transportation, and other unforeseen expenses add up quickly, often leading students to drop out. In fact, 54% of students who drop out of college do so because of financial pressure. These hidden costs have meaningful consequences.

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