2015 Fellowship Products

We’re excited to announce the 5 new projects that our fellowship teams built this summer. You can check out all of the products here! Duckling Nova Populace Grapevine

September 21, 2015

Alumni Profile: Gaïa Orain

Gaïa Orain is a design strategist at Fair Care Labs, the social innovation arm of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Core to her design practice is a focus on the intersection of design thinking and social justice. Prior to joining Fair Care Labs, Gaïa freelanced with both corporate and non-profit clients. At Blue Ridge Labs, she worked on Neat Streak, a tool that creates agreements between house cleaners and their employers. She is currently working on an app that aims to aid domestic workers with employee contracts.

August 13, 2015

Why We’re Launching Catalyst

When we designed our fellowship back in the spring of 2014, we knew that it would only be the first step in a much longer journey for the teams who wanted to turn their ideas into sustainable, scalable ventures. Over the last few months, we’ve asked ourselves what we could do to better support promising teams – whether fellowship alumni or otherwise – in the later stages of their development. And because of our belief that great products (including programs) start from an understanding of what users need, we went out and asked a lot of other people too. After a couple dozen conversations with entrepreneurs, accelerators, foundations, and investors, here are three things we learned: 1) While timelines, staffing models, and funding…

August 7, 2015

Brainstorming Session with IDEO

In June, IDEO and hosted the Blue Ridge Labs fellows for a brainstorm and ideation session. Below is a guest blog from Product Fellow Susie Kavanaugh on her experience during the session. After learning that Blue Ridge Labs would have a brainstorming session with IDEO, I pretty much had to pinch myself. Could this be true? I’ve followed their work and used their toolkits, so I was beyond excited for our session. In preparation for the meeting, each Blue Ridge Labs fellows team created three user profiles along with a “how might we…” statement. Shortly after arriving at IDEO’s office in NYC, we jumped into action. Teams were paired off, user profiles were shared, and “how might we” statements were discussed….

July 23, 2015

Keeping Core Values First

Often an organization’s core values are things that sound nice in practice, but are really hard to trace through to implementation. At Blue Ridge Labs @ Robin Hood we strive to be different. Our values are at the fore of all our work and we remind ourselves, our fellows, and our network about what we stand for constantly. We seek to actively live out those things we think are fundamental to building new technology for those traditionally overlooked. It’s not always easy but it is important. Our values are: Courage – We jump into the unknown and the uncomfortable with transparency and honesty. For example, building technology that is based on the joys, frustrations, and articulated needs of people is challenging…

July 21, 2015

The Work Continues at Blue Ridge Labs

We are incredibly excited to announce the re-launch of our blog! A lot has happened in the past year, from joining Robin Hood to re-launching our second summer fellowship. The fellowship is currently one month underway and we’re going to spotlight some of our past and current fellows, share some insights from the field, and keep you posted on the progress of the products. This year our fellows were selected from a pool of more than 200 applicants to trailblaze social innovation using technology and design. Throughout the summer, they are designing and building products collaboratively with underserved communities, focusing on possible tech interventions for individuals working in the informal economy, caregivers trying to maintain their children’s educational momentum through the…

July 20, 2015

Alumni Profile: Jimmy Chen

Jimmy Chen is the CEO of Propel. His talent for connecting people through technology previously drove his success in managing product at LinkedIn and Facebook. At Blue Ridge Labs, Jimmy worked on Easy Food Stamps, a user-friendly interface that guides users through checking eligibility and applying for SNAP. After the fellowship, the product was accepted to the Fast-Fwd incubator in Philadelphia and recently named one of the 2015 Financial Solutions Lab Winners.

July 10, 2015

Mobile Design For Social Impact Infographic

Mobile Tech and the Potential for Social Impact

At Significance Labs, people often ask us why we think building technology for low-income communities is a good opportunity. They ask about access to smartphones and computers and whether low-income users are technologically literate enough to use the products our teams produce. Some press us on the assumptions we make around behaviors, like whether low-income users will be comfortable inputting personal information into online platforms. The read the full Mobile Tech Survey here

December 3, 2014

Propel and Significance Labs on Bloomberg TV

Propel and Significance Labs on Bloomberg TV Significance Labs co-founder Hannah Calhoon and Propel co-founder Jimmy Chen discuss how the companies came together to create products solving real-world problems. They speak with Pimm Fox on “Taking Stock.” (Source: Bloomberg)

September 30, 2014

Lessons in Community Engagement

This summer, the Significance Labs fellows took on the challenge of designing products for low-income New Yorkers. To do this successfully, we knew we needed to engage in meaningful, in-depth conversations to get to know our audience. We also needed to establish a relationship of trust in order to get honest feedback throughout development. The depth of our community engagement drove the design of five incredible products, and positive feedback from participants and fellows alike. We’d like to share some valuable lessons we learned along the way: Convey a sense of legitimacy We needed to recruit participants, but as a new organization, we knew that gaining people’s trust could be difficult. Within each of our three recruitment strategies, we sought…

August 18, 2014