At Yoti, we’re committed to using our identity checking system as a force for good. We’re a B Corporation with a set of principles to guide us and a Guardian Council of respected and influential individuals to hold us to account. We’ve also made our platform free of charge for individuals and charities to use.
In February 2017, we held a hack week to learn from on-the-ground charity staff about how our identity checking system can help solve local and global problems. In partnership with Outlandish (more on that below…), we awarded the three most promising ideas from the week a team of developers to work up a prototype solution. The winners were Centrepoint, Childline and GoodGym.
We promised to share case studies of the three projects. One of our major reflections from the hack was just how much we can learn from the experts at the charities, who understand user journeys in micro detail. So rather than giving our point of view, here’s Centrepoint’s story, firsthand from hack participant (and a rising star in charity digital transformation), Hafsah FitzGibbon, Partnerships and Participation Manager for Centrepoint’s Databank.
What was Centrepoint’s challenge with ID?
Centrepoint is the leading charity for homeless young people aged 16-25. It supports over 9,000 homeless young people a year. It provides accommodation based and floating support services in London and the North of England and also runs a national Helpline for any young person worried about homelessness.
Centrepoint frequently receive requests from former residents for information relating to their accommodation history, rental references and proof they were once homeless. This evidence is vital in helping them secure the welfare support they are entitled to and the tenancy they are trying to secure.
To do this we need to first prove the young person is who they say they are (usually requiring them to come into our head office with ID documents), retrieve the information from database/s and send it to the young person via email or post. This is a time consuming process for staff and young people, and it means that we aren’t always able to get the evidence to young people in time.
We want to avoid the chance of our young people becoming homeless again. We came to Yoti looking for a way to help us automate this process, ensuring young people get their information as soon as they need it.
What did the Hack involve?
The hack began for us with a day at the Yoti offices. I worked closely throughout the day with two graduates from Founders and Coders to thrash through the challenge and map out a solution.
By the end of the day, we had a basic design for a web application, which we pitched to a panel of judges. We were one of the five charities shortlisted for the ‘grand prize’ event.
We returned to the Yoti offices on Friday, following three days intensive work with the Founders & Coders graduates developing our plan to build and test a prototype. We pitched our plan to the panel again – this time including the web design consultancy Outlandish. Outlandish then selected our idea to support, which included sponsoring Lucie and Marko from Founders & Coders to work on the project for a month, and providing senior development support from the Outlandish team.
What did you create?
By the end of the month, we’d created and user-tested a prototype mobile-friendly web-application, which streamlines the process of a former Centrepoint resident requesting Centrepoint verified address history, rent arrears reports and rental references:
We tested the app with young people that had left Centrepoint and their response was really promising. They found it quick and simple, and were excited at the prospect of Yoti elsewhere in their lives instead of carrying ID documents. For some, there were barriers to downloading Yoti due to limited memory space on their mobile phones, though young people told us they would be more motivated to keep Yoti on their phones if they were confident they could use it elsewhere e.g. getting into nightclubs or buying age restricted goods.
We tested the app with Centrepoint staff who were happy that we managed to automate the first part of the process – verifying ID. They were excited by the wider potential of digital ID verification and its ability to support young people to access welfare support more quickly. However, the process revealed that to really cut down the response time for staff, more work would be needed to integrate with the Centrepoint database. This would be truly transformational, providing former residents with the information they need instantly and securely.
Do you have any other reflections on the experience?
We’ve taken part in a few hackathons, and this was definitely one that worked well. Here are a few reflections as to why:
You encouraged us to specify our problem before we arrived. The application for Yoti hackathon was good – not too long or formal, but asked the right questions. It meant I came prepared to the first hack day with a suite of problems I thought Yoti could help us solve.
The development prize made it worth applying for. Whilst a 1-2day prototype can be useful, the one month development prize enabled us to really concept test our idea and build a fully functioning prototype.
This hackathon seemed to bring together a bunch of people that really cared – about the users, finding the right solutions and how to work cross-sector to plug skills gaps. We didn’t just build a successful prototype, we built a successful cross-sector, multidisciplinary team. This partnership modelled a way of working that challenges the traditional dynamic many charities have with tech agencies.
We were valued as the user expert. We were relied upon to translate complex user journeys and for our understanding of the voluntary sector, the problems digital could help address and the challenges surrounding its implementation.
Understanding this context, our colleagues at Outlandish, Founders & Coders and Yoti helped us to be leaner than we thought we were. They helped us to figure out where and how we’d have the best success of addressing our problem with the tech at hand. Through testing and experimenting with different solutions, they really pushed the prototype as far as it could go within the time we had.
I’d like to thank everyone for all the hard work and good will thrown into this project. We’ll definitely be working together again.
A big thank you from Yoti to:
Would you be interested in being involved in a future hack event? Please get in touch.