Vida Verde: DiscoTech Update & Case Study Links

Team VV had a great time at the DiscoTech on Sunday! We had a ‘Make your own glass cleaner’ station, told a whole bunch of people about how wonderful Vida Verde is, and did some additional user testing on our instant quote widget! We were especially excited that several people approached the table to inquire about potentially hiring Vida Verde and/or referring them to a friend. All around, we were pleased with how things turned out. At the very least, we had a lot of fun making and filling our mini bottles (photo credit: Sasha):


Our case study draft can be found HERE. It is definitely a work in progress, but we think that we have a solid foundation so far and are looking forward to iterating on it over the next couple of weeks. The working title of our case study is ‘Vida Verde: Streamlining Workflows’, since we felt that this was a succinct way of summing up the various projects and products we assembled for the co-op this semester. Our title image is currently Vida Verde’s logo, but we will likely switch that out for a screenshot of the completed quote widget once all of the updates have been pushed and it has been integrated into the co-op’s upgraded website:

The current version of our abstract can be found below:

During the spring semester of 2016, the MIT Collaborative Design Studio partnered with local worker-owned cooperatives to create civic media projects grounded in real-world community needs. Three MIT students partnered with a staff member from the MIT Media Lab to work with a cooperative of Brazilian housecleaners called Vida Verde. Over the course of several months, we worked together to develop technology products to streamline the organization’s operations and communications.

More specifically, the goal of the project was to alter some of Vida Verde’s systems in order to reduce the coordinator’s workload; to improve communication between the coordinator, cleaners, and clients; and to automate tedious steps of existing processes. While we briefly entertained the idea of creating a standalone product that would solve all of the coordination issues Vida Verde was facing, we ultimately elected to use open-source platforms like Google Calendar and free translation apps. By choosing this route rather than building something out from scratch, Vida Verde is now able to fully manage and maintain their technology without relying on an outside team for all of their business communications.

The collaboration between Vida Verde and the MIT Codesign Studio resulted in two projects: 1. an online price quote calculator for the Vida Verde website, and 2. a new internal calendar system for scheduling cleanings. We also upgraded the cooperative’s website to make it more easily navigable, and did some basic search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure that the website shows up easily in Google searches.

Vida Verde Update: Houston, we have a product

This week, Team Vida Verde took what we had learned in our interviews over the past several weeks and used it to actually build-out the instant quote widget. With some hard work from the programmers on the team, the widget went from a clickable mockup to a real coded prototype in just a couple of days! We’re excited to have the foundations of a hard product built for Vida Verde, and we’ll continue to iterate on it in the coming days with the goal of having full functionality in time to gather feedback at the DiscoTech.

SS1      SS2

On the less technical side, we’ve also been working on our case study over the last week and it’s coming along nicely. It’s interesting to see how far we’ve come and to reflect on the beginning of the process and the many other ideas we considered. The busy schedules at Vida Verde have made it difficult for us to grab time with the cleaners and coordinators to work on the Google calendaring system, but the team at VV has been working hard to set that up. We now have time scheduled and are looking forward to seeing how the interface works for the co-op members in day-to-day practice, as well as learning more about how to improve upon the current iteration.

Additionally, we are waiting to hear back from Vida Verde’s current website developer in Seattle so that we can begin working on upgrading their web presence. We think that this will be a small but critical piece of the puzzle in increasing VV’s visibility, so we’re excited to get the green light on that. Things are moving along and we’re looking forward to showcasing and testing all of these various components at the DiscoTech!

Vida Verde: User Testing Round 1

This week we primarily focused on testing our instant quote widget with potential users. Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts prevented us from being able to sit down with Vida Verde members to work through our two other prototypes, namely the texting interface and the Google calendar revamp, in time for this update. In the interim, we continued to work on all three prototypes internally, iterating on the original ideas within the group to make enhancements and clarifications.

We began testing the quote widget with people of various ages in our networks to see how potential users might interact with the app and what the testers liked/disliked. Thus far, we’ve learned that some of the language we used was a bit ambiguous, e.g. having ’Talk to Us’ as an option on the first page might need to be changed to ‘Contact us’ or something similar. Furthermore, there was some confusion regarding a few of the items on the ‘Additional options’ page and what they meant in terms of actual services. We also just found out that the first cleaning is priced at double what regular cleanings cost, so we will need to decide how to best ensure transparency on this point when providing the online quote. In terms of the overall usefulness of the widget, most people noted that they appreciated having the option to get a quote online while maintaining the ability to contact Vida Verde directly as needed.

We’re currently scheduling times to meet with the coordinators and cleaners to test all three prototypes and collect feedback. The team is also continuing to seek out additional ‘client’ testers for the quote widget as our networks seem to have a lot of demographic overlap and we want to ensure we’re sourcing input from people who represent Vida Verde’s typical customer pool. We’re excited about the way things are evolving, and we’re looking forward to getting more input from Vida Verde and others on how to improve our current prototypes.

Vida Verde – Decisions, Decisions

Since our last post, we’ve made a lot of progress in a number of areas, including identifying what we do and don’t know, figuring out what still needs to be tested, and ruling out some potential product ideas. We went through all of our notes, including intensively reviewing the feedback from customers, cleaners, and coordinators, to really drill down on what would be the most helpful and productive tool for Vida Verde right now. Our findings can be found in our presentation.

One avenue we were previously pursuing was a potential partnership with New York-based Si Se Puede!, a women’s housecleaning cooperative, which currently has grant funding to build out an app to streamline and manage the administrative needs of cooperatives. Obviously, there are a number of synergies between this initiative and the goals of our project, so we were hoping to either gain access to their code or to the app itself for testing purposes. Unfortunately, we had to abandon this route after it became clear that they were not on a timeline that would match up with the schedule of this class, so we returned to the drawing board.

Throughout the process, we’ve been hearing a great deal from all sides about the challenges of scheduling and general client interaction given the lack of staff capacity. Accordingly, we have been entertaining the idea of focusing our product around coordination for several weeks now. This week we zeroed in on three concrete ways this could potentially manifest. The three products we designed prototypes for are: 1. instant quote widget: allows people to get an instant online quote without having to go through the coordinator first; 2. cleaner/client communication and translation interface: texting interface that allows clients and cleaners to easily translate their messages between English and Portuguese without the extra step of copying and pasting into/from Google Translate; and 3. Google Calendar app for managing schedules: Google-based platform to allow cleaners and coordinators to transition from the current physical spreadsheet-based system to a digital version for increased convenience.

In terms of next steps, we’re looking forward to getting feedback in class on these prototypes, and also to testing them with the cleaners and coordinators at Vida Verde. We may decide that all of these are necessary components of an integrated coordination product, or we may end up only focusing on one of the three. Either way, we’re excited about these options and the potential they have to help Vida Verde streamline their operations and free up staff capacity for other critical tasks.

Vida Verde Update: Second Round of Interviews and Revised Business Canvas

As a result of our discussion during the app design exercise last week, we decided to reach out to a broader range of people to conduct this round of interviews. Unfortunately, we are still waiting on clearance to contact clients, but we now have buy-in from VV management and they have decided to reach out themselves, so we hope to have some willing participants soon. We made a Google form at VV’s request to include in their outreach, so ideally that will capture data from a few additional people who would not have participated in the phone interviews.

In the meantime, we asked around within our networks and conducted several interviews with people who get their houses cleaned, but who are not affiliated specifically with VV. We received some interesting feedback regarding the importance of smooth communication in the client-cleaner interaction, which reinforces our hypothesis related to streamlining these processes both internally and externally. Tais also had a chance to interview a couple more VV cleaners to further expand our knowledge base. Our updated communications canvas is HERE. It has not changed drastically as we’re finding that many of our original suspicions were relatively accurate, but we have made some minor edits to ensure that it is up-to-date with our findings.

Additionally, we made contact with Coopify and Maya had a productive conversation with them regarding the synchronicities between our goals, and also some potential other partners for us. At this point it seems that there are some proprietary barriers to us being able to fully access Coopify’s product, but they seemed open to further discussion. They agreed to connect us with Si Se Puede so one of our next steps will be to schedule a call with them to discuss possible areas for collaboration.

Questions that we used this week, along with additional questions that we brainstormed for future conversations can be found HERE.

Vida Verde Site Visit

On Monday night, the MIT contingent of our team had a great meeting with five spectacular members of the Vida Verde cooperative, Silvia, Leidiane, Valeria, Lucimara, and our primary contact Tais. We spent approximately three hours together learning about the Vida Verde members’ backgrounds, the history of the co-op, strengths and weaknesses of current processes, etc. We discussed some of the pitfalls of the current model, and talked about ideas that the VV ladies have for potential projects.

Based on our conversation, we were able to come up with a few possible project ideas, as well as leads on a couple of other areas for exploration. Current proposals include: 1. an automated cleaning estimate widget for the VV website, 2. a web- or SMS-based shift scheduling system, 3. an app-based product to link clients, workers, and the co-op in order to ensure that all parties are productively involved and aligned on every transaction. We agreed to have weekly meetings with all team members on Fridays at 6pm for the duration of the project so that we can keep everyone in the loop. Additionally, we plan to communicate with each other outside of the meetings via email and WhatsApp. We’re excited to start the product development phase!

Hello World

Hi everyone! My name is Rachel and I’m a first-year Master’s student studying City Planning. I’m originally from a bedroom community of New York City, but I was living in San Francisco for several years before coming to MIT. I’ve shifted my focus a bit in the last year (which prompted the grad school decision), but I have long been interested in projects and organizations that sit at the intersection of technology and social justice.

Accordingly, I originally moved to the Bay Area after college to do AmeriCorps with a multinational nonprofit working to empower underserved communities through technology access, tools, and training. After a bit of bouncing around, I began working with an organization aimed at expanding the availability of high-speed internet in U.S. public schools to democratize access to digital learning tools, with a particular focus on improving outcomes for students in underperforming districts.

Ultimately I realized that my interests were leaning more towards issues of affordable housing, which is what my studies are now focused on, but I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to be involved in this class and to collaborate with such great partner organizations. I think that as we as a society begin to take better stock of what it means to be a valued employee with any shred of work-life balance, the co-op model will be gaining increasing traction as a more humane and sustainable economic model. Looking forward to working with you all!