Introducing #HumansOfJohego

When I started working on Johego full-time, I was living in West Lafayette, Indiana. Shortly thereafter, I decided to sign up for Indiana’s inexpensive Medicaid program, which was much more difficult than I imagined: I’ve graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and from Stanford University, and I needed an entire day of undistracted effort to successfully enroll. I can only imagine how much harder it would have been if I were a single, working parent without the benefits of my education and flexible schedule.

Since then, I’ve learned that it’s not just members of the general public who struggle to efficiently navigate the social safety net but also nurses, social workers, police officers, and other public service professionals. Such inefficiency can be frustrating to those in need and harmful those who serve them: a feeling of professional inefficacy is one of three primary dimensions of burnout, a widespread occurrence among nurses and social workers.

In order to better inform the public about how people navigate the social safety net, we are pleased to present #HumansOfJohego, a social media hashtag we will be using to help promote of a series of stories on that subject. Here is our first installment in that series from one of our supporters:



Photo: First Installment of #HumansOfJohego
First Installment of #HumansOfJohego

“I am a Social Worker in the Emergency Department of a very large hospital. Multiple times throughout the day I am asked to provide community resources to patients. The resource most commonly requested is shelter resources. The homeless population in St. Louis is large and there are limited shelters. I worked with an elderly man that is homeless last week. I provided him with a list of homeless shelters in the area from two different websites. It took him several hours to call all of the agencies on the two lists because some did not answer, some were no longer open, or said he would have to call back at another time. Ultimately the patient was not able to find shelter for the night. It would be beneficial for both people seeking resources and social service providers if there was a centralized place with real time data about resources in the community. In my experience most of the websites for resources that are utilized in community are out of date. One resource that I use daily is only updated one time a year, so there are often agencies that have closed or no longer provide services that remain listed until the book is updated. This can be disheartening to people seeking services.”



In the future, we will be posting these stories exclusively on social media, so we encourage you to follow us on any of the following platforms:

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If you or a friend, family member, or colleague have experienced challenges navigating the social safety net, we want to hear from you. You can visit the following link to learn more, including how to share your story:

#HumansOfJohego

Thank you for your interest and your support!

– Michael



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Holiday PSA: Put Down the Smartphone

What do you want to pay attention to
Image Credit: PhoneBreakup.com

Smartphone addiction is a severe and insidious public health challenge: the average smartphone user taps, swipes, and clicks their device 2,617 times each day during 76 separate sessions. In the short term, these sessions significantly reduce productivity: on average, it takes 25 minutes to return a task after an interruption. It can also reduce our emotional presence. As one author described her experience:

“I had recently had a baby and was feeding her in a darkened room as she cuddled on my lap. It was an intimate, tender moment — except for one detail. She was gazing at me … and I was on eBay, scrolling through listings for Victorian-era doorknobs.”

In the long term, problematic cell-phone use has been associated with negative cumulative outcomes, including “sleep disturbance, anxiety, stress, and, to a lesser extent, depression.”

Our collective addiction to our smartphones is not an entirely natural phenomenon but rather is very much a consequence of deliberate design decisions: for example, at my alma mater Stanford University, the Persuasive Technology Lab teaches “the psychology of behavior change, such as how clicker training for dogs, among other methods of conditioning, can inspire products for people. For example, rewarding someone with an instantaneous ‘like’ after they post a photo can reinforce the action, and potentially shift it from an occasional to a daily activity.”

average vs. heavy user phone usage per day
Image Credit: dscout.com

Johego, despite having developed a smartphone application for iOS and Android, is committed to helping combat cellphone addiction. Johego’s mission is to make connecting people in need with essential medical and social services as easy as finding showtimes for movies. Such connections will only occur when people notice and act upon such needs, which requires intellectual and emotional presence.

So, to close, here are a few simple things you can start doing during the holiday season to limit your smartphone usage:

  • Eliminate notifications for your most commonly used apps (on Android or iOS), especially social media.
  • Uninstall any app you do not strictly need (on Android or iOS), including those services you can access from your desktop or laptop computer — or from your smartphone Internet browser.
  • Place your phone away from you facedown when you are not using it, particularly when you are at work or in social settings.

In the meantime, we wish you safe and happy holidays!

– Michael

What do you want to pay attention to?
Image Credit: PhoneBreakup.com

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Johego Version 1.0: A Retrospective

Bill Gates observed that “we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” I have been thinking a lot about that quote as Johego prepares to launch Version 2.0 of our software in the coming days, and I wanted to use this opportunity to share just how far we’ve come.

Two years ago, I had recently completed 16 online courses in data science and full-stack web development, and I was in the middle of Square One Boot Camp, an outstanding entrepreneurship training program based out of the Center for Emerging Technologies. A few months later, Johego secured a $4,732.26 contract with Families and Communities Together to develop, pilot, and release a smartphone application on iOS and Android to help social workers, nurses, and other public service professionals in Northeast Missouri more efficiently connect people in need with social and medical services, such as overnight shelter and addiction treatment.

The result was Johego Version 1.0, code-named Calm Dawn, which was launched in six counties around Hannibal, MO. In the 18 months since its launch, our software has been used thousands of times to help people find a wide variety of social and medical services:

Johego Version 1.0 by the Numbers

In the meantime, thanks to a ~$270,000 contract with Missouri Foundation for Health, Johego has been diligently preparing to launch Version 2.0 of our software in 18 additional counties across Northeast, Central, and Southwest Missouri, bringing our geographic coverage to the counties outlined in the map below:

Johego Geographic Coverage Map November 2018

If you are a social worker, nurse, police officer, or other public servant in one of the outlined counties, and if you would like to sign up for a free virtual or in-person training session for our new software, please send us a message using the contact form below:

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We are proud of our accomplishments over the past two years, and we are so excited to begin a new phase in our development. Thank you to everyone who has supported us along the way.

— Michael

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2017 in Review

Celebrating a Successful Year

It is with a joyful heart that I share my reflections on everything Johego has accomplished over the last twelve months. The 2017 calendar year began with renewed focus: Johego had recently completed our first contract, a $6,052 interdisciplinary research project for Missouri Foundation for Health, and I had just finished a 10-week entrepreneurship training program through Square One at the Center for Emerging Technologies:

Square One, Class of 2016
Square One, Class of 2016
(Photo Credit: Center for Emerging Technologies)

Being in the Right Place

Through Missouri Foundation for Health’s “Healthy Communities” program, community organizers and health literacy experts organize coalitions of medical and social service providers around community-led initiatives to improve health outcomes in their region. In January, the Healthy Communities coalition in Hannibal, MO initially decided to focus on increasing awareness of the medical and social services already available in their region, by creating a paper-based directory they could hand out to their colleagues and clients. One of Johego’s allies happened to attend that meeting and told them about the technology Johego had been developing. Intrigued, the coalition invited Johego to give a presentation at their next meeting, ultimately deciding to pay us $4,732.26 to pilot our technology in their community instead of relying on a more traditional, paper-based approach. After several months of design, development, and testing in conjunction with our on-the-ground partners, Johego officially launched our smartphone application on iOS and Android in September, which got picked up by local and regional media:

Johego Interview with WGEM
Johego Interview with WGEM
(Photo Credit: Health Literacy Media)

Earning Institutional Credibility

A few weeks later, based on the success of our pilot program in Hannibal and our robust business plan, Johego was selected as a winner of the prestigious Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition at Washington University in St. Louis, out of an initial field of 154 participants. Meanwhile, we continued to work with our on-the-ground partners to better understand their needs, including at Project Community Connect, my favorite event of the year:

Johego at Project Community Connect (Photo Credit: Johego)
Project Community Connect 2017
(Photo Credit: Johego)

Gaining a Huge Opportunity

Shortly thereafter, I was given the opportunity to present Johego’s vision to senior personnel at Missouri Foundation for Health, an organization that is focused on addressing health issues of underserved Missourians from a systemic perspective. The result of that conversation was a $268,392 contract that will enable Johego to:

  • Add 18 additional counties to our coverage area, allowing nearly 1.1 million Missourians to access our services.
  • Create a browser-based equivalent of our smartphone application so that anyone can search our directory using their laptop and desktop computers, including police officers in their squad cars.
  • Provide information about the hours of operation, financial requirements, and documentation requirements of services listed in our directory, enabling our users to more efficiently obtain the help they need.

Although Johego still has a long way to go in order to actualize our vision of making connecting people in need with medical and social services as easy as finding showtimes for movies, this contract represents a major, if somewhat unbelievable, step forward for us. In the coming weeks and months, I will be introducing you to the newest members of our team, including two additional full-time staff members, and I will be sharing updates about our work as well as opportunities to get involved. In the meantime, I can’t thank you enough for your support.

– Michael

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How You Can Help

In the previous post, we discussed the resources that will be required to finish our app and expand its geographic coverage nationwide. In this post, we will describe what you can do to help make that happen.

Volunteer

One of the best ways to help Johego is to volunteer your time and talents. To that end, Johego is excited to announce three opportunities to join our team! If you are interested in applying for any of our volunteer positions, please click on the corresponding image below or visit our Volunteer page for more information.

board_member

Johego is looking for volunteers to serve on its 2016 Board of Directors. We are especially looking for individuals who are experienced with one or more of the following disciplines: finance, fundraising, human resources, information technology, legal matters, marketing, and public relations. If you would like to take a leading role in our efforts to revolutionize community development, please do not hesitate to apply!

developer

Johego is looking for individuals with a strong background in programming and/or mobile application development to assist with finishing our app and expanding its coverage nationwide. If you have a knack for this kind of work and want to contribute to community development in an innovative way, please do not hesitate to apply!

fundraising

As a 501(c)(3) charity still in its infancy, Johego is looking for individuals with significant fundraising and/or marketing experience to assist with developing a sustainable base of financial support. If you would like to help out with this critical endeavor, please do not hesitate to apply!

Donate

Another way you can help Johego is by making a financial contribution. As we indicated in our previous post, Johego is trying to raise $160,843.13 in order to pay for staff, subcontractors, and IT infrastructure during the coming year. To date, Johego has been supported almost entirely out of our personal savings, which is not a sustainable model.

Although we do our best to minimize our expenses and to seek out charitable grant opportunities, your support is essential for building on our existing work and bringing this project to scale. We especially appreciate automatic monthly giving, since that provides us with a greater degree of confidence about future revenues.

If you are interested in making a donation, please click on the button below or visit our Donate page.

As a reminder, because Johego is a 501(c)(3) charity, your donations are tax-deductible! Moreover, every new donor, no matter how small his or her contribution, broadens our base of support, which is an important metric we can show to charitable foundations and other large donors. With that in mind, please visit our Donate page and make a donation if you are able.

Donate

Raise Awareness

Perhaps the easiest way you can help Johego is by spreading the word about what trying to do. In particular, if you know anyone who may be interested in helping Johego revolutionize community development, we encourage you to facilitate an introduction. In the meantime, if you haven’t done so already, please connect with us on social media:

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With that in mind, please share this post on whatever platform(s) you are active. The coming months will determine whether we can generate enough momentum to finish our app and expand its coverage nationwide. Thank you so much for your support!

– Michael

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Bringing Johego Nationwide

In the previous post, we explained why we think our smartphone application will be an efficient and effective vehicle for increasing community engagement. In this post, we will be describing the resources required to (1) finish our app and (2) expand its geographic coverage nationwide.

How did we develop our estimates?

Our method for estimating resource requirements was simple, yet rigorous: first, we identified the major tasks that will be required to finish our app and expand its coverage nationwide; next, we categorized these tasks by profession (e.g., programming, marketing, etc.) and subdivided each task into specific action items; then, we interviewed various subject matter experts to develop a low-end and high-end time estimate for the completion of each action item. For example:

Example_Task_Estimate

After that, we looked at how many hours will be required to complete the tasks associated with each profession. Then, based on the number of labor hours required, as well as the typical hourly wage for such labors, we determined whether it will make more sense financially to hire someone full-time to complete those tasks or to utilize a subcontractor.

Based on this analysis, we believe that we will be able to finish our app and significantly expand its geographic coverage in under one year with a three-person team of full-time professionals: a programmer/mobile application developer, a fundraiser/marketer, and an executive director. During this period, we are planning that data science, data entry, software security, legal, and accounting tasks will be completed by a variety of volunteers and subcontractors. In the longer term, as we expand our coverage nationwide and begin to perform large-scale data analytics, we anticipate bringing on a full-time data scientist.

How much will it cost to finish the app?

We do not expect to obtain the resources Johego needs overnight. Therefore, we anticipate completing our three-person team of full-time professionals over the next several months. Based on that assumption, we estimate that we will need $160,843.13 during 2016 and that our monthly costs will be as follows:

FY2016_Cost_Projection

Specifically, we estimate that, with a three-person team of full-time professionals, our annual expenses will be as follows:

Annual Expense Summary

How much will it cost to expand the app’s coverage nationwide?

This is much more difficult to confidently estimate, since there are a greater number of uncertainties involved. Nonetheless, here is our approach:

As has been mentioned elsewhere on this website, the social service providers currently listed in our beta app are located in the Washington, D.C. area only. We were able to include these providers by collecting publicly available data from the Internet. Moving forward, we have identified approximately fifty other web-based resources that, if incorporated into our database, will provide geographic coverage of more than 90% of the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Each of these resources differs in its size, complexity, and quality, so it is difficult to generalize the level of effort required to incorporate all of this information, especially because we do not yet know what economies (and diseconomies) of scale might occur from that effort. Nonetheless, based on our experiences with the Washington, D.C. data set and others, we put together the following chart to illustrate the potential effects of scaling on our efforts:

Expanding_Geographic_Coverage

Based on this analysis, we believe that, as we expand and sustain our coverage nationwide, we will need to add a full-time data scientist to our team. This will become all the more critical as we begin to perform large-scale data analytics for the purpose of optimizing volunteering engagement.

All things considered, however, we can achieve nearly nationwide coverage by working with a relatively small number of web-based resources. Moreover, once a particular resource has been incorporated into our database, it will become that much easier to work with that resource whenever it is updated. For these reasons and others, we believe that we can bring Johego nationwide on a relatively short timeframe.

In the meantime, stay tuned for the next post, in which we will share some specific ways you can help make that happen.

– Michael

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Can an App Really Make a Difference?

Currently, there are more than more than 45 million people in the US living in poverty. However, only one quarter of Americans volunteered in their communities last year. Faced with those challenges, why are we convinced that our application will make a big impact on both?

Beta Screenshot
Screenshot of the Beta Application

In a recent survey of 135 countries, Americans were more likely than any other nationality to help strangers, with nearly four in five survey respondents having done so during the previous month. Compared to the level of volunteerism in the US, this finding suggests that there is a profoundly underutilized willingness among Americans to become more involved with community development. Fortunately, we increasingly understand the factors that make people more willing to participate in community-building activities:

  • When people feel like they can make a meaningful impact; and
  • When people have a personal connection to a particular cause, or to those supporting the cause.

We will be leveraging both of these factors with our application, and the opportunities for scaling are tremendous:

  • More than 98% of Americans are “connected to high-speed wireless Internet — surpassing any point in our nation’s history.” In addition, there are more than 180 million smartphone users throughout the US. This means that there are millions of opportunities to increase participation in community development using a smartphone application.
  • Furthermore, nearly three in four Americans have a social network profile. By integrating our application with some of the most common social media networks, we will be able to increase the scale and the rate at which our app is utilized.

For these reasons and others, we believe that a well-crafted smartphone application can increase community engagement and, in turn, help build stronger communities through the US. In future posts, we will be describing specifically what will be required to bring our application nationwide and how you can help make that happen, so stay tuned!

– Michael

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Building Johego: Connection

In a previous post, we discussed an article from Harvard Business Review, which identified four essential elements of a successful social movement. In this post, we will focus on the fourth of these elements as it relates to Johego: connection to the mainstream.

What We Do

Every successful social movement requires a meaningful connection to mainstream values and interests. For a start-up like Johego, social media can provide an efficient method for nurturing and sustaining that connection. To date, Johego has been using social media to provide updates on our progress and to post content that may be of interest to our supporters. Here are some of the content areas we have been focusing on so far:

  • Data Science: Data science being used for good, especially as it relates to community development / poverty reduction. [Example]
  • Smartphone Apps: Smartphone apps designed for community development / poverty reduction. [Example]
  • Innovation: Other innovative products and services for the poor, especially from small- to medium-sized organizations. [Example]
  • Policy: Novel policy approaches to community development / poverty reduction. [Example]
  • Poverty: The extent of poverty in the U.S. as well as the personal challenges associated with living under poverty. [Example]
  • General Interest: Actionable information for supporters about how to improve their lives: productivity, inspiration, etc. [Example]

Why Your Actions Matter

Ultimately, our success depends on your input. Your actions, even if they may seem inconsequential, actually do make a difference. For example, when one person ‘Likes’ a post on our Facebook page, it indicates to us what types of posts some people want to see. In addition, it increases the number of Facebook users that will see that particular post. To that end, the following plot shows how individual ‘Likes’ have increased the number of people that have seen our posts during the last few weeks:

Facebook_Readership_Analytics

How You Can Help

Here are a few easy things you can do that will increase our outreach and improve the content we send your way:

  • If you haven’t started following us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn, please do so.
  • If you are already following us, and if you believe in what Johego is trying to accomplish, invite members of your social networks to follow us as well.
  • If you like a particular post, then let us know by ‘Liking’, ‘Sharing’, etc. that post.
  • If you want to comment on a particular post, publicly or privately, please do so.
  • If you would like to see something different that is more relevant to your interests, please do not hesitate to contact us. We really do listen.

That’s it for now. As always, thank you for reading!

– Michael

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Building Johego: Planning

In a previous post, we discussed an article from Harvard Business Review, which identified four essential elements of a successful social movement. In this post, we will focus on the third of these elements as it relates to Johego: planning.

It’s not especially insightful to observe that the rapid proliferation of smartphone technology has dramatically changed the way many people find information, seek out entertainment, and obtain goods and services. To cite just two examples, with the tap of a few buttons, smartphone owners can order and pick up take-out in a matter of minutes, and they can just as easily catch a ride with a private chauffeur, day or night.

In the United States, where more than 45 million people are living in poverty, we believe that revolutionizing community engagement is every bit as important as the previously mentioned conveniences. Fortunately, millions of people also want to become more engaged in their communities. Unfortunately, many don’t know how, or where, or when to do so. Johego exists to make that problem go away.

Currently, we are putting the finishing touches on the beta version of our application, which we are hoping to make available for your use during the next few weeks. As an initial proof-of-concept, the beta app will enable smartphone owners in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area to quickly and easily refer members of their community to nearby social services that address their needs, and to provide them directions to such services. More details will be provided when we the beta app goes live. In the meantime, here is how this milestone fits in the bigger picture:

Johego_Planning

In order to finish the full version of the application and to expand toward a nationwide directory of social service providers, we will need to put together a larger and more sustainable team than our current group of scrappy volunteers. Right now, we are working with a variety of technical experts to carefully estimate the time and materials required to bring the project to scale. We will let you know as soon as we are able to put together precise figures. In the meantime, please stay tuned for regular updates on our work. Thank you for reading.

– Michael

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Building Johego: Values

In a previous post, we discussed an article from Harvard Business Review, which identified four essential elements of a successful social movement. In this post, we will focus on the second of these elements as it relates to Johego: shared values.

Statue_of_Liberty

In the United States, more than 45 million people live in poverty, including one in five children. In addition, approximately 600 thousand people are homeless, around ten percent of whom are military veterans.

If you believe that more must be done in order to address such profound destitution, you are not alone. In the United States, there are more than one million charities, 300 thousand congregations, and two thousand federal assistance programs working to alleviate poverty. However, only one quarter of US residents participated in volunteer opportunities last year.

What can be done to get more people involved? Based on our research, people are more likely to engage in community development when one or both of the following are true:

  • They feel like their contribution is likely to make a meaningful impact.
  • They have a personal connection to a particular cause or to those supporting the cause.

With that in mind, here’s one more statistic: in the United States, there are more than 180 million smartphone users. We see this as a tremendous opportunity to address both significant motivators for community development:

  • Our app will provide users with a directory of nearby social services — food banks, job training centers, etc. — so that, with the tap of a few buttons, users become able to direct members of their community to resources that address their needs in a very meaningful way.
  • In addition, our app will leverage social media to make it easier for users to find, organize, and engage in volunteer opportunities with friends and with organizations that match their interests.

We’re convinced that we can build stronger communities together. We hope you are too.

– Michael

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