Anti-Poverty Empowerment

Twin Cities RISE!

Twin Cities R!SE (TCR) is a twenty year old, non-profit located in Minneapolis, MN that serves individuals who need assistance in preparing for, finding and keeping a living-wage job. These individuals are often men of color with criminal records and little work history, so it’s not easy. The proven TCR program consists of job skills and personal empowerment training as well as ongoing coaching.

TCR is exploring new ways to scale their model in helping participants acquire full-time employment and achieve their goals. They are aware of the impact technology has on lives and know technology can be used in many different ways to improve communication, learning, and the ways participants can be supported on their journey. Specifically, TCR is currently exploring different ways text-message technology, including chatbots, might dramatically improve participant communication and accountability. Feedback from both participants and coaches has been positive.

A fundamental element of TCR’s program is an Individual Development Plan created by a coach and participant using MS Excel. The plan identifies specific tasks/activities that are agreed to and target completion criteria, which is usually a date. Coaches review the plan with participants at periodic meetings and updates are then made as needed.

The challenge for coaches is that participants are sometimes difficult to reach, meetings are infrequent, and commitments made in the plan are easily forgotten by participants. And if they are completed, the coach often doesn’t find out for weeks.

The challenge for participants is that given the push and pull of everyday living, the commitments made in the plan are easily forgotten and if they did complete an activity they have no way to document it or get immediate, positive feedback from their coach.

Given this, we envision a project that would help streamline the processes around the Individual Development Plan (IDP), as described below:

Level 1:

This solution is an application that runs on an Android smartphone. Students will perform task extraction from the IDP to make the information readable by the smartphone. The participant (app user), using their smartphone, can view their IDP task list and update their progress in completing this month’s IDP activities. The master IDP maintained by the coach will be updated based on the participant’s input. Notifications will be automatically pushed to individual participants as gentle reminders that their completion dates are approaching, or are passed. This relieves the coaches from this task which often gets ignored due to time limitations. Administrators can create notifications such as “daily affirmations" or “holiday reminders” that are pushed to groups of individuals including active participants, staff and alumni.

Level 2

The IDP system can be enhanced to include the following:
  • Individuals receiving points for completing assigned activities with certain activities weighed heavier than others.
  • Points being tabulated and participants redeeming their point bank for merchandise.
Level 3:

Here, the application’s functionality will be expanded to include job leads. Open job orders are created following a standard format. The application then matches jobs with qualified participants both in terms of hard and soft skill criteria. Notifications are then sent to qualified participants, from which these participants can respond indicating their interest in pursuing opportunity.