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The Helpify Community blog

Helpify Ukraine: Learnings & next steps (part 1)

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

In the three days since we launched we have had thousands of people access the platform and more than 50 new helper registrations. Helpers are mostly from western Europe, with Belgium, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, France and Ireland represented. We have one helper registered in Ukraine. We thank you!

When you become a helper, you get to see the mission map, and you must be asking yourselves, where are all the missions? There have not been many. We have as a community have already helped people though! For example in Ireland, we have arranged for airport transport, translation, and accommodation. It works!

Another 3 to 4 million Ukrainians expected to migrate into Western Europe. There will be missions for all of us.

Why so few missions on this platform right now though? One reason is that awareness of the platform is not high amongst Ukrainians so far. But even in cases where we reached out to Ukrainians and informed them directly about the platform, there has been reluctance to engage with us. We are starting to understand why, and we are taking action to address this.

Over the next few days we are evolving our platform and approach to better serve Ukrainians and the helper community.

In speaking with Ukrainians online and at protests, we have learned that the process and platform are perceived as complicated. It is too hard to create a mission. This surprised us as there are only 5 or 6 mandatory fields to fill in and no registration required. We are making the form simpler to interact with, but there are other challenges as well.

On a deeper level there is an issue of trust when filling in that form. 'If I submit this form, will there be anyone to help? How long will I have to wait? Why can't I just chat or call someone?' This is especially true of the people still in Ukraine. With the kind of danger they are in, there is no way they are opening a ticket to get uncertain help.

We are beginning to understand the true nature of what Ukrainians need right now. People are submitting missions through the Contact Us form which are helping us to understand why they are not creating them on the platform. The missions we are getting are complex, and not so well suited to explaining within our online form.

A mission came in by email: "I have a cousin and her child crossing the border later today. What are the border wait times? Can someone get them on a train to Bucharest and then put them up until I get there in 2 days?" That isn't a mission you can pin on a map. By email we learned the people were crossing near Siret, Romania. We found out the nearest train was from Dornești, 12 km away. There were no trains to Bucharest still running on that day, so accommodation and transport in the area of Siret were needed as well as the accommodation in Bucharest.

To ask for help on our platform, it would have been necessary to set this up as four different missions: accommodation Siret, accommodation Bucharest, transport Siret, information. Breaking it up like that would have been complicated. What was really needed was to find someone to coordinate among helpers. We believe the platform needs to provide that capability in the future. In this particular example, Andrew on our team provided as much info as we could. For the moment we have no idea how their journey worked out, or whether we helped.

It turns out the same applies to helpers and volunteers -- you can't pin them on the map either. We got a call in from someone in Ireland who plans to drive a bus to the Polish / Ukrainian border, pick up refugees and drive them back to Ireland to have them accommodated. Our platform is not yet suited to him. In practice what he has, are two offers of help and one need for help. His offers are transport in Poland and accommodation in Ireland. His need for help is to find a translator in Ireland to join him on the road trip. Our platform needs to make it easier for him to advertise his needs and coordinate with other volunteers.

Helpers have also given us feedback about features, nudges and trust. For example, currently you can't see the mission map until you verify your ID. It would be better to see the types and locations of missions before doing that, as a motivation to go through the ID check. There should also be a map of volunteers, and ways for volunteers to interact as a community.

You need transparency on all these things, and more functionality as well. We need to make the process more interactive and more flexible, with fewer barriers and more feedback.

We are on it. We will be bolder, and will need your help as well. We have the frame of a plan in mind, and will post about it later tonight or tomorrow morning.

Thank you for your patience, and your support. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions below in the comments.

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