Designing a Volunteer Matching App


3 minute read

First published at Peace Corps Passport Blog.

Last Saturday, three Peace Corps staff members (myself, Sheila Campbell, and Devon Brown) met at 8am at the HIVE co-work space in Washington, D.C. with coffee in hand and surrounded by around 30 others to attend the Diaspora Day of Civic Hacking, hosted by Tiphub. It was a global effort, and teams were gathered in Atlanta, Nairobi, and Accra.

The stated mission of Diaspora Day:

‘Tiphub’s Diaspora Day of Civic Hacking is a global day of advocacy and hackathon that brings together technologists and community leaders to brainstorm and rapidly build prototype solutions for organizations that strengthen Diaspora communities around the world.’

Diaspora Day of Civic Hacking Flyer.
Diaspora Day of Civic Hacking Flyer.

The event was a fantastic assortment of incredibly smart and passionate individuals coming together to tackle some really interesting and unique problems.

The objective was to assist diaspora communities to stay connected and find new ways to engage with connected communities. From 8am until 6pm, we were able to talk about ways in which the Peace Corps builds bridges of understanding through two years of service, and how that bridge is strengthened with the ability to apply to specific countries and volunteer jobs within a country.

Participants at the D.C. site of the Diaspora Day of Civic Hacking — Photo Credit: <a href='https://twitter.com/sheiladcusa/status/564205890656796673'>Sheila Campbell</a>
Participants at the D.C. site of the Diaspora Day of Civic Hacking — Photo Credit: Sheila Campbell

Tiphub was kind enough to allow Peace Corps to present one of the six ‘challenges’ for the day, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

The Volunteer Openings API

On Tuesday of that week, Peace Corps had released an API (was at ‘http://www.peacecorps.gov/api/v1/openings/’ but now appears broken) (an Application Programming Interface) that allows anyone to access data on Volunteer job opportunities (country, sector, language requirements, medical considerations, etc.) in real-time, and in a format that is easily read and sorted.

Volunteers at Hub Accra working on @PeaceCorps challenges — Photo Credit: <a href='https://twitter.com/hubaccra/status/564016201048031232'>Hub Accra</a>
Volunteers at Hub Accra working on @PeaceCorps challenges — Photo Credit: Hub Accra

The opportunity to ‘play’ with this data and think of new and interesting ways in which we can transform it, mash it up with other data, and present it in new ways was too irresistible to ignore.

We trashed our existing challenges and proposed that we work on clarifying this idea all day, and thus was born the ‘Peace Corps Matching App’.

Peace Corps Matching App

Diaspora Day Match App Sketch — Photo Credit: Sheila Campbell.
Diaspora Day Match App Sketch — Photo Credit: Sheila Campbell.

We actually spent a long time in the morning and afternoon walking through various sketches, mockups, and storyboards for what this could be. We compiled our “pitch” at the end of the day into a slide-deck (available upon request.)

The idea is really simple:

  • Basically anyone with the app creates a profile with basic information about where they would be interested in Volunteering with Peace Corps (for example: regions of the world, languages spoken), as well as some things about their background (language proficiency, dietary restrictions).
  • We then use that public API provided by Peace Corps to show our user the various positions that are accepting applications, the due dates and departure dates, and all the information about the position, the country where it’s located, and the type of job.
  • But the trick is that we don’t show it all at once and overload the user- instead, we have the user flip through the opportunities—one at a time.
  • If they are interested in the position, they swipe right. If it doesn’t sound right for them, they swipe left.
  • Behind the scenes, the app matches up your skill sets, background, requirements, etc. with the position skill sets and requirements—and if it looks like you could be eligible, it’s a match!
Peace Corps Match App Mockup - Front Peace Corps Match App Mockup - Detail
Volunteer Service Match App -- Front and Detail.

And it doesn’t have to stop there.

We could add in all sorts of functionality - for instance it would be helpful to chat with a Recruiter or Peace Corps Volunteer in that current position after matching, and we could build that right into the app.

Maybe the app could remind you when a deadline is approaching for something that you seem like a terrific fit for!

This is just the beginning.

The Wrap-up

The Diaspora Day of Civic Hacking not only helped bring together an incredible network of folks to help think about this problem and our potential solution, but also it really helped to show that this isn’t something unique to Peace Corps.

We talked to a number of awesome groups, organizations, and volunteer service communities that were really intrigued by this idea.

In the end, all of us are playing our part in building the bridges that connect us to our homes, both new and old.