Nestled in among the delivery of an innovative technological solution to the age-old issue of homelessness, is a phenomenal example of successful collaboration in action.
Ask Izzy is a free and anonymous mobile friendly website that connects people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless with over 350,000 services designed for them.
The now highly utilised platform has received around 400,000 searches since it launched in January 2016.
But this story is less about what Ask Izzy does exactly, and more about how Ask Izzy came to be and what other organisations can learn from her development and success.
Ask Izzy didn’t just miraculously appear from the ether one-day by chance.
The journey to changing lives started with a simple idea and a lot of evidence to back it up.
80% of people who are homeless have access to a smartphone
– The University of Sydney
When Infoxchange CEO David Spriggs and his team pitched their idea in the 2014 Google Impact Challenge, they did so with such an overwhelming amount of solid data that even the Lords of data at Google were surprised.
“We had all the data to support our argument. We even had the data on mobile access among the homeless and those at risk of homelessness,” says David.
“They (Google) could see that a mobile friendly website was the way to put the service information directly into the hands of the homeless.”
As a result, Infoxchange were awarded a $500,000 grant to start the development of Ask Izzy, and that is where their collaboration journey began.
David tells us that a whole-of-community partnership has been integral to the success of Ask Izzy.
“We have over 20 major and contributing partners, strong collaboration between the community, corporate, government and academic sectors,” he says.
These major and contributing partners include high profile organisations such as Google, REA Group, Telstra, News Corp Australia, NAB and Westpac.
“It’s not all about funding,” says David in relation to collaborating with other organisations.
“Telstra, for example, have been critical in making sure people who are homeless can access Ask Izzy when they need it most by making the platform meter free. That means that people don’t need to have credit for data on their mobile phones to use the site.”
“And the News Corp partnership has been incredibly helpful in getting the word out as you would expect,” he says.
Another example of the Ask Izzy collaboration in action happened last Christmas when the REA Group together with News Corp Australia, Westpac and RAMS helped Infoxchange to produce and distribute 5000 phone charger cards to the homeless.
This is a life-changing story. People who are homeless or at risk now have you to thank for helping them survive. When you donate $15 to Ask Izzy at www.westpac.com.au/askizzy, you're giving people a...
When you set out looking for organisations to collaborate on your big idea, it’s all about finding those that have links to your goals.
“The REA Group were one of the first to come on board with us because their corporate mission is all about connecting people with housing, and most of their community work is in homelessness,” says David.
“You need to work out what your value proposition is, what’s in it for them.
“And then you just think about managing the relationship like managing any other relationship; make sure you communicate with them,” he says.
David’s advice is also that you don’t need to find a large organisation to collaborate with on your idea.
“Just find those organisations with aligned values,” he says.
When you talk to David, he is at pains to express the importance of co-design in what has been achieved by Ask Izzy.
“Co-design was very much a part of the process from the beginning of the concept, to design and development, and now with the promotion,” says David.
“There is often the temptation to develop initiatives in a boardroom instead of working with people to make sure your solution meets their needs.
“We worked with people with lived experience of homelessness, every step of the way and now they are at the centre of the promotion phase as well.
“Because we worked with people who would use Ask Izzy we knew that it needed to be a mobile friendly website rather than an app,” he says.
“Apps can be restrictive for people who can’t register for an app store because they don’t have an address, or are in a position where they don’t want to share their address.
“Likewise, they are more than likely using a prepaid phone with no data, in free Wi-Fi areas, and may be unable to download an app.”
Co-design literally means collaboratively designing services, products or processes. It is about engaging consumers and users of products and services in the design process, with the ultimate goal being to create benefits for both parties.
– Ingrid Burkett
Infoxchange has just received a $500,000 funding grant from the NAB Foundation to take Ask Izzy to the next phase, helping to tackle family and domestic violence.
Their collaborative journey is far from over and one that is well worth watching and learning from across the Community Services Industry.
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