DESIGNING FOR ECONOMIC MOBILITY in ALBUQUERQUE

I collaborate cross-functionally to lead research for the Albuquerque Fellowship Team, translating user needs into products, services, and experiences. We've been working with the Albuquerque Mayor's Office to understand the needs of low-income Albuquerque residents, many of whom are financially unstable. We built the Financial Wellness Calculator, a tool that helps residents achieve financial stability by connecting them to government services in their workplace. We wanted to shift behavior and help residents save money, think about their futures and achieve upward mobility. Check out the tool.

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TIMELINE

11-month Fellowship with the City of Albuquerque, from Jan - Dec 2015

RESPONSIBILITIES

Lead, define and conduct human-centered research, connect insights to design


ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH

We spoke with Albuquerque residents at all levels of the community. Our key question was: What are the factors preventing residents from gaining skills and achieving socio-economic mobility?

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METHODS

  • In-Depth Interviews
  • Diary Studies
  • Participatory Design
  • In-Context Immersion

 

 

  • Cognitive Task Analysis
  • Rapid Prototyping
  • Remote Usability Testing

Mental model of a Albuquerque resident who is stuck in a predatory loan debt trap.

Journey map of resident stuck in payday loan cycle

Emotional spectrum map drawn during interview with participant. 

First week insights from Albuquerque government residency. 

Affinity diagram of insights sorted into key opportunity areas.

An interview exercise to understand where residents go for help.

Using open city data and census, our interaction designer and developer built some useful maps to help us understand the distribution of different financial products / services in Albuquerque. We learned that predatory loan services often outweigh safer loan options. 


INSIGHTS

We learned that New Mexico has the highest percentage of working poor residents (44%), and that Albuquerque is the eighth poorest city in the country. Many residents live in a state of immediacy, unable to further themselves because they're too busy struggling to meet their basic needs. Two key themes emerged from our research:


CONCEPT EXPLORATION

We translated our insights into product hypotheses and decisions.


THE FINAL PRODUCT

The Financial Wellness Calculator is the City of Albuquerque's new tool that helps employers connect their struggling employees to city and government services, helping them achieve financial stability. Check it out.

DEFINING FINANCIAL WELLNESS

 We first had to meaningfully define financial wellness. We reached out to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau for help. We learned that financial wellness is having financial security and freedom of choice in the present and future. 

Service model diagram from employer perspective. 

HOW IT WORKS

We used the CFPB's definition of financial wellness as a guiding framework. With the tool, an employer sends to an anonymous survey to their staff to better understand their financial health. The tool visualizes the survey data, illuminating problem areas and recommends city services that an employer can plug their staff into.

Service model illustrating how value is distributed to all users. 



PILOTING & USABILITY TESTING

We've been piloting the Financial Wellness Calculator with Albuquerque employers and financial service providers. We've also been iteratively conducting rapid remote and in-person usability tests. We wanted to get actual data from employees to understand the most common financial-wellbeing needs across our piloting organizations. Our key goal was to work with Financial-wellness service providers in the community to map the employee needs to pre-existing services or create new one that employers can connect their employees to. 

Each pilot organization has been helping us understand how to improve the usability They're helping us see trends in the needs of the community so that we can best align the Albuquerque city and government services with those needs.  We’ve collected some interesting insights:


CODE FOR AMERICA SUMMIT CONFERENCE

Team Albuquerque presented it's Fellowship work in front of over 1,300 people at the Code for America Summit.