The InPlay project
Goal: Connect K-12 students to great out-of-school opportunities for learning.
As a country, the US spends enormous resources trying to close the well known opportunity gap in American education. Despite these efforts, this gap unfortunately persists. Research UC Irivne and elsewhere suggests one major factor why focusing on schools may not be enough. Aftershcool and out-of-school activities may be as important or even more important to addressing this gap than in-school efforts.
With this in mind, Rod Hsia has begun an exciting new project through UnaMesa to create a mobile, web based service that connects youth to great out-of-school experiences in their area. Working in close collaboration with both schools and program providers, InPlay will offer a single place for busy families to find and enroll in programs that best address their specific needs. Rod is putting special emphasis on making sure that even low-income families can participate in high quality programs by incorporating existing financial supports into the application process, thus turning what was once a daunting and highly inefficient process for parents into a positive experience where they feel welcomed and supported by their local community.
The InPlay.org service will launch in early 2015
Community Based Service Learning
Stanford's Gap for Good Project
Goal: Connect students and communities to address critical, unmet needs.
Knowing how design a toilet and actually implementing a working sanitation system in a country like Haiti are two very different things. Stanford's Gap for Good project tries to bridge this divide by putting teams of undergraduate students into the field with community based organizations. Working closely with the communities to understand needs, design prototypes, and implement solutions in the course of a single summer stretches students and communities to apply themselves in new and exciting ways. At the end of each project, the communities themselves take ownership of any technology to continue developing and spreading the solution to meet their own needs and similar needs in other communities.
Experienced professionals serve a key role in advising the student teams and helping them create solutions that are both practical and effective. UnaMesa supports these efforts in several ways:
- collecting financial contributions to support the non recurring engineering costs,
- providing institutional "memory" to help communities and student teams build and grow ideas over time,
- measuring impact in terms of meaningful engagement between professional in the field, student teams, and low resource communities.
Hesperian Digital Commons
Goal: Create a place for finding and adapting
health information to needs of community workers.
is the non-profit publisher of community oriented healthcare manuals such as Where There is No Doctor
(WTND). WTND was originally published in the 1970s and is one of the most widely used health-care manuals in the world. In 2008, the Hesperian Foundation began a project (Hesperian Digital Commons or HDC) to update their materials and modernize them by creating digital versions to allow access via the internet, mobile phones and other technologies. The aim is to improve access to the Hesperian materials through the direct use by community healthcare workers in the field and also through brochures, mobile phone updates, and other adaptations created by local partners addressing specific community needs. As the technology partner, UnaMesa acts as an advisor to Hesperian to help them revise their content development process, create a digital publishing platform, and put in place appropriate processes for integrating community input into reliable publications. UnaMesa responsibilities include:
- Helping to design and implement a technology architecture for Hesperian Digital Commons and mobile apps
- Supporting the adoption of editorial process and delivery mechanisms for digital publications
- Working with Hesperian staff to provide and operate the necessary network services and infrastructure
- Helping to collect and analyze statistics on usage of Hesperian materials
From 2005-2013 we used an open wiki as our primary means for managing projects and tracking results. In 2014 we shifted to using other tools for managing projects. The previous project materials, newsletters, conference call recordings, etc. remain available in archive form. We are working on making these materials easily available in a useful format which will eventually be publised to the UnaMesa projects subdomain
. In the meantime, you may request information regarding any of our previous projects or activities by contacting mss at unamesa.org.
The innovations in software, web services and best practices resulting from UnaMesa projects are available for free to non-profit organizations. With the support of our contributors, UnaMesa provides ongoing maintenance and support for the software and services and the communities around them. This includes:
When looking at the needs of community-based schools, clinics, and social service agencies, it becomes clear that the existing information technology did not serve their needs. In particular, the web is a great tool for providing and gathering information but it requires full time Internet connectivity, something which is simply beyond the reach of many community organizations. To address this need, we have helped develop and support a tool called "TiddlyWiki," a single html file which provides all the advantages of a web-based service but works even when you don't have an Internet connection. (Data can be synchronized when a connection is available.) TiddlyWiki
is very flexible, versatile and extensible and amongst other uses forms the basis of UnaMesa's Student Notebook project as well as field notebooks for doctors.
Additionally, we found that many community organizations still rely on paper records. Even those that have their own digital archives end up printing or faxing records in order to share information with other care providers. The result: organizations quickly spend more than 30% of their resources on administrative tasks ("paperwork") that creates no value for their clients and, even worse, clients often receive inadequate care because of incomplete information and lost records. We helped create and operate the SharedRecords
service which provides a kind of "common denominator" for records that gives providers the ability to share records with their clients and with other organizations in a way that is simple, secure, and very low cost. Regardless of whether an organization relies on digital or paper records, the SharedRecords service can work with their existing practices to provide a better experience for their clients. SharedRecords is an integral part of UnaMesa's ServiceLink project.
In 2013 the SharedRecords experience became the basis for our work with the University of Vermont school of social work to create a mobile app for social workers. The prototpye web app is available at GRADES.sharedrecords.org
gives social workers in the field a tool to create a much better experience for foster children. When a child is in crisis, this tool makes sure all the social workers have up to date information about the child and potentially foster homes in order to make the best possible match usually within less than 24 hours. Without this tool, social workers face an impossible task of trying to integrate and update information from many different people, antiquated databases, and home grown spreadsheets that results in too many kids falling through the cracks.