We recently spoke to Tim Treis, a member of Enactus Bielefeld about a smartphone app project he is taking part in. Enactus is a non-profit students initiative, which believes in empowering people through entrepreneurial ideas. One of the most prominent Enactus projects is OneDollarGlasses, in which people are taught how to manufacture simple glasses and support themselves financially by selling them for one dollar.

Similar to this project, Tim and his team are currently planning a project, to empower farmers in Kenya by providing information on effective agriculture through a smartphone app, similar to GiftedMom which works with NGOs in maternal health, Pharmaceuticals and Telcos to get health information into the hands of pregnant women and new mothers.

They are currently in the funding stage and needed a tool to prototype the app so potential investors would know where they are going with the idea and they came to Fluid UI for help. We had a chat with them about Enactus, their own projects and what they hope to achieve.

What is Enactus?

“We live our values of passion, innovation, integrity and collaboration in all that we do.”

Enactus is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring students in over 1,700 Universities in 36 countries to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. They provide a platform for teams of outstanding university students to create community development projects that encourage people to use their own ingenuity and talents to improve their lives.

How do they achieve their mission?

Guided by educators and supported by business leaders, 69,000 + students take the kind of entrepreneurial approach that empowers people to be a part of their own success. Their work transforms both the lives of the people they serve, and in turn, the lives of the students as they develop into more effective, values-driven leaders.

“Like in business, we believe that competition encourages creativity and rewards results. For Enactus, it means more lives are impacted.”

Enactus organizes an annual series of regional and national competitions providing a forum for teams to showcase the impact of their efforts and be evaluated by executives serving as judges. National champion teams are entered into the prestigious Enactus World Cup to take part in competition, collaboration and celebration.

What tools do you use in your projects?

Up to now, each Enactus team is provided with access to Microsoft SharePoint, which we use to collaborate between teams and document our work. Internally, we also use Trello, as it is faster to use for day to day work and also has mobile applications. Apart from those two, we rely either on free tools or companies supporting us, like Fluid UI did just recently.

How do you decide what sort of projects you want to work on?

group of enactus students in groups

Stemming from experience, Enactus believes in developing solutions based on problems that were first identified in a needs assessment. This means that instead of developing something out of the blue and assuming someone will be helped by the product, we work with the target group from the very beginning. The solution ends up being something that’s useful and also widely accepted in the target group. We start with a prototype that can be presented to others and then be iterated upon.

As we are aiming to develop an application, we need to have prototypes prior to programming the actual application. That way, we are able to present our ideas more professionally and also receive feedback in the early stages of the project.

Also, as we don’t have any steady funding or income, it is vital for our projects that we are able to acquire funds through presenting our work to potential sponsors. Having a professional looking prototype is a huge benefit in these situations.

How do you include everyone in the design and development process?

Developing a mobile application might seem extremely complicated, if one doesn’t have any experience in programming. As we wanted to include our entire team in the process of developing the app, we tried to separate the design from the programming part. By developing a realistic mockup before we start programming, each and every member of our team has the option to influence the final product. That way, the application will be something every one of us feels responsible for and not just our programming team.

Do you have any designers on your team, or individuals with a design role?

Enactus teams are usually quite diverse, as we don’t tend to recruit people based on their skills. We believe that commitment to a good cause is more important than having a lot of experience in a certain topic. When organizing our projects, we try to find a group of people with different experience that add up in an effective way. Then, the projects themselves define their tasks and responsibilities and match them with their team members. Having prior experience in the chosen task is beneficial, yet not mandatory, as we try to learn from each other and grow with the tasks.

Fortunately for us, one of our team members is currently training to become a graphic designer which makes her, by default, our “lead designer”. She is supported by two other members of the project team though, so we have a broader range of opinions and experience being incorporated into our designs.

How did you decide on the type of project you wanted to work on?

Highly optimized tips on how to improve farming presented in a simple and intuitive mobile application.

fluid ui prototype

For this latest project we looked back at needs assessments over the last 6 months and came up with various ideas about how we wanted to shape our project. The general direction was influenced by a startup with which we cooperated in those early months. They wanted to bring electricity to rural communities in developing countries. While researching during this phase we stumbled upon an organization in Germany that aims to reduce poverty and hunger by researching more efficient ways of farming. Their solutions are developed in cooperation with local communities and are individually tailored for the specific region. This knowledge is then passed on in workshop-like situations locally.

We were fascinated by the concept and we came up with ways that this knowledge could be presented to a broader audience. Then we stumbled upon GiftedMom, a startup that focuses on healthier pregnancies in Cameroon and Nigeria using mobile applications. As we hadn’t thought of this as an option at all, we were stunned by the impact GiftedMom is currently having. Those are the two principals our idea is based on.

Did you use any paper mockups of your app before you began using Fluid UI?

In the very beginning we did some rough sketches on paper, but that proved to get messy really quickly. As digital solutions are often a lot cleaner and more reusable, we then searched for a tool to replace our paper mess and found it in Fluid UI.

Did you get feedback from users during the process?

Our project is currently in the early stages so we are not able to deploy a working prototype to our target group yet. As we strive for the best possible solution, we are in contact with various experts on Kenya and are currently talking about the details of the project. Our project is one of five projects that are part of Enactus Bielefeld. In our monthly team meetings, we are presenting our prototype again and again to the entire team, so we can refine it based on their feedback.

What’s the advantage of using a design thinking led approach to delivering this kind of solution?

Design thinking in general is one of the most important concepts in the Enactus philosophy. Continuous development and improvement of prototypes is highly likely to deliver a better project or product. Following this approach, we can weed out any problems and adjust the project early on. Instead of encountering them in the final stages of the project, which often leads to big problems with the schedule and the budget.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?

As Enactus Bielefeld currently has 42 members and our projects teams are usually most efficient when they have 5-8 members, we are working on 5 different projects simultaneously. All of those projects aim to empower people and help them to help themselves. The other four projects are:

Comardor: Comardor: Comardor: The project aims to fight addiction to fashion brands and the resulting discrimination in schoolchildren through upcycling. The pupils will use their creativity to create cool fashion on their own so they on the one hand learn new skills and also increase their appreciation for their property.

Taschengeldwerkstatt: “Taschengeld” is the German word for pocket money. The project aims to teach children about the concept of money and how to responsibly manage their own money. It does that by offering woodworking workshops to children. The children are asked to state a specific wish prior to joining the project, for example buying a football. Then the children craft wooden objects under the supervision of volunteers that are sold on local flea markets to fund their individual wishes.

StreetVoice: The project StreetVoice is trying to help homeless people, by helping them produce an audiobook, which tells their story, so they can gain acceptance back into society and have a small income to help them out of their homelessness.

InteGrow: InteGrow is a project that uses Urban gardening to strengthen the bond between the inhabitants of Bielefeld and the local refugees. Together they plant crops, organize events and generally spend time with each other, so the refugees learn German and are integrated into society.

How useful is Fluid UI for your needs?

Fluid UI offers an intuitive interface with which one can simulate the behavior and the look of mobile applications on all major platforms. We’ve been provided with a full subscription for free, which greatly accelerated the development of our prototype. We have also developed a much smoother workflow using Fluid UI. We now have a detailed idea of the app that we’re going to develop prior to starting with the actual coding.

We contacted Fluid UI because their website already presents situations in which they helped NGOs and social projects without compensation.

As students we don’t have a big budget, so it’s crucial for the success of our projects to either come up with a free alternative or to ask for free support. The goal of our projects in general is to empower people so they can improve their livelihood on their own in the long term. Therefore, the entire revenue our project might generate, goes directly to the people in need. Having to pay for services or software only decreases their potential benefit or even forces us to abandon certain ideas.