Stoked nonprofit wanted to better document outcomes, so it's building a mobile app - Technical.ly Brooklyn

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Apr. 7, 2014 8:45 am

Stoked nonprofit wanted to better document outcomes, so it’s building a mobile app

Local nonprofit finds a better way to track student enrichment, starting with Lean, then going mobile.
Patrick Elasik Entrepreneurship Lab at Stoked HQ in Dumbo.

Patrick Elasik Entrepreneurship Lab at Stoked HQ in Dumbo.

(Photo by Brady Dale)

A Dumbo nonprofit is working on a mobile app that will automatically save pictures and videos into a database that connects them to the event they were taken at. It will also make it much easier to tag those images with at-risk youth served by the event.

Stoked‘s basic mission is to get students having a hard time in school to do action sports as an outlet and socializing tool. It’s very cool. It seems to work. People like them. They are growing. But it’s not exactly tech, right? That said, Stoked has a tension within its work that’s basic across nonprofits: the need to document their work for the people paying the bills while doing the work.

Stoked‘s founder, Steve Larosiliere, said, “Everyone needs to justify their after school programs, so they want data. And pictures. And video.”

This is less of an issue in the for-profit world, where the person who needs the thing pays for the thing. If you need a Snickers bar, the Mars Corporation doesn’t need to send you photos from their factory after you give them some money at the corner bodega. You’ve already got the work documented in the form of the Snickers bar that you just paid for.

Not so for nonprofits. In many cases, the people who need the services are pretty much by definition not able to pay for them. The people who are able to pay for them aren’t able to be there to see the services rendered, so nonprofits have to document their work in order to show that work to their funders. It’s tough, too.

When you’re in the middle of doing the work, to remember to stop, write down some notes, snap some photos, maybe even take a video. Especially if that activity is, say, showing a bunch of kids how to bomb a hill on a snowboard.

Making the documentation isn’t as tedious as getting the photos or whatever off your device and into some sort of system where you keep track of who’s in them, what you were doing, what the outcomes were. Getting that all to work is a pain, and it’s just one more thing busy nonprofit staff have to do.

“Right now, everything is labor intensive, delayed documentation,” Larosiliere told me during a visit to his office in Dumbo.

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The organization knew there was a better way. They decided to get Lean about it. They started with a minimum viable product, just a private Tumblr blog where program leaders would write recaps of events and use tags to track the kids who were at them. This made it easy to see a quick history of what one kid had done over the course of a year.

Now, they are working on a more robust mobile app, backed up in the cloud. One you could open up, put in the name of your event, check off attendance for your kids and then, throughout the event, while you used your device to take photos throughout the activity, they would all automatically be logged as part of that event. It would also make it easy for you to tag students from the attendance list.

Going deeper, staff will have a dashboard that lets them really see how much enrichment each kid in Stoked programs have received. Larosiliere said, “In the short term, what we are aiming to do is measure skills, mentors and hours.”

The app is not live yet, but it’s getting close. Larosiliere showed us the concept work thus far.

Stoked is in 9 schools now. It is aiming to reach 15 now.

This April, Stoked will also be running its first coding class out the loft above their office. It has five computers in it, paid for by the mother of Patrick Elasik, a deceased local entrepreneur and founder of Colossal Media.

At the time we spoke to Larosiliere, he said that Coder Dojo was likely to run the classes, focusing on front-end development at first. When not in use for classes, Stoked hopes the space will be treated as a sort of incubator by Stoked‘s community of mentors and students.

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