GRADUATE STUDENT STIPEND | SOUTH BEND CITY CONNECT
Miriam Moore (graduate student, Art, Art History, and Design), Robbin Forsyth (graduate student, Art, Art History, and Design), Ann-Marie Conrado (associate professor, Art, Art History, and Design), Dawn Jones (Stone Soup Community), and Rene Casiano (South Bend Office of Innovation)
People need low cost banking options to avoid the trap of excessive fees. In 2015, seven percent of U.S. households were “unbanked” and nearly twenty percent were “underbanked,” meaning they have a bank account but still use costly alternatives such as payday loans and prepaid debit cards. This research targets poor people in our region with limited or no banking resources who are classified as ALICE (Asset Limited and Income Constrained Employed). More than 10,000 households in St. Joseph County fit this profile. The purpose of this research is to design and develop mobile app technology that, with appropriate supporting partnerships, can reduce the cost of poverty by addressing the unbanked and underbanked and access to short-term funding.
Stone Soup Community observational data indicates the need to transition the working poor to financial self-sufficiency through easy money management and low cost bank accounts. This project will, first of all, use the interview process to determine the current financial ecosystem of targeted ALICE clients, as well as their mobile technology use. Secondly, it will test the premise that, since many ALICE households are smartphone-dependent, a mobile application is an effective means for making utility payments and managing bank accounts. The Stone Soup Community will develop a financial literacy education program and clients will be issued a “second chance” bank account on completion. These are accounts in partnership with the local credit union with no hidden fees and allow clients to make monthly electronic payments through the mobile app.
Expected outcomes of the application of this research are a reduced rate of utility shutoffs and discontinued use of predatory lending. Since reminders, access to assistance, and payments can all be done through the mobile app with the Second Chance bank accounts, it will address a variety of the causes for shutoffs, fees, and use of high cost services.
UNDERGRADUATE PRIZE | REDESIGNING THE RESIDENT PORTAL FOR THE CITY OF SOUTH BEND
Ann Marie Conrado (Faculty, Art, Art History, and Design), Edna Martinez, Emily Hershorn, Richard Souza, Jesus Barker, Olivia Mikkelsen, Michael Hull, Jessica Kim, Nina Michielutti, Vikram Ramesh, Monica Shrand, Alison Snarponis, and Paul Tomkins
Students in the Design Research Practices course worked with the City of South Bend Office of Innovation to re-envision the relationship between the city and its residents through a digital platform. When the city originally set out to redesign their website and online services, they lacked the resources or bandwidth to develop and understand resident needs. To fill that gap, students used generative and ethnographic research techniques to interview and intercept residents and small business owners to develop rich insights and guidelines to reframe the original challenge. Furthermore, students translated those findings into tangible opportunities and developed strong visualizations to bring to life a variety of compelling solutions. For example, in redesigning the resident portal, students conceptualized a personalized portal based on neighborhoods that would dynamically push relevant information to residents on their neighborhood issues such as street closures, construction projects, or events.