Haller – Releasing potential on the web

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I'm very excited about a project that we are currently working on for The Haller Foundation and want to take this opportunity to talk about the amazing work they do and what we are doing to help.

The Haller Foundation

The Haller Foundation was setup to continue the work of the environmentalist, Dr. Rene Haller. Its fundraising branch is run out the UK with all funds focussed on its efforts in Africa, mostly in the rural areas of the Kisuani district. Haller's focus is on helping farmers to realise the potential of the land beneath their feet by training them in life-skills, ultimately leading them to build better self-sufficient and sustainable lives. Their programmes include education, water, farmer training, health, alternative energy, nano-enterprise and the Bustani Urban Garden, an education centre that shows people how to use rural farming techniques in small urban spaces.

To meet the volunteers who make this happen and to see what they are achieving is a wonderful thing. We'll be going out to Kenya to see it first hand in the next couple of months, something we are incredibly excited about.

What are we doing?

Alongside Haller, we are working very closely with Pearlfisher, a London and New York based design agency (Jonathan Ford, founding partner of Pearlfisher is a trustee of The Haller Foundation) to build a mobile web site that will support the activities of Haller in Africa. There is a surprising amount of mobile devices in Kenya, which as a country has a great deal of disruptive digital innovation (Research by RIA shows that over 60% of Kenyans use mobile phones as a method of payment). With so many mobile devices in the hands of Kenyans, in both urban and rural areas it makes perfect sense to utilise the potential of mobile to create a web application that works across multiple devices to put the power of Haller's content into the hands of the people.

The Haller Foundation, Pearlfisher and Red Badger are working together to produce an application that provides real value that helps Haller to distribute digital content to as many people as possible. Taking key learnings from the existing Haller programmes, the project objective is to increase the reach of the Haller techniques and bring even more economic security to poor, small-holder farmers. With Pearlfisher building the vision and content strategy,  Red Badger are providing the user experience, visual design and development of the application.

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How are we doing it?

Being a charity that is run mostly by volunteers, the investment available to hire a consultancy to build a web application is limited. So we had to be creative and look at ways in which we could afford, as a small tech consultancy, to free up resources to be able to run this pro-bono project. Using a mixture of senior resources we have also supplemented the team with part-time junior resources that are still at University. An opportunity arose with this project to use it to develop junior resources, preparing them with key skills once they graduate. Haller are fully supportive of us using junior resources on the project and are relaxed on delivery timelines. So as well as building an application for a great cause, we are also using the project to develop young developers, providing them with new opportunities for a career.

Next steps...

There is lots of work to do. We are making great progress with the first version of the app. We'll also be going to Kenya to see the Haller operation first hand, to meet the farmers and to do some usability testing on the application. We'll use the feedback from the testing and feed it in to the next iterations of the application.

We'll be blogging on the progress of the app dev (with the Uni students talking about what they are learning), of the visit to Kenya and everything else to do with the progress of this project. 

The whole team is genuinely excited to be part of a project that could provide benefit to so many. Working with The Haller Foundation is truly inspiring. Perhaps we'll use this project as a platform for doing similar pro-bono projects for other charities and developing young talent in the process. Watch this space...