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Connecting coders to nonprofits


Creating a marketplace to connect nonprofits with volunteer coders.


Volunteer Code helps inexperienced developers gain experience through real-world projects. Also, it provides nonprofits with a volunteer coding workforce they often need.

The project started as an opportunity to improve experiences for Google Developer Group members but things changed when the true needs of GDG members came to light.


Prototyping, UI/UX Design

User Research, User Testing

Visual Design, Need-finding


Customer insights

15+ interviews, 6 user personas, and one competitive analysis revealed the larger needs and pain points of Google Developer Group members.

Ideation session

7 "How Might We" questions and 30 needs and pain-points lead to over 130 ideas to help GDG members gain the real-world experience they desire.

Volunteer Code landing page

A two-way marketplace connecting volunteer coders to nonprofits. Volunteers work on real-world projects and nonprofits gain a coding workforce.



Creating a better experience for Google Developer Group members started with a better understanding of their needs through interviews and various needfinding exercises.



Developer meetups serve many purposes. Initially, I believed GDG meetups were purely for socializing. During 15+ interviews with GDG members, organizers, and speakers I learned meetups are about networking and learning as much as they are about socializing.

What is your "Job to Be Done"?

“Making connections and networking”

“Learning a new hard skill for a role”

“Gaining experience in some way"

What are your unmet needs?

“The ability to network and build soft skills”
“Finding opportunities to gain experience”
“Filling gaps of my university's curriculum”

What are your pain points?

“Unsure how to network effectively”
“It's difficult finding quality opportunities”
“Knowing which hard skills to focus on”



Free food, learning, networking, and building connections are the common incentives members listed for joining groups and attending events. I learned members tend to be younger and enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs.

Goal and Emotional Need
· Learn a new skill - growth

· Find mentorship - growth
· Eat free food - nourishment
· Create a new project - accomplish
· Learn about a role or team - discover
· Network with other developers - discover
· Meet with other developers - socialize



The GDG community suffers from a lack of organization and an understanding of their community's needs. Events and groups often fail to meet members' true needs of connection, learning, collaboration, and experience opportunities.

Customer insights summary board

The North Star

Learning about GDG members' true needs opened the project beyond creating a better GDG experience. Moving forward, the north star was "How might we enable inexperienced developers to better connect, learn, and collaborate?"

Framing the problem opportunity in this way opened possibilities beyond creating a better experience, and solving for the root cause.


GDG members joined groups and attended events because they want to

1) Make connections (casual and professional)
2) Learn and grow soft and hard skills

3) Wanted opportunities to gain real experience

“I go to GDG meetups for the food, but stay for the networking”

"Sometimes the meetups are a waste of time because I don't learn anything"

"These meetups are all about finding opportunities to collab or find a job"



Divergent thinking and various ideation exercises lead to three unique concept areas. The concept areas were shared with potential users, then narrowed down to a collaborative project platform.



Seven "How might we?" questions kicked off the ideation phase. Each open-ended question targeted specific pain points. The goal was to generate as many ideas as possible.

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After the ideation session, I highlighted the most valuable ideas for GDG members in green. Ideas had more value when they directly solved user needs and pain points.

What stood out from the first ideation session was the wide range of approaches to the problem. All of these ideas may not work together, and it became apparent as I progressed through the ideation phase.

"How might we?" ideation



I used five user personas and their needs and pain points to drive the next ideation session.

The personas

During user interviews, I identified five of the typical user personas associated with GDGs.

1. Organizers

2. Speakers

3. Members (undergraduates)

4. Members (graduates, junior developers)

5. Members (senior developers)

Members are the focus of the project but it is important to include organizers and speakers because of their influence in the GDG experience.

Members were split into groups of three because of the difference in needs and pain points between the subgroups. Undergraduate members want to build experience, graduates/junior developers seek career advice, and senior developers are looking to give back to the developer community.

Ideation based on user needs and pain points

Narrowing the focus

The divergent ideation session helped explore a wide range of possibilities to solve for GDG members' needs. Similar to the HMW session, I highlighted the top ideas in green.

At this point in the ideation phase, I felt there was enough divergence, and it was time to converge on the top ideas.



I used an affinity map to organize the top ideas from the previous ideation sessions. It became clear there were three concept areas to explore.

The top-value ideas

The best ideas from the previous ideation sessions were ranked into three categories based on value. 16 ideas made it into the top value group. I sorted the top-value ideas based on their function. Three concept areas emerged from the top-value ideas.

Affinity map



The three key concept areas

1. Developer group events aggregator platform

2. Event and community platform

3. Collaborative project platform

Concept areas

Concept areas

Breaking it down

Developer group events aggregator platform

One of the larger pain points for GDG members was finding quality groups and events. Developer meetup groups are segmented, and there isn't a specific site one can use to find them. An aggregator platform helps GDG members discover higher quality groups and events that meet their needs.

Event and community platform

The event and community platform would be a Meetup platform specifically for developers. The majority of GDG members voiced their issues with Meetup because it does a poor job of enriching GDG communities. A meetup platform designed for developers' needs would create an enriching experience.

Collaborative project platform

A collaborative project platform is a direct solution for solving GDG members' needs. It helps undergraduates gain experience while providing senior developers a place to mentor and give back to the community. Also, it helps junior developers build role-specific skills.


I shared the three concept areas with prior interviewees to gauge interest and value. The collaborative project platform was the top pick because of its direct and positive impact.

While developer groups and events are beneficial to the developer community, a collaborative project platform directly solves the problems members are trying to solve. GDG members want to gain experience, collaborate with peers, and grow. The collaborative platform provides all three.

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Defined concept area for prototyping



Two prototypes helped define the collaborative project platform concept. The initial prototype defined what type of platform it would be, and the second prototype further refined the concept.



3. Non-profits

The non-profit platform connects inexperienced developers with non-profit organizations. The inexperienced developers gain experience through real-world projects while the non-profits gain access to a coding workforce.

4. Devs

The Devs platform would provide a marketplace for inexperienced developers to connect with senior developers through mentorship and projects. Inexperienced developers gain experience by working on the senior developers' passion projects.

1. In-house

An in-house platform would help large organizations nurture collaboration across the entire company. It helps inexperienced developers connect and learn from senior developers while nurturing senior developers' desires to create projects.

2. Academia

The academic platform connects developer students with senior developers at organizations. Students gain experience and mentorship while senior developers volunteer and work on projects they are passionate about.

I created four different business model canvases based on the idea of a collaborative project platform. Each business model canvas was turned into a prototype and shared with previous interviewees.

Business model canvases

Business model canvas prototypes

Business model canvas prototypes

A win-win scenario

After sharing the prototypes with C.S. students and professors, as well as GDG members, it was clear the non-profit platform provided the most value.

The two-way marketplace allows inexperienced developers to find real-world projects to gain experience while helping non-profits gain access to a coding workforce they need.

Students were frustrated with internships or school projects because they felt they were being taking advantage of. They gravitated towards the non-profit platform because they are able to choose which non-profits and projects they volunteer for.



The final prototype validated the idea of a collaborative project platform for inexperienced developers and non-profit organizations.


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The opportunities section shares non-profit projects actively seeking developers. Project seekers (developers) can filter based on causes, their role, skill-set, and project length. The filters are based on user needs.

The individual project page provides greater detail into the project. It helps the project seekers understand what they will do, the timeline, and the values of the nonprofit. It also details the amount of money they will save the non-profit.

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The volunteers results page connects non-profits with the developers. Developer profiles help the non-profits narrow down the pool based on roles and skills the developers are interested in.

Similar to a LinkedIn profile, the developer profiles show their experience, skill-set, and achievements on the platform with a badge system.

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Final feedback

The final prototype validated the hypothesis that inexperienced developers can gain experience by volunteering with non-profits on collaborative projects.

Previous interviewees and project stakeholders shared their excitement with the platform because it empowers inexperienced developers to choose projects that benefit them while helping a cause they believe in. It helps non-profits solve the problem of sourcing a coding workforce as well. The two-way marketplace is a win-win scenario.

A big thank you to Kathi Hendrick and Chris Demeke for providing their time, effort, and guidance along the way.


Empowering developers to learn, grow, and collaborate with non-profits.


It was a journey going from the initial problem opportunity (how might we create a better experience for GDG members?) to creating a collaborative project platform.

The discovery phase revealed the deeper needs of GDG members. Insights opened the door to higher value ideas as opposed to creating a better GDG experience.

The outcome helped inexperienced developers (the majority of GDG members) discover projects that empower them while working towards a cause they believe in.

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