huddle enables volunteers to communicate info to each other in a trustworthy, efficient way while providing opportunities to involve others.


Huddle – Service Design to improve
emergency volunteer communication


Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees migrate to camps where volunteers are their primary connection to food, resources, and safety. However, communication between volunteers is difficult, confusing, and overwhelming. Important elements of trust, reliability, and urgency are hampered by the currently hacked-together methods of communication between volunteers: a mix of Facebook, WhatsApp, Slack, walkie talkie, and phone.


Huddle is a communication platform created for volunteers to easily share and receive trustworthy information in an organized and efficient way while providing an opportunity to involve others. It aggregates relevant information from Contacts, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Slack to centralize the hub of important info.

What I did

0 Research news articles to understand and map out current state
1 Conduct primary research to understand needs (interview refugees, volunteers, representatives of NGO's and other involved organizations)
2 Synthesize findings + Choose an area of focus (volunteer communication in Lesvos, Greece)
3 Envision service design
3 Prototype and evaluate concepts through user testing
4 Present journey from findings to service solution

14 WEEKS (5-person team), SPRING 2017
SOFTWARE: Adobe Illustrator, Premiere Pro, Sketch, Principle, Keynote


The wicked problem — syrian refugee crisis

Since 2011 the Syrian Refugee Crisis displaces an average of 50 Syrian families every hour. About 11 million Syrians are in migration, including some 4.8 million who have been forced to seek safety in neighboring countries

"I wish I would have stayed in Syria/Iraq to die a quick death rather than coming to Lesvos to die slowly every single day. Is THIS the humanity the world claims to hold so dear. PLEASE. Just send me back."
– Refugee (T)

Refugees without money do their best to get into the camps or stay hidden in other countries as illegal immigrants because it's hard to enter a camp and often impossible to leave. Countries try to keep track of the refugees (Syrian and other), and don't want people moving around once they've been recorded. Some volunteer efforts are highly publicized (UN, NGOs) and those camps may even have a surplus of food and other supplies. Other camps are so little-known that there is almost no support or resources, and volunteers are head-pressed to keep refugees fed and clothed.


The refugees trust independent volunteers more because of NGO/organization corruption & volunteerism

Syrian Refugee Crisis.022.jpeg

the Current state: Using A hacked communication system

Facebook + Whatsapp + slack + text + walkie talkie ... in 3+ languages


how might we...?

  1. Create a system organizing information by importance and relevance?

  2. Build trust and reliability while sharing information?

  3. Reduce noise around vital information?


pain points summarized

  • Facebook, WhatsApp, & Slack plus Contacts are used in conjunction with each other, sharing repeated and unreliable information.  
  • Information is impersonal and untrustworthy when it's hard to keep track of who's who and who is trustworthy.
  • Information with varied levels of relevance and urgency are shared in the same communication stream.
  • Some information is false and causes panic and misunderstanding.
  • Information is passed around in 3 main languages: English, Arabic, & Farsi.

huddle takes the cognitive pressure off of the volunteer and matches those with needs to those with resources

Huddle aggregates information from all platforms and filters the information based on volunteer needs and roles. Checkpoints and archives are set up to promote accurate information and push it to the right individuals, as well as store information once irrelevant.


"It's going to make everything so much easier."

We consulted with Sophie, our representative volunteer, every step of the way.


the future of huddle is...?


For Now

Huddle has the potential to be effective in any emergency situation beyond the Syrian Refugee Crisis, which happens to be a longstanding one that will not go away any time soon. We hope this does not just sit on our portfolio websites, but can move forward into a reality. If you or anyone else you know would like to help or talk more about the strengths and weaknesses of this service, please reach out!

to do list

  • Finish building out UI for other ends of the service (ex: a camp leader)
  • Keep testing with volunteers to improve feature and flow of the app
  • Allocate budget for development and have a timeline of testing
  • Find potential partners (ex: Google Loom, UNHCR, IRC, locals)
  • Test in the field

Avoiding design "volunteerism"

Struggling without a Client

Initially, we were to design with a client, but they backed out last minute. As a result, we had to do our best to find relevant and reliable information on our own. 

We avoided designing for any context where we would be forced to make too many assumptions about the specific political, socioeconomic environment, or situations that were completely out of our range of influence (ex: work can be illegal; electricity in camps is controlled by the black market). Because of these various reasons, and because we established a direct relationship with someone who had volunteered in a camp in Lesvos, Greece, we decided to focus on her experience as a volunteer, specifically around communication.

I want to make huddle real

It was extremely disheartening to hear shady stories about numerous well-known NGOs from volunteers' personal experience. In many cases, the Syrian peoples' plight is being used for volunteers' own personal gain (ex: refugees' desire for privacy exchanged for a volunteer's social media posts). Similarly, I do not want this project to be used to beef up my own portfolio. During the school year there was no time to actually go to Lesvos, Greece, and I currently do not have the resources necessary to make Huddle a reality, but one day...