Initial Research – Can you help?

CMLOOK is a start-up developing a secure web based system to allow people to find volunteers who would befriend and help their elderly relatives who live far away.   We have made many assumptions about our idea (you can see all of them in previous blog posts) and now need to start testing them.

We have identified the 8 assumptions below as those which we are least sure about and which would have the biggest impact upon our project if we are wrong.  They are prioritised from top to bottom.

Key Assumptions

Our next step is to test the top two assumptions, that Natural Carers will trust volunteers met on-line to help and accept the risk.  As we discovered during last weeks’ micro-internships, it’s difficult to find a group of people who fit our definition for Natural Carer.  By Natural Carer, we mean, people who have elderly parents, who live too far away to visit weekly, and who are beginning to need a little bit of help at home.  So we began by contacting people we knew personally in this position, and asking them if they would be happy to be interviewed as part of our research.

We designed an interview script to ensure we asked everyone the same questions and avoided leading questions.  We interviewed 8 Natural Carers as potential users of CMLOOK.  Interviews took place in the office, in a local cafe and sometimes at the person’s home.

All 8 users said that if they met a potential volunteer on-line, it would be essential for them to also meet in person, in order to evaluate whether or not they felt they could trust them.  50% of users would be happy with their own assessment of the volunteer, whilst the other 50% would also want the volunteer to have been vetted in some way by a trusted agency like  Age UK or RVS

All of the 8 users said they would accept the risk involved, provided that, they had met the volunteer in person and the volunteer had had a DBS check but some said they would also like to have a trusted agency to refer to if needed.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are the new name for Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks.  They allow an organisation to check someone’s criminal record if they apply for certain jobs or voluntary work, eg working with children or in healthcare.

Another very clear message that these first interviews gave us was that all 8 users would definitely not value a feature which allowed the volunteer to take a photo of the older person during each visit and send it to the natural carer.  Everyone we interviewed said that this would feel too contrived and made them uncomfortable.  We hadn’t anticipated this, but it does make sense.

We’re aware that we have only interviewed people we know so far and that this of course will have influenced their responses.  We would now like to spread the net wider.  So if you have an elderly relative who lives too far away to visit weekly but who would benefit from having a weekly visit from a volunteer befriender, then please do get in touch.  If you live in or near Oxford we’d love to interview you in person, but if you’re further afield you could complete a questionnaire.  We would value your help.







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