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Summer Retrospective: Beaches, Jekyll, Agile, D3 and Innovation

With Labor Day behind us, the temperatures are cooling, the peach crop at the farmer’s market is running thin, and most Forum One folks are back from vacations to beaches, lakes and mountains.

Between the summer vacations, we also completed some hot work with our clients: innovative strategies, designs, platform creations, and more. I’m back from a long summer bike tour, and have enjoyed looking back over the “summer harvest.” Here’s a sample of some of the great things the team got to jump into this summer.

Jekyll’s the Answer: Schusterman Foundation Alumni Playbook

We worked with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation to launch the Alumni Playbook, a resource toolkit to aid the leaders of nonprofits in building long-term relationships with their program alumni. We developed the Playbook using Jekyll, an open source site generator that allowed us to create the site without a Content Management System (“Look Ma! no CMS!”). Jekyll, with GitHub, is a good solution for a simple site where content will not need frequent updating.

More Jekyll: Long-form Content with PSI’s Report on Reducing HIV Transmission

We again used Jekyll to design for a “long-form” digital version of a key report about PSI’s innovative approaches to reducing HIV transmission among at-risk populations in Central America. Rather than a PDF version or flat text served out of a CMS, this long-form version is more enticing for users to explore and engage with.

amfAR: “Making AIDS History” and Smart D3 Data Visualization

Working hand-in-hand with the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), we developed an amazing navigable database of PEPFAR-planned funding of HIV/AIDS activities from 2007 to 2014. We developed this on a tight schedule in advance of the International AIDS Society Conference in Vancouver in July. Our accelerated process spanned designing mood boards and a style guide, and developing data tables and charts using D3 (aka “Data Driven Documents”), a powerful Javascript library that relies on HTML, CSS, and SVG to generate an array of charts and diagrams. See, for example, this very cool planned funding timeline for Ethiopia as well as an overview video of the new database:

Research + Practice Collaboratory

We launched the website for the San Francisco-based Research + Practice Collaboratory(PRC), an NSF-funded program to promote communication, knowledge sharing, and collaboration between k-12 STEM researchers and practitioners. Our work spanned content strategy, user experience, design, and development of the website on WordPress — and I’m very excited by the result! We also used the content planning tool GatherContent for the first time on this project and it worked wonderfully.

Lean and Mean: 18F Agile Delivery Submission “dCare”

A team of our rockstars worked late hours and weekends for two weeks this summer developing a pair of online tools to showcase our agile chops for 18F, the new digital innovation arm of the US Federal Government (under GSA, formally). 18F is working to help federal agencies provide better digital services by identifying vendors who specialize in agile delivery services — such as lean-startup tactics, user-centered design, agile software development, new approaches to DevOps, open source tools — all very much  core to our own approach.  As part of an 18F competitive selection process, we developed a tool called “dCare” using FDA data sets, intended  to better enable physicians, patients and others to understand the possible interactions of taking multiple mental health drugs. Please do root for us! 

Innovation Platform: The “Global Innovation Exchange”

We helped to launch the Global Innovation Exchange, a “global online exchange (marketplace, clearinghouse, etc.) for innovations, funding, insights, resources, conversations, allowing the world to better work together to address humanity’s greatest challenges.” We’re partnering with DAI to develop the platform with USAID’s Global Development Lab following a rapid, iterative, collaborative process. We launched the beta version in less than 100 business days from signing the contract!

The Exchange is a very different and innovative approach for USAID and now has more than 80 partners. It is intended to transform approaches to international development and we couldn’t be more  excited to be on the team.

The platform, built on Drupal, allows users to create accounts and interact in a number of ways around innovations, funding, and collaborative crowdsourcing. As of today, there are more than 1,000 registered collaborators and more than $200 million in funding opportunities on the Exchange.

All in all, a busy and very rewarding summer at Forum One and it’s made the vacation breaks all the more deserved. Here’s to an exciting fall ahead!

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