Due to the coronavirus, the 11th edition of Night of the Refugee couldn’t take place. At least, not in the traditional form. 7,000 walkers would walk 10, 20 or 40 kilometres together to draw attention to the problem and collect money for refugees.
"Doing nothing was not an option; by mid-March, over 2,000 participants had already registered. We really wanted to organise something for all those people," says event manager, Zinzi Klaverweide, from the Netherlands Refugee Foundation. She and her colleagues came up with #NVDVgoesdigital, a clever alternative, where everyone could participate individually, in their own environment.
This required an app, and Harborn was chosen to make this. "We had a good click straight away," says Zinzi. "All the companies we had approached said they could make the app. At Harborn, they had already thought carefully about the form of the app during the introductory phase. If you can sense the target group and their wishes so well at the start of such a process, that gives confidence."
It was immediately clear that there were two major challenges. The deadline was very tight: the app had to be ready within six weeks, and no similar app had ever been developed. The steps of thousands of users had to be counted in real-time and this data had to be translated into the donations that went with their steps. Zinzi: "With privacy and GDPR legislation in mind, we absolutely wanted our own app. It's safer that way."
Using the NVDV app, participants could still take part in the walk in their own time and location and be sponsored by family, friends and other acquaintances. They could already start in the weeks leading up to Night of the Refugee. The finish could be followed via a livestream on World Refugee Day: 20 June.
Participants could be tracked using GPS. Integration with the standard Apple and Google pedometers on the smartphones of participants, enabled the app to record the distance automatically. This data was sent every 30 seconds to the back-end, for which we used Amazon Web Services. Thanks to this cloud solution, Harborn not only had reliable and lightning-fast storage, but also the capacity can easily be scaled up for large numbers of users. Just as important: customers never pay unnecessarily for storage they don’t use.
Then there was a link to Kentaa, the fundraising platform that the Netherlands Refugee Foundation was already using. The donations could therefore be settled quickly and correctly.
Due to the limited time available, it wasn’t possible to test the app according to the procedures we are normally used to. For example, we missed out the test panel phase; instead, we incorporated feedback from the first users. But very quickly, so that the app functioned flawlessly and handle the growing number of users.
"The capacity can easily be scaled up for large numbers of users"