In the past two weeks, we developed a concept to improve the everyday life for employees and clients of the Bahnhofsmission München.
To do so, we conducted interviews with our target group to identify their needs or problems. We then decided to focus on two topics: On the one hand, we wanted our concept to achieve a shortened, more pleasant and meaningful waiting time for clients and find a way to strengthen their self-esteem. On the other hand we were looking for a way to reduce the employees’ work load and provide them with a system that allows them to identify and refer to their clients unambiguously.
Our solution primarily tries to enable communication between clients. It consists of a simple infoscreen in the waiting room, which shows the requests a client has entered into a specially designed app on a tablet at the front desk. Other waiting clients can then identify the person seeking help through the unique colour-combination of their mug, displayed beside the request on the infoscreen, and may approach that person if they are able and willing to help.
We choose mugs as objects for identification because they are already widely in use (tea is offered for free at the Bahnhofsmission). This solution also respects two fundamental requirements: It allows the clients to stay completely anonymous but does not use a bureaucratic and inflexible numbering system.
Clients now have the possibility to not only seek help, but to help their peers. They may discover that they are not alone in their particular situation. Furthermore, this reduces waiting times for clients and working times for employees.
In the future there might even be an online platform for client-communication, regulated by the Bahnhofsmission. In the end, we are quite sure that the clients would quickly adopt our concept and it could be easily introduced in the Bahnhofsmission in general.
In the past days we analysed our interviews and identified two user groups: the employees & their clients.
Using various tools we identified the two main needs:
- How might we make waiting times for clients more pleasant/meaningful?
- How might we make it possible for employees to refer to anonymous clients?
We propose to use the already widely used tea cups as an identifiable object assigned to each client which will be used in the following concept: Clients can note their concerns, state the colour-combination of their mug and publish it on a screen in the waiting room. Other waiting clients see these issues, identify the person seeking help through the mug and may decide to help these people themselves. This reduces waiting times for clients, strengthens the self-confidence of helping clients and decreases the work amount of employees. Additionally the employees have a simple way to recognize waiting clients through these cups, while respecting their anonymity.
In the last few days we had the chance to visit the Bahnhofsmission Munich at central station. We interviewed and observed five employees to learn about their everyday work. The interviews took place during work, both at noon and at night.
The Bahnhofsmission Munich is a 24/7 contact point and often last resort for people who require help, e.g. travellers who were robbed, people with addiction problems, homeless people, women who flee from violent partners, people who need clothes, medical help, somebody to talk to or just a quiet place to sit. Over 130 volunteers and a few full-time employees take care of these people and their problems in a non-bureaucratic way.
Depending on the specific needs, they redirect their clients to appropriate organizations, serve free drinks and sandwiches and offer women a place to sleep on the premises, among many other services.
Through our interviews there we could gain some insight into the organization’s financial, technical and organizational challenges. We have gathered enough information in audio and documentation to be able to develop a concept to improve the daily work routine of these warmhearted employees.