Empowering Communities in Disaster Response

Oxfam, a non-profit organization that tackles global poverty, partnered with Adobe to host a remote 72-hour Creative Jam. The objective was to have designers conceptualize an app that would allow people to turn personal values into measurable action.

My co-designer, Paul Austria, and I focused on disaster response, tackling the question of how to empower others to get involved in local efforts.


Industry research, experience mapping, user flow, information architecture, sketching, high-fidelity mockups, prototyping


72 hours
August 2020

Understanding Emergency Management

There are four main stages of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Each stage has different challenges, and every community has unique management plans that require an immense amount of funding, resources and coordination. While exploring these four stages, we saw opportunity to focus on disaster response. Research reports showed us that local leaders and community members are best suited to provide efficient response; however, they often lack the capacity and resources to do so.

As a result, there is an emphasis on empowering local organizations and a specific call for community support.


How might we promote shared responsibility for disaster-ridden communities?

People have a natural motivation to respond when they hear about tragic events. Without knowledge and clear directive, however, it is difficult for them to turn that motivation into contributions. We decided to build off this motivation and create a product that would provide community members with actionable opportunities to get them involved in disaster response.

From our ideation session, we decided to create an app called Responder that…

  • Notifies users of local disasters.
  • Allows them to send solicited item-based donations to local organizations and volunteer their time to help.
  • Encourages users to share about the causes on social media.
  • Rewards users with points, for donating, volunteering, and sharing, which can be converted into dollars for further donations. This allows those with varying financial means and time constraints to still get involved.
  • And lastly, allows users to track their donations.

Preliminary sketches of Responder's main interfaces


Increased local awareness and tailored community donations promote efficient disaster response.

Building Responder

We began by mapping out the primary user flow, outlining how a user would navigate from discovery to support to sharing to tracking. This helped us identify the core features we needed to design for.

To determine how these features would translate into an app, we created the information architecture.

Responder is separated into four sections: Emergencies Near You, Tracking, Profile and Alerts. Emergencies Near You is the heart of app, where users can discover, support and share about local emergencies. From this main section, users can navigate to Tracking to follow their donations, view their Profile to manage settings and redeem points, and check their Alerts to view all past notifications about support requests and donation updates. Tracking, Profile and Alerts stand within the main navigation alongside Emergencies Near You because they are features that we assume users would use regularly.

Information architecture, created using Miro

Understanding User Needs

To strengthen our solution, I created an experience map and highlighted the highs and lows of donating to causes. This exercise helped us to see that users may need:


A signal that the app is reliable and that donations are going to credible organizations


Of which disasters need the most help and which items are in most need


How to share about the disaster and the user’s donation in a sensitive yet encouraging way


Where did the donation go? What did it help achieve?

Final Designs

Taking into consideration our user needs, we moved quickly through wireframes and high-fidelity mockups, using a UI kit to streamline our visual design process. For our final submission, we included a clickable prototype.

Users will receive a notification when a new or ongoing emergency is in need of support.

Users can track local emergencies. Responder helps users prioritize by showing a severity level and percentage of resources met for each emergency.

Users can donate items requested by local organizations or volunteer their time towards physical work to help.

When choosing to donate an item, users will able to see which organization posted the request and how much of the requested item has been received.

Users will receive 1000 points per dollar donated and 500 more points for sharing to social media.

Users can follow-up on their donations by viewing the delivery status.

Next Steps

Looking ahead, I would consider diving deeper into the experience of local leaders to better understand how community members can support them in emergency management. I'd like to ask questions such as:

  • Which of the four stages of emergency management require the most resource?
  • What are current pain points in your community's management methods?
  • What is the process of aggregating and distributing physical resources?
  • How much do efforts differ between communities?

I'd also consider conducting research to challenge our assumptions about user needs. Some questions I may want to ask are:

  • How do you decide which causes and which organizations to donate to?
  • What are signals of credibility?
  • Do you prefer to donate your time or money?
  • What challenges, if any, have prevented you from getting involved in the past?