Even the best-functioning organization can see its efficiency suffer if it is using outdated digital systems.
Rising Sun Center for Opportunity, a California-based non-profit, has been operating since 1994 and needed some tweaks to their database system, which was in danger of collapsing.
We collaborated with Rising Sun on a partial pro bono basis to implement a system upgrade. We are now helping the organization to better serve disadvantaged communities while paving a path to a more sustainable future - one light bulb at a time.
The Impact of Rising Sun
Rising Sun’s mission is “to empower individuals to achieve environmental and economic sustainability for themselves and their communities.” To achieve this mission, they run two programs, one for youths and one for adults.
Rising Sun’s youth employment program, Climate Careers, hires and trains young people to provide no-cost energy and water efficiency services, such as the installation of LED light bulbs and efficient showerheads, to residents throughout the area.
The impact is two-fold: young people get employment as well as training for further career development, while at the same time helping low-income households lower their electricity and water bills.
Climate Careers runs a unique database system to support the work done by their young Energy Specialists. The data that they collect is both large in volume and sensitive in nature to the organization’s funders, so the system has to run smoothly and process the data safely.
The software also includes:
An appointment scheduler
An inventory tracker,
A report generator for both the clients and funders,
An in-field tool utilized by all employees to collect and store data.
When Rising Sun first approached Netguru, the database system was old, riddled with errors, and on the verge of breaking down.
Young people being trained by the organization had difficulties using the system and entering data. It was also creating problems for funders who were not able to clearly see the results of Rising Sun’s efforts.
Project Scope: From smaller to large-scale improvements
When we started working with Rising Sun, the goal was maintenance and troubleshooting of the current system. Later, the scope expanded, as we moved to updating the software and cleaning the old code to add consistency and allow for easy modification in the future. The new system had to be reliable, able to process complex data, more intuitive, and scalable.
Rising Sun also entrusted us with improving the system’s interface. The organization takes a participant-centered approach to the programs they run, so they regularly get feedback on which areas they can improve to better serve their beneficiaries. The software they are using had to reflect this attitude: be user-friendly and adapt to the evolving needs of clients and funders.
At the beginning of the collaboration, we ran a scoping session to learn more about the issues that Rising Sun was experiencing with their old system and the expectations they had for the new one.
We identified the problematic areas and through a UX/UI session and started developing an interface that was able to synchronize all the different purposes the database was serving.
The project also included cleaning the old code to make the software run efficiently. For future upgrades, the software is organized in a way that will let it evolve without any unexpected hurdles on the way.
"I am not a technologically savvy person, so I fully appreciated the ability of everyone at Netguru to break the processes down in ways that allowed me to understand them."
Director of Youth Programs at Rising Sun
With Netguru’s assistance, Rising Sun moved from a system that was constantly crashing to one that’s stable, more intuitive, and ready for future upgrades and add-ons.
The database serving the Climate Careers program gathers data necessary for the organization’s ability to accomplish their mission. Having this system functioning smoothly is Rising Sun’s key to being able to diversify their sources of funding.
To date, Rising Sun has helped almost 3,000 young people and adults by providing training and employment opportunities. The organization hopes to further make an impact in their local communities while making their neighbors’ households more energy-efficient and bringing us closer toward a sustainable future.