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Emergency Assistance Relief

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St. Vincent de Paul Society Western Australia, or Vinnies WA, provides emergency relief for over 65,000 individuals and families each year. The need for emergency relief is often driven by multiple and complex social issues. 


Vinnies WA network of conference members delivers emergency relief to people experiencing hardship within their local communities. People in need of help are connected to their local members through a volunteer-run call centre. 

Call centre volunteers capture client's needs and allocates on-the-ground support in the form of a home visit or a support centre appointment based on their location.

In collaboration with Maija Hildebrand, the Service Development Manager at Vinnies WA, I used the design thinking process from user research to the development of a design recommendation that aims to improve the triaging process of the call centre when responding to client's requests for relief.

UX Designer

User research, discovery, ideation, and interaction.

November 2021 -  January 2022

The Brief

Vinnies call centre wants to allocate support services to those most in need. The current experience is that those that get on the phone first, generally get support first which leaves others with more urgent requirements without support when it's needed. 


To better understand the three user groups and the problem, I conducted 9 semi-structured interviews with an even mix of clients, volunteers and members. You can find a copies of the interview guides here.

The data collected from these interviews was synthesised to produce the journey map and personas below, to make sense and empathise with the three distinct user groups and their associated experiences.

Journey map
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click image to see zoomable version

Users' Personas

The research uncovered a wide range of opportunities that could impact the allocation of support services to those most in need. Below are brief descriptions of those that offered greatest reward for minimal effort for each user group.

Squeezed volunteers

Call centre volunteers are juggling between clients' needs and conference members' requirements. Answering an endless stream of calls in a noisy call centre. They are doing the best they can, but calls always go unanswered at the end of the shift. Volunteer turnover is high and the call centre rarely operates at full capacity.

The usual clients

There is a tendency to receive calls from repeat clients. These clients seem to understand it is about waiting for sufficient time to pass between requests and getting then on the phone early when that time has elapsed. Those that call too late, are referred to other service or asked to call on another day.

Members know

Conference members have deep roots in their community. They can easily discern where assistance would be most needed. Currently, they receive an email that only lists the first few client's that call early, missing out on a wider picture of people that are struggling in their community.


The research highlighted several opportunities. The main challenge was the bottleneck of telephone requests, which put disproportionate stress on Call Centre Volunteers and doesn't allow to compile a list of the most urgent cases for each community. To align ideation with client goals, I focused on the following statement:

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Ideas revolved around granting clients and volunteers access to data entry anywhere with an internet connected device, allowing

Vinnies to capture more request. Sketches supported exchange of ideas and communication with peers and mentors for feedback.

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Updated flow

A flow chart was developed to visualise and communicate with Vinnies on how the proposed elements could be implemented in stages to support existing flows.

Vinnies Flow.jpg

click image to see zoomable version

Low fidelity prototype

Best practices were used to produce a low fidelity prototype, to test sign up and request flow. The main findings from user testing and peer review, were to reduce client data entry to minimise errors. The request section was replaced with a series of buttons with labeled icons, laid out in matrix so that all the request options are immediately visible, allowing users to select multiple requests at once. 

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click image to see zoomable version


The final prototype is a web-app that is accessible on any internet connected device. Clients can sign up and submit requests on their own or with the help of a volunteer over the phone or at a Vinnies Hub. The client's data, request and history is evaluated via algorithm against others to generate an automated shortlist email for conference members to revise.

Client Access
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Call Centre Volunteer Access
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Conference Member Short-List Email
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Client feedback

"This would be really attractive to our (conference) members, because it considers that the ability and power to make those decisions sits with our members... To use technology in a way that doesn't take away that decision making process is quite innovative" 


"I love the personal touches... the visuals that recognise the volunteers who are doing this work... and the visual menu for assistance, it is very appealing and simple to understand what is available."

Maija Hildebrand - Service Development Manager, Vinnies WA

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