Alexandra Muck | April 2, 2017
Two Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) design students, Miriam Moore and Robbin Forsyth, won first place in the Notre Dame App Challenge Wednesday night for their mobile app South Bend City Connect. The app seeks to serve South Bend city residents who need financial assistance, want to help build up the South Bend community or are looking to better understand their finances.
Moore, a visual communications design major, and Forsyth, an industrial design major, started the project in the fall of 2016.
“We always hear about people talk about collaborating, and we don’t see a lot of it, so we thought we would try and do this,” Forsyth said.
After meeting with South Bend city leaders, Moore and Forsyth realized the city faced a problem with their 311 phone center — 80 percent of the calls came from 20 percent of the customers.
Forsyth said these customers are typically calling when they are in a panic, in situations such as when their utilities are about to be shut off.
“Once you get into shut off, you basically have to show up with cash at the city office to pay your bill. We wanted to learn more about these customers,” he said.
The two worked as volunteers at the local nonprofit Stone Soup Community to further understand these customers, who are classified as the working poor by United Way’s ALICE threshold.
“We [volunteered there] because Stone Soup is the only agency left in St. Joseph County that offers emergency aid on a walk-in basis,” Forsyth said. “It’s the only place you can go to and say, ‘Today I have a problem. I need help.’”