Developing a Digital Management System for the SYDRC


Sponsor: Somali Youth Development Research Center (SYDRC)
Sponsor Liaison: Abdiwahab Ali (Abdi)
Student Team: Gabriel Aponte, Andrew Bonaventura, Diego Gonzalez Villalobos, Paul Mara (P.J), Tyler Reiser.
Abstract: Non-profits often struggle with managing their resources as a result of underfunding. Our project attempts to address the SYDRC’s growing clientele base by providing the staff with a new digital management system. We achieved this goal by analyzing potential cloud-based systems and determining the needs and requirements of the SYDRC. Our team then iteratively developed a software-based solution. To get the staff acclimated to the new system, we conducted in person training sessions and put together a user manual that details how to use and maintain the system. Ultimately, we provided the centre with a new data management system and room booking web application that catered to the specific needs of the SYDRC while being both cost-effective and intuitive.



Executive Summary

All across the world, non-profit organizations provide assistance to disadvantaged
communities while constantly combating the challenges of underfunding. Charities specifically
located in the United Kingdom have lost more than £3.8 billion in grants from the government
over the last decade (NCVO, 2019). As a result of economic challenges, many non-profits
struggle to secure additional funding, which threatens their long-term viability.

One such organization facing financial challenges is the Somali Youth Development Resource Center (SYDRC), which is a social service non-profit that provides a platform of socialization and education to Somali young people. Typically, about 51% of the SYDRC’s
budget comes from local government grants, but this income has dropped by 26% in the past few
years due to the state of austerity affecting the UK (Charity Commission, 2018). The
organization is now feeling the consequences of its reduced budget and has eliminated resources
that used to aid in the SYDRC’s administrative tasks and its efforts to secure more funding
(SYDRC, 2019). The SYDRC has resorted to a less technical solution to manage their data by
utilizing Excel spreadsheets, which lack sufficient scalability and automation of funding reports.

Our team was tasked with easing the financial burden placed on the SYDRC by designing
and implementing a new digital management system that would improve administrative
efficiency and provide more detailed and accurate reports to their funders. By accomplishing this
goal, our team delivered a customized data management application and a newly built room
scheduling web application to the staff at the SYDRC. By leaving our sponsor with this more
robust system, we were able to assist the SYDRC in its mission of maximizing the potential of
Somali youth for years to come.

Methodology and Results
To achieve our goal, the team established a methodology that consisted of four key
1) To perform a comparison between various cloud-based systems in relation to the
financial restrictions of the SYDRC.
2) To identify the needs and requirements of the SYDRC for a new data management
system and room scheduler.
3) To iteratively develop a digital management solution that is intuitive to use.
4) To train the SYDRC staff in using and maintaining the digital management system.

Objective 1
The first objective focused on conducting a cost comparison between various cloud-based
systems in relation to the financial restrictions of the SYDRC. The project sponsor could only
allocate up to £100 per month on a data management system, so our team researched suitable
cloud systems from Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and
Substance Views (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Results from Cost Analysis of Cloud Systems

From the findings shown in Figure 1, our team recommended the use of Views for the
database system as it was a pre-built application that would only require customization by our
team. Even though it was the more expensive alternative, it would result in the most professional
and complete system. However, AWS was chosen to host the room scheduler our team built
from the ground-up as its operation costs were minimal.

Objective 2
The second objective consisted of gathering data regarding the needs and requirements of
the SYDRC for a new data management system and room scheduler application. This data was
collected three-fold. First, our team held a one-on-one session with a staff member at the
SYDRC to observe the current data collection process. Secondly, a survey was sent out to five of
the key staff members that work at the SYDRC. This survey focused on inquiring about potential
features and ease-of-use functionalities that could be in the two applications. After receiving all
the responses, follow-up interviews were held to gain more in depth reasonings behind a survey
response as well as gain data to help make final decisions on survey questions that had split
responses. The responses from these two methods resulted in the creation of two lists of tasks
and features that drove the development of the system.

Objective 3
The third objective was the development of the two applications. The sponsor provided
our team with an administrative Views account which allowed us to customize the system. With
this access, we completed the list of tasks which included restructuring data fields, adding
security levels for different users, importing legacy data, creating questionnaires, and linking
outcomes and objectives to specific sessions and groups. To build the iterations of the room
scheduler, our team utilized the JavaScript platform and implemented the FullCalender API to
display an interactive booking system. The application was linked with Views so that all
activities synced across both systems.

Objective 4
The final objective focused on training the staff on how to utilize and maintain the digital
management system. Training sessions were held periodically throughout the project to teach the
staff the new features at a manageable pace. To ensure that the staff had instructive materials
after the project concluded, a user manual detailing the capabilities and administrative
functionalities of both the Views system and the room scheduler was created. Certain aspects of
the user manual were given more emphasis and detail based on which features the staff had
trouble grasping during the training sessions.

Our team implemented a new software solution for the SYDRC’s data management needs
by providing three deliverables following the conclusion of our project.
1. A custom version of the Views data management system,
2. A web-hosted room scheduler application, and
3. A user manual for both application

The final Views system provides the SYDRC with the ability to input participant, staff,
and funder information and manage all their clientele data in a clean and efficient manner. The
staff are also able to centralize attendance for all the sessions and activities that the organization
holds. To adhere to privacy concerns, volunteers have restricted access to confidential data
compared to admins. Custom questionnaires were added into the system and the SYDRC can
now use them to gauge participant engagement which provides further data to be used in funding
reports. The system is customized with the SYDRC’s own outcomes and objectives and allows
for easy generation of reports and demographic statistics to be used for filling out applications to
funders and donors. Lastly, the main dashboard provides quick access to statistical graphs and
allows the staff to easily obtain data on attendances and upcoming events (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Customized Main Dashboard with Statistics in Views

Room Scheduler
The room scheduler web application has two main functionalities. The first allows
external organizations or individuals to directly view the current room bookings. This side of the
application allows users to view the sponsors weekly calendar and fill out a form to request a
room. The form is sent directly to the director of the SYDRC who can then accept the request or
reject the booking. The sponsor also has their own login account for the site that allows them to
input a request into the system and have the booking event registered in both the scheduling site
and the Views system calendar. The application also features dynamic date searching, a help
menu, and detailed event descriptions with pictures of the bookable room for ease-of-use by both
the staff and outside users.

User Manual
The last deliverable given to the SYDRC was the user manual. Split into two sections, it
covers how to use and maintain both Views and the room scheduler. For Views, it details how to
utilize the data input functionalities, such as adding and updating participants and staff, as well
as creating recurring events that populate onto the calendar. It also heavily focuses on the
administrative aspects of the system so that the sponsor can continue customizing the system.
For the room scheduler, the manual provides information on how the request and booking
functionalities operate. It details how to reboot the system on AWS if it ever crashes and
explains how to access the code base if the sponsor wants to further customize the application.

Discussion and Conclusion
Our team’s digital management system provides an efficient way to manage the large
clientele base at the SYDRC and maintain accurate statistical reports. With less time being
wasted on the overhead of the previous system, the staff are better equipped to devote their
efforts to leading and improving the activities that benefit the Somali people engaged within the
SYDRC. The easy access to statistical information improves our sponsors ability to fill out
funding reports with impactful and detailed information. Lastly, with an integrated room booking
system, our system allows the SYDRC to further their funding efforts so that they could continue
empowering and inspiring Somali young people.