Testing Friendship

This week, our project team got some traction around testing our idea. We’re working toward the development of a service to help military spouses make new friends in person. We have a pile of assumptions and questions around the idea that we’re working to better understand. To do that, we’re finding people that we feel might get along and sending them out to meet up in person. Here’s how it’s going and what we’ve learned so far.

On Monday, we decided to pursue a proxy group of participants that we had better in-person access to: University of Texas college students. College students, like military spouses, are all connected through a common organization. Also, lots of them have moved to a new place relatively recently. Understanding that there are very significant differences between these populations though, we decided that it would still be valuable to test the basic mechanics of actually matching people up and having them spend time together in person. So, we got some bait (cookies) and set up a table on campus.

2016-02-08 16.00.09-1

We went through a prepared discussion guide with each participant, asking them about their experiences and thoughts around friendship. It was immediately striking just how varied everyone’s responses were, seeming to add to the difficulty of our task. However, within a couple of hours, we had enough participants to be able to create at least a couple of matches we thought might work out.

In addition to recruiting participants on campus with whom we had no prior affiliation, we also wanted to test another rather tried and true form of matchmaking: through a mutual friend. To do that, Miranda contacted a couple of her friends who she thought would get along, one of whom had expressed desire to make more friends.

We ended up matching six participants (3 pairs). To facilitate their meeting up in person, we selected low-pressure activities (coffee for two pairs and ping pong at a local hangout for the other). We sent each participant individual emails with a pre-selected time and place to meet up, limiting their required action to a simple reply “Yes”. Two of the three pairs have agreed to meet up and we’ll be doing follow-up interviews to see how it went. For those who didn’t RSVP, we’ll be asking why they decided to opt out.

In addition to our recruitment with a proxy population, we’ve begun to make contacts in the military as well. We hope to have a relatively good sized group of people to run a pilot with next quarter.

Next time, we should be able to share what we’ve learned so far through our very first matches.