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From time to time, we will share guest posts of how VFQ has helped others build businesses, ideas and drive change in their own work. Here, Alice Carter a VFQ Agile Practitioner shares her story.

Last year, my friend approached me with an incredible idea to tackle social integration of refugees. She wanted my help to build an app which would bring together refugees and asylum seekers through the exchange of skills and activities. This could be a guitar lesson, Arabic lessons, or a guide around the local area.

I was immediately attracted by the opportunity to tackle the issues of integration through technology and the sharing economy, as well as the fact that the initiative was community-led and free!

Three of us founded TimePeace as a not-for-profit and set off on the difficult, but exciting, tech start-up journey. Luckily, just as this all began I was sent on an the VFQ BCS Agile Practitioner Course by my work.

The key lesson I took away from the course, was not to be evangelical about the Agile methodology but to adapt it in a way that makes sense for us.

I started out by dragging my two co-founders to use Trello where we mapped out the whole project, what it would take to build the app, build up a user base, fundraise, and partner with other charities. We then created a Kanban board and immediately started working in 2 week sprints.

We hold sprint planning sessions, review our backlog and decide what we can get done in the time available. At the end of the sprint, we have a sort of review and retrospective mash-up. We quickly spotted that we were over estimating what we could get done. Rather than be constantly disappointed with ourselves this showed us we had to commit to less, or get some more helping hands! We now have a team of 5 volunteers supporting us and working to optimise the flow of work. We all have visibility of the Kanban and the backlog of tasks ready to be pulled.  Though we have to be flexible about how we work due our size and lack of funds, I think this is Scrumban!

The lessons I learn from the BCS Practitioner in Agile course with VFQ has given me a framework to tackle this huge task. It built my confidence in my ability to grow this company and we are doing remarkably well. We have been able to forge ahead with the app development alongside crowdfunding, a rare privilege for start-ups and with much thanks to an early donor. It is really exciting to see the wireframes and designs for the app bringing it to life! We have endorsement from Ben & Jerry’s and Help Refugees.  We have also received support from a growing number of celebrities including Juliet Stevenson and comedians Deborah Frances-White, Philip Jupitus and David Baddiel!

About TimePeace

TimePeace is a community-led way of tackling social integration, a free and flexible way to learn and volunteer, and will shatter stereotypes of refugees by allowing them to contribute their skills and passions to the community. We have reached £16,000 on our crowdfunder but we are still pushing towards our target of £20,000. Please donate and help get this app off the ground!

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Alice Carter
I am a civil servant specialising in digital and technology. I previously worked for the Next Century Foundation, a think tank focusing on the Middle East, where I was involved in monitoring casualty figures in the deteriorating Syrian civil war. When approached to launch TimePeace, I was immediately attracted by the opportunity to tackle the issues of integration through technology and the sharing economy.
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