COVID-19 emergency has changed everything. In a matter of few weeks our habits, our work, our social interactions – our lives – have been completely knocked over. Also the mark of time has taken a different shape. So we decided to focus on TIME.  There are over 5 M people in Italy over 65 yy who live in isolation. Since the beginning of the emergency, more than 21.000 people (average age 74yy) – often with limited access to technology – called the Italian Red Cross just to spend some time together and receive emotional support. At the same time, many young people with access to technology want to help their communities but are not sure how. Not only individuals want to give their contribution, but an increasing number of companies want to make their part and demonstrate their social responsibility during this difficult time.  Currently, there in no place where these 3 realities are connected. OraInsieme was born to be that place. OraInsieme does not simply support help, but promote TIME TOGETHER.  The idea was born on March 27 during the first evening. Luca and myself, who coincidentally won a hackathon together (where we met) exactly 3 years ago (!), were brainstorming ways to help a vulnerable demographic who not only struggled with social isolation during the coronavirus, but also before and will after.

What it does

OraInsieme (“Ora” – now/hour and “Insieme” – together)  is an online platform accessible by phone or internet which allows those in need to connect to a volunteer base. This creates a cross-generational dialogue where young people can provide emotional support and their skills (e.g. technology) and the elderly can share their wisdom – like how to make an awesome lasagna - by spending their time together. In such a way, all the users, elderly included, are active part of the system putting emphases to the contribution that each individual can give to another.  Additionally, the system encourages users to continue to share their time by leveraging on gamification mechanisms, which allow users to gain rewards, such as coupon or discounts, promoted by third parties. Third parties can sponsor blocks of time, providing volunteers with a small financial incentive to continue giving their time, as well as promoting a positive reputation for the sponsors. This incentive mechanisms not only could be helpful to volunteers who have recently lost their jobs and would have a way to invest their time and cheer up, but will also ensure the sustainability of the system over time.

How we built it

The web platform works as a virtual meeting place between people who need help and people who want to spend their free time to help. “Taker” users will register on the platform and will be able to create - anonymously - a task where they can tell their needs. The system will automatically connect “Taker” users with “Giver” users who have made themselves available to help. The main section of the website is represented by a list of tasks filterable by category and by location. Each user, who decides to use their time in solving the tasks, can choose on the rewards page how to convert the time accumulated into coupons or vouchers made available by third parties. Our framework is cloud native: it can scale to hundred thousands it leverages the google infrastructure to accommodate load and commit to optimal performance and Google quality security.

Challenges we ran into

The biggest challenge we ran into was creating a complex platform (incorporating analogic and digital inputs) ready to handle a large volume of users reliably in a short amount of time. For OraInsieme timing is everything; although we truly believe the platform will have an important role in the post-COVID phase, the solution is needed NOW more than even. This forced us to work on simplifying the MVP while preserving all the important features to minimize the time-to-market.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

After 48h fro the brainstorming, we had already a solid idea framework and business model to bring OraInsieme to life and this allowed us to win the Italian edition of #HackTheCrisis in the category #SaveCommunities.  In other news, the day after our victory, the Italian Red Cross reached out to us to discuss about a partnership with OraInsieme (currently ongoing).

What we learned

While testing our idea with different voluntary associations, we received many inputs about how this solution would be very beneficial for people living in isolation as current Covid-19 emergency has worsen their situation.
Additionally, the sense of community and the thrive the people have during difficult times is above and beyond our imagination.

What's next for OraInsieme

GO LIVE!!! After the GO LIVE of the MVP, we will move from a MVP to a complete version with the inclusion of the the analogic bit of the system. Meanwhile, we will amplify our 3rd parties network and reach a bigger audience.  The team sees their platform connecting some of Italy’s 13 million people 65 and older with younger  volunteers long after the crisis to help bridge generational divides.



angular.js, bootstrap, flamel, golang, google-app-engine, google-cloud, postgresql, spellbook

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