ADF Community Hub

A digital space for community 

action & collaboration

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) is Australia’s leading organisation committed to preventing and minimising the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs.

Their work aligns with The Australian National Drug Strategy which declares “efforts to promote social inclusion and resilient individuals, families and communities” are a key objective within the demand reduction pillar. Put simply, the ADF understands that strong communities are the most effective way of preventing drug and alcohol-related harm.

This need for grassroots-level action is the key driver behind the ADF's community partnership programs, and that's how they came to create the ADF Community Hub website.

What is the ADF Community Hub?

The Community Hub exists to provide members of the Local Drug Action Team program (also known as the LDAT program) with a central platform from which they can plan and implement their own programs aimed at reducing drug and alcohol-related harm in their local communities. The Community Hub is made up of three main parts: 

  1. The public site. This public-facing site provides an overview of the LDAT program to potential participants and helps equip communities with the resources and content they need to form their own Local Team.
  2. The task manager. Offering Teams step-by-step instructions and examples for completing key tasks in their Action Plans.
  3. The forums. With private forums for Team Members to work collaboratively and open forums for connecting with other Teams around Australia to discuss common challenges, approaches and successes.

Dedicated ADF staff members work within the Community Hub, helping Teams run their programs, answering questions and monitoring progress via the forums. This all culminates in a platform that unites many disparate community groups from places far and wide—groups who often struggle with isolation and lack of resources—and empowers them to make real change.

Working in tandem

Liquorice worked collaboratively with the ADF to bring the Community Hub to life, embedding its team in the ADF offices from very early in the project. This transparent, fluid method of working helped ensure that all team members were on the same page and that key decisions could be made on-the-spot. This meant the time between producing ideas and implementing them was greatly reduced. Feedback was openly discussed, and the ADF team was included in all project management discussions.

Instead of designing for pre-existing content, designers worked side-by-side with content creators, incrementally chipping away at both and letting one inform the other. This cross-disciplinary approach avoided the pitfalls of working in silos, creating one, unified vision of the Community Hub.

Engagement with LDATs and other people within the organisation kind of just breaks those silos down a little bit.

Initial feedback to ADF staff from a Community Hub pilot program participant.

The importance of testing

Testing paper protypes
We worked with key ADF staff members to build and test a paper prototype of the proposed system.

With the benefit of previous user research performed by the ADF, we were able to confidently embark on a series of agile design sprints, building early paper prototypes and testing those prototypes with users. 

The value of user testing is not always immediately apparent but, at Liquorice, we believe it's a sound investment, one that is critical to the success of a project. Our clients understand that engaging users early on through testing ensures that the product or service is designed with those users at the centre. A stitch in time, as the saying goes.

Testing our paper prototypes proved to be a critical step in the process, one which allowed us to pivot quickly after gaining some key insights from user feedback. The initial assumption from user research was that users were worried about facilitating meetings and minute-taking, as well as managing the minutiae of administrative tasks that followed. One of the prototypes we developed to address this concern focused on facilitating internal meetings with Teams.

Affinity mapping findings
We later used the affinity mapping method identifying common insights and pain-points from the testing sessions

When we tested this prototype, users were quick to point out a lot of the solutions were already performed by their existing go-to tools (like email, calendar etc). This insight allowed us to reprioritise features early on rather than devoting time and money to building features that were less important to users. 

Users responded positively to a step-by-step task flow to help them through the Action Plan creation process as well as features that would help them connect with other Teams across Australia. So we refocused our attention on these key features of the Community Hub. This process taught us that testing is crucial in order to gain further insights on assumptions and solutions based on research.

Liquorice continue to be an integral partner because they strive to improve the way we collaborate, have an incredible eye for detail and a passion to understand our organisation to add meaning and depth to their work. From beautiful bespoke design to clean and robust code, their work means we are reaching more Australians more effectively.

Dotahn Caspi – ADF Digital Product Manager

Nuts and bolts

@ mentions on the forum
A feature that encouraged more sharing and interaction on the forums. 

With the design and content well on the way, it was time to decide how we wanted to build the site.

One of the core tenets of agile methodology is prioritising the most desired functionality built as efficiently as possible over attempting to meet all desired functionality with complex, fully-customised solutions. By choosing to build the site with Wagtail and its underlying Django framework, we were able to supply the ADF with a huge range of flexible, off-the-shelf modules with some choice customisation. This helped us to save time and resources without compromising on the really important stuff.

Because the Wagtail technology is so extensible, we were able to style our modules freely and add customisation like @mentions, auto subscriptions and an email notification system. It also allowed us to "share" users across the forum and marketing site, maintaining simplicity and consistency.

Although the dashboard & community action plan templates were entirely customised, they were also built on the Django framework, meaning everything works seamlessly together. Using one common framework gave us a lot of flexibility without slowing down the development process. We also got to try out the new javascript framework Vuejs, which was delightful and easily customisable.

LDAT directory
A filterable and searchable map to encourage LDATs to connect with each other.

So much work goes into communicating with (and between) Teams, so we prioritised building functionality into the forums that would make that easier, more efficient and friendly. As the Community Hub was replacing more one-on-one methods like phone calls and emails, it was critical that the platform didn't make exchanges feel robotic or faceless. Another major part of the functionality was the directory: a map of Teams with customised filters to help users find people tackling similar challenges. Once a user has found the Team they're looking for, they can click on the link and get in touch through the forum.

And because this technology is all open source, we have the freedom to extend it as the Community Hub grows and changes. The LDAT program continues to evolve, with more pilots running and more functionality to be added. It's a good feeling to know we've played a part in creating a dynamic, collaborative space for grassroots community action.