Why We're Designing a Digital Support Network for Single Moms

Last Sunday we celebrated Mother's Day. For most of us, that conjures up memories of great moments that warrant balloons, flowers and cards.

It’s unlikely that Mother’s Day made you think of all the mothers struggling to put food on the table and provide their children with the proper environment to grow. Single, and particularly low-income moms face incredible obstacles to being a good parent. This year, our team of designers and programmers are responding and rising to this challenge through a web application called Pen Moms.

The idea is simple: we want to build a support network of single mothers in low-income communities and give them a safe place where they can exchange resources and insights with one another.

We recognized major trust issues deeply seeded in single mothers perceptions of their networks. A lot of them feel as though the organizations set up to help are just pegging them as a demographic statistic. In other words, a dot on the map. The conduct of these organizations makes it difficult to expose any vulnerabilities and as a consequence their potential to effectively assist is lost.

We’re looking to empower mothers and give them a space in their own language, to go to on their own time. The service creates opportunities for peer mentorship and community support. It allows every mother, no matter where she is in her experience, to give back to others in a similar situation. Currently in this space there’s an over-commitment to dispensing tactical knowledge to mothers despite their strong need for spiritual and emotional guidance. We’re not interested in being charitable, we’re interested in preserving the pride of these mothers and putting them back in a position of control.

This initiative started during a hackathon at The Feast, a social good conference that asks its audience to build innovative solutions to social problems. Our team of four (Juan Muller, Anna Smith, Jennings Hanna and Alex Todaro) created the app in response to a challenge to design a web-based tool that might alleviate problems for low-income single mothers specifically in Harlem.

We're looking to pilot the application this summer. In order to accomplish this we are seeking assistance in framing the language of the site, finding local-leadership to introduce the service, as well as financial support to cover development costs.

There are a lot of single mothers in Harlem who have learned valuable lessons from their own experiences—they know exactly what they need. We're looking to help them share that wisdom with one another.

Visit to sign up for updates and get in touch with the team.

Family image via Shutterstock.

Designers, inspired to create your own solution to a community challenge? Commit to give one percent of your time to service this year.

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

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