My graduate thesis in 6 steps

For my thesis, I developed a collaborative finance product that leveraged social interactions to encourage people to save money for short term goals. My product provided an alternative to credit cards by bridging the disconnect between what we are financially capable of and our desire to make purchases that are immediately relevant to our lifestyles -- the things we want to buy and experience before we retire. The concept was founded upon the belief that collective action around individual goals is powerful. It builds confidence and creates communities that are greater than the sum of their parts. By focusing on the sharable and transferrable properties of money rather than simple accumulation of resources, my thesis celebrated an individual's generosity towards others and the things we can achieve by working together. 


We have experienced a major shift in the way we interact with money, which requires us to redefine all of the social relationships it affects. My initial research focused on the qualities of money, advances in technology, and our changing transaction behaviors in order to gain insight into unmet needs and untapped opportunities. 


Millennials have trouble seeing the long term benefits of saving because their life experiences have not provided a vision of a stable future. Their reliance on credit cards to fulfill their present needs and desires often results in additional anxiety, stress, and a lasting negative perception of financial institutions. I interviewed 75 college students and young professionals to learn what might give them the stable footing they need to propel them into a more tangible future.


After defining and researching an audience, I examined the financial, social, and behavioral conditions that would need to be put in place in order for millennials to trust and use a financial product. My efforts were primarily focused around the challenges that saving presented and the kinds of motivation that someone would need to overcome these challenges.


In order for a collaborative finance model to be successful, I had take into account the financial realities and limitations of my audience as well as social ramifications of their actions and behaviors. 

Before prototyping, I proposed several different ways that these social and financial relationships could work. Each of these frameworks encouraged a different set of interactions, which led to very different experiences for the user. 


My first prototype required participants to set short and medium (rather than long) term goals, provided them with social motivation, as well as relevant and timely notifications that encouraged them to make daily contributions towards their goals. 

Each group had a Daytum page that tracked their progress and a GroupMe account to facilitate communication. Savings deposits were made to “the bank,” which was my Venmo account. 


Prototyping confirmed that in order to build a successful payment product, I had to design for both interaction and behavior - which are inextricably linked when it comes to money. Interactions are tied to a user's physical actions (swiping a credit card) and their behaviors are linked more to their state of mind (I will not swipe my credit card because I am scared to go into more debt.) This required me to

  1. Design for capabilities not limitations 
  2. Design for lack of time
  3. Design for competing priorities
  4. Design for a trajectory of use rather than one time use 

With these things in mind, I designed a product called "Frank". Frank lets friends work together to save money for the things that matter most. It leveraged existing social structures and informal networks to create viable financial relationships and motivated people to work together to save for short term goals.

This is Frank

See the final presentation and pitch here

Erin Moore