Oh-hi is an application that gives military spouses the ability to find new friends from across their duty station, in order to build more compatible, reliable friendships and mitigate the feelings of isolation.
Kade Schemahorn, David Bill and I started this project by researching the intersection of mental health and the military. To gather context and build empathy, we immersed ourselves in the lives of military families. We visited with them in their homes - and backyards - where we were able to listen to detailed stories, observe routines and examine treasured family items. Internalizing stories along the way, we quickly narrowed in on the experience of the military spouse or significant other (MilSO). With our guiding insight driving ideation, we began sketching and storyboarding to show how concepts might play out and provide the most value.
Research, synthesis and ideation
We discovered the huge challenge that military spouses are facing is that they are constantly moving and having to rebuild their supportive network. A spouse may make some friends at a duty station, but the reality is that 1/3 of military families move each year when they receive "permanent change of station" orders. This means that military spouses are consistently losing the people they count on or having to relocate themselves and completely start over in a new place.
Friendship is essential to the military lifestyle as military spouses are often left alone for extended periods of time when their service member is deployed or in training. It is important that military spouses are able to foster a positive, supportive community that understands the unique experiences of military life. Strong connections help military spouses to reduce social isolation and thrive in the military community.
The military is aware of the importance of support and connection for spouses and have created Family Readiness Groups (FRGs) in an attempt to address the issue. These groups are commonly viewed as the only real opportunity to make new friends, but spouses often encounter judgement and alienation due to the rank structure of the military seeping into social dynamics.
Since we know that relationships are often built by spending time together in-person, we created Oh-hi to give spouses a safe space that facilitates face-to-face interactions. Oh-hi is an application that gives military spouses the ability to view other spouses at their duty station, ready and willing to make new friends regardless of unit, FRG or rank.
If military spouses feel confident that they can immediately get connected in their community and start building relationships in a supportive environment, then the anxiety caused by life changes like moving and deployment will not feel so paralyzing. Supportive relationships help improve the well-being of the military spouse and the success of the military family as a whole.
After seeing success with an initial pilot, we added a developer to our team and built a web application. While we saw interest and need, this community is very close-knit and we found it hard to build the trust needed for substantial user adoption. Without this adoption, we were unable to meet our milestones or deliver on our value proposition. We decided to shut down our application and dissolve our LLC in September of 2017.