Justin Crist Lee (MBA 2021) is working to help launch LivelyHood, a COVID-19 volunteer response effort. LivelyHood is a platform that connects healthy, young volunteers with the elderly and immunocompromised in their local community for contactless deliveries. The nonprofit volunteer effort has been built by a group of Harvard graduate students (Merrill Anovick MBA ’21, Amna Hashmi MS/MBA ’21, Shyamli Badgaiyan MBA ’21, Kelsey Hilbrich MBA ’20, Brian Mongeau MBA ’21, Kelly Hurtis MBA ’21, Spencer Applegate MBA ’21, Justin Crist Lee MBA ’21, and Catherina Pan MD ’22) in partnership with volunteer designers and engineers from across the globe.

Where We Started

Friday, March 13th, 2020. It’s one of the last “normal” days I vividly remember. It was the day before spring break, the day our classes were unexpectedly moved online, and the day I left HBS and flew back to Chicago.

Shortly thereafter, the world started to change quickly and dramatically. The impending health crisis and mass stockpiling consumed the collective psyche. And a tweet from the UK went viral: a nurse who had worked all day taking care of COVID-19 patients was unable to buy groceries after she got off work because stores were sold out of fresh food.

I first learned of this from a classmate, Shyamli, who reposted the story and asked if anybody had ideas about how to help. But then more stories and experiences started to come into sight. My mom told me about how upset she was that our local town’s community center was ending its daily food service for the elderly. She wondered how these vulnerable people would get food. And another classmate, Merrill, posted to Facebook to see if anybody in his hometown could help pick up groceries for his parents. They too were vulnerable and didn’t want to risk the trek outside.

It started as a text thread between section-mates. We put our heads together and decided to do something about it. Over the course of a week, we assembled a team of other students, designers, and engineers to build a potential solution to the problem. Separated physically but united in spirit, we galvanized around a desire to help the vulnerable during this uncertain time.

What We’ve Built

LivelyHood is a safe and simple platform that connects healthy, young volunteers with elderly and immunocompromised individuals who need help running errands. Our mission is to help diminish the impact of the pandemic by enabling the most vulnerable among us to stay safe in their homes.

The idea is simple. Volunteers are pinged if a neighbor is in need of groceries or a prescription, and they pick those things up the next time they’re making a trip out of the house. Volunteers then follow a “no contact” delivery protocol. With our system, volunteers get to decide when and how much to help.

Additionally, we have decided to build a matching algorithm to pair volunteers to requests. We looked around at some of the different volunteer efforts emerging and decided to develop a sustainable and scalable solution to this widespread problem. Rather than manually match requests as they come in, our platform texts and confirms the request will be fulfilled by a nearby volunteer. With this tech-enabled approach, we can more effectively scale our reach and impact.

We have launched volunteer sign-ups for the city of Boston, focusing mainly on recruiting students in the area to join our cause. Once we’ve built a strong foundation of volunteers, we will turn on our matching algorithm to automatically match volunteers with errand requests from those who need help nearby.

What’s Ahead of Us

The response we’ve gotten so far has been overwhelming. But we still need more volunteers to help. Every little bit helps. If you’re reading this and want to help, please sign up at livelyhood.io.

We are also working to identify key partners that will help us reach individuals most in need of our service. We’ve been in talks with the city government, and are also working with a local community health center to develop a pilot as a referred service for vulnerable patient populations.

We’re spending our time to iterate on the playbook for Boston. From there, we will expand to select cities based on need and volunteer supply.

We all have an important role to play in fighting the spread of COVID-19. If you live in Boston, please join #TeamLivelyHood at livelyhood.io. If you’d like to get more involved, please reach out to us directly at livelyhood.io@gmail.com.

When times get tough, we come together.