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Gratitude to Gig Drivers (Uber/Lyft/Taxi/Etc)

Creating a connection between driver and rider to inspire spontaneous gratitude.

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With a full 1/3 of workers in the US working as part of the 'gig' economy, we focused on these sometimes lonely and isolating jobs to let those who aren't officially part of a company but do a lot for the bottom line know they are important and appreciated.

This idea is focused on independent workers hired by an app such as Lyft, Uber, Postmates, Wag!, or the like. It would be built into existing worker apps and client apps used by the company.  These examples will focus on Lyft and Uber for simplicity, but they could be used elsewhere.


  1. Gives a quick/simple prompt to the rider of something to appreciate about the driver (i.e., "It's Frank's one-month anniversary driving for Uber.  Ask him how it's going!", or "Did you know Lee once played bass in a Johnny Cash lookalike band?"). Our research showed that drivers and other gig workers in the same vein feel unseen by the people they drive around or serve.  This would give the rider a chance to ask a question and spark feelings of connectedness.
  2. Those same prompts of interesting details about drivers will pop up on Uber Corporate worker's desks, or will be used to start each meeting.  This will remind corporate that they are working with real people with real lives and real concerns.  Corporate workers will be given a chance to write a thank-you note to a driver whose details spark gratitude for them, which will show up in the driver's app.
  3. At the end of the passenger's ride, any 5-star experience (or maybe a random smattering of them) would offer the rider the chance to gift an extra $1 tip (on Uber's dime) to their driver or enter their driver in a lottery for a bigger payout, simply by writing a sentence of thanks for how the driver made their day better. Drivers in our research stated that that little extra money made them feel good that the passenger bothered to press that button, and that they felt good when people appreciated the work they did for them.  Research also shows that people who give gratitude also feel better about themselves and their experiences.
  4. At the end of each day, drivers see a swirling collage of photos of the people they drove that day, and one or two of the best comments from their reviews.


This feature reminds the driver that they made a difference for so many people that day, and lets them end the day on a note of feeling appreciated. How you end an experience vastly colors how you view it.  It would give the drivers a feeling of good will towards both the company and their role in it.



Experience map below: 

This experience map takes you through the interaction points that Bobby experiences from starting his driving shift to the end with the new feature. 

User: Bobby

Age: 35

Day to day: Bobby drives part time on weeknights after work for some extra income and to meet people around the city. He wants to feel that he is making an impact by connecting with people and taking them where they need to go. He enjoys the conversations he has while taking people to their destinations, though he wishes there was a more genuine way to spark the interaction.

Priorities, next steps and opportunities for iterative improvement:


-          Challenge #1: Create prompt or questions that are open-end and easy to answer.

Team Response: Integrate more generic and relatable questions. The intent is to move a bit further than asking about weather conditions or vacations plans. Gratitude happens when we know people a bit deeper and personally, without intruding but certainly to a point were relatability can occur.

-          Challenge #2: Address impersonal or detached experiences.

Team Response: We believe platforms like Lyft already share where the driver is from, their favorite music, their occupations, or aspirations.  We’ve noticed this often doesn’t get populated in the app, as it is not a requirement for the either driver or rider.  Therefore, we would first propose a change that requires the user to add context and personality to the driver. The more we know a person, the easier it can be to show gratitude!

-          Challenge #3: Faces can be problematic per privacy reasons.  Also, many riders do not include a picture in their own profile.

Team Response: To add depth and personality to a rider (as well as an added layer of security), we could recommend every person require to have a photograph taken, even if it is from their ID.

-          Challenge #4: Most people don’t leave comments

-          Team Response:  This could actually be an area of opportunity since adding an element of common ground through prompts would encourage engagement across the application.

-          Challenge #5: Drivers often log in and out of the app

-          Team Response: The message prompt will come up only once a day, and it would be due at a certain amount accumulated hours. This part presents obstacles as we wouldn’t be able to control if a rider will log in again, and surely we wouldn’t want the pop up to show up all the time. 

-          Challenge #6: Drivers are distracted throughout the course of their shift

-          Team Response: We could interact with the user through a non-visual cue, like an audio prompt.  The prompt could be presented on the Lyft Amp device or simply flash on the screen prior to pickup.

Idea Title

Über Appreciated, Lyft Spirits, TailWag, PostMatesLoveNotes, or something similar(company-dependent)

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

We tackled gratitude in the gig economy. It allows the company to show they see drivers or other "independent contractors" as more than just the machinery that makes them money. It will make drivers feel that they matter to those they make money for as well as those they make money from. It will also remind passengers that while they are paying for rides, they are also contributing to people to whom gratitude makes a real difference in their day.

Who are you innovating for?

Innovating for independent workers (i.e., Uber Drivers), the companies that contract them out (i.e., Uber corporate), and the consumers that use their services (i.e., Uber passengers)

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

Companies in the Gig Economy like Uber, Lyft, Wag, Postdates, Etc. These are very present in the US but also present all around the world.

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

A partnership between OpenIDEO SF and one of the ride-sharing companies or other similar organizations would be essential to testing this. We would work with their user experience team and contractor relations team to beta test a new app with drivers in San Francisco, so that we could also easily interview the drivers and the corporate employees as well as passengers. Measurement would test: Driver satisfaction, app usage engagement, retention, and star rating (given and received) Rider satisfaction, app usage engagement, retention, and star rating (given and received) Corporate would be a harder measure - we would have to work on this some more

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

Because changing an app for a big company and implementing A/B tests is a big undertaking, our biggest challenges will be: 1) Finding and convincing a company willing to partner with us. -We would focus on company's retention and satisfaction ratings, showing them how we could improve them. 2) Securing the engineers and UX and UI employees to work on the project -same as #1 3) Measuring the "feelings" of drivers and passengers and effects on $$ Create a testing/survey plan for A/B tests

How will you test and prototype your solution?

1) With UI/UX partners, create iterative smartphone prototypes to test with known drivers, known passengers, and, if possible, corporate employees. 2) Work with partner company to implement beta testing 3) measure as above

What immediate next steps will you take if you receive an implementation grant.

1) Find members of our target stakeholders to join our OpenIDEO team. 2) With our focus now established, we would first conduct deeper user research with our stakeholders with some Ethnographic, Participatory, and Evaluative research. 3) Prototype solution on smartphone and test before finding corporate partners. 4) Estimate improvements in measurements/$ 5) Use connections from IDEO, Greater Good, + OpenIDEO SF members to set-up meetings with target companies and present Value Proposition

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.
  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

This came from two OpenIDEO SF Ideation Meetings - it emerged from group discussion and cannot be attributed to any one person.

Tell us about yourself

I'm a co-leader of OpenIDEO SF.

Where are you / your team located?

San Francisco - OpenIDEO SF Chapter

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

OpenIDEO SF Chapter

Company / Organization Name

OpenIDEO SF Chapter

Tell us about your experience


Please describe, in detail, how you will test and get feedback on your concept.

We tested this prototype by engaging drivers on their shifts during a ride experience or by asking friends that drive. We wanted to engage drivers while also promoting a safe space to create meaningful encounters that will lead to a more authentic exchange. We tested the comfort level of the driver, who would potentially be sharing personal information with a rider. Our prototype depends on the willingness of the driver to participate and engage with his or her passengers. Feedback activities ranged from conversation around first impressions, what’s working and what’s not, and desires from users on the spot. It’s important to highlight that these prototypes were only tested in short-term spans. Ideally we would like to proceed with a more refined version to test longer-term impact and possibilities.

Please describe specifically how you plan to scale your idea. What are the key next steps you will take, and how will those steps inform the evolution and growth of your concept?

We plan to scale up our idea by generating more and more various scenarios. In just a few days of short prototyping while collecting and integrating feedback we noticed: - Drivers are multicultural and have varying cultural experiences - Drivers log in and out of the app throughout their shifts - Drivers and riders may not speak the same language - Vulnerability and openness are key stepping stones towards gratitude - Gratitude means many different things to different people - Providing a safe space within the car is the most important quality of a ride - Some people don’t want to share their story, particular in ride-sharing scenario - Rides can be shared between many other riders, so it can prove hard to engage conversation beyond two people

As we have seen in the Challenge, there is a tension between authentic expressions of gratitude and mandatory gratitude. How does your idea inspire truly authentic expressions of gratitude versus mandated ones?

The feature would encourage genuine human connection but not enforce it. Both the fill in page and if the rider sparks conversation will be optional and up to the users. When there is a connection, this would enable common ground between the two parties and provide the foundation for genuine gratitude and appreciation.

Gratitude often thrives when opportunities for connection are created. How will your concept create new opportunities for human connection?

By creating a channel for riders to view their drivers as normal people through creating common ground, we hope to spark genuine human conversation between the driver and rider. This new feature encourages interaction and serves as an “icebreaker” for the two parties.

Who (specifically) will benefit from your concept, and how they will interact with it? What design considerations have you included to ensure easy and intuitive interactions? 

30% of all Americans have used a ride-hauling or ride-sharing app, with the majority of users in major cities. Both drivers and riders can benefit from this feature concept. Since there is already an app platform for rideshare (Uber, Lyft), we can incorporate an extra two screens with the existing platform. We thought about the optimal interaction points that will be easiest for the driver/rider to access - which would be right as the driver starts his shift - and immediately at the arrival point of the car for the rider.

Please describe how you intend to use the prize funding, if selected as a Top Idea. Be specific.

Prototyping - To create high fidelity prototypes, we would use the funding to assist in getting the right people involved at Lyft/Uber to create functional prototypes for continued user testing for both drivers and riders. We have already engaged with Lyft executives and they are interested in working together to improve the driver’s gratitude and the quality of ride-sharing experience. These prototypes would be used to perform demos and ultimately gain executive buy-in from companies like Lyft


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