Pacific Immigrant Resources Society

An Appointment with Success

Industry Social Enterprise
A tablet showing the PIRS booking system


Hackathon for Good

In November 2019, Apply Digital hosted our annual Hackathon. In the past, we focused on innovations that would assist our processes or help our clients. But this time around we decided to take a different approach and organized a hackathon that would help our communities — a Hackathon for Good.

At the end of this friendly competition, the winning idea took the form of a digital product designed to support the Pacific Immigrant Resources Society’s (PIRS) Pop-Up Child Care Program. Apply Digital wanted to transform this idea into a real digital product, created free of charge for PIRS.

The challenge

A social enterprise launched by PIRS, the Pop-Up Child Care program provides low-cost child care at non-profits, job sites, events, and companies. They also provide immigrant women with free Early Childhood Education (ECE) training, and then employs them through the Pop-Up Child Care program in an environment that values integrity, respect, and provides a living wage.

Before connecting with Apply Digital, booking for the Pop-Up Child Care program had to be completed manually via email and over the phone. Assigning childminders to the various events was also a cumbersome process, consuming a disproportionate amount of staff time, and in major need of an overhaul.

Women helping a child during play time
Children playing with blocks
7 women standing together and smiling


Every solution starts with insights

We began by talking to our clients and their customers, and learning everything we could about their processes and challenges. Stakeholder interviews quickly revealed pain points with current program booking processes, and gave us a blueprint for a streamlined, improved booking system.

Looking outwards, we examined the functionalities of various existing booking, communication, and event management systems in the market. We also considered an ongoing challenge for the Pop-Up Child Care program — the need and difficulty of keeping up-to-date records across digital and physical areas. Finally, we made an informed decision to adapt existing digital tools into a customized booking system, a solution that would result in a product that’s easy to use and offered low licensing fees which is a necessity for a non-profit organization. Apply Digital has pledged to cover these fees for the foreseeable future.

User Interfaces of the PIRS booking system

Designing the product

Intuitive design principles informed our approach. We created a User Experience (UX) build on one core digital platform, translating to unified team alignment on bookings, approval processes, and staff event assignments. A smart workflow allowed for natural integration into PIRS’ existing software. Flexibility and easy customization were our main priorities across every booking feature. Aesthetically, we built in a friendly and approachable look and feel using warm and natural colors with soft edges.

Engineering the solution

Keeping costs low while creating a robust and flexible digital product was the guiding principle of this entire build.

We used Google Suites as a backbone for this booking system, allowing for all staff assignments and calendar data to be stored and served from one place. Google Suites was chosen because its tools are all-pervasive and easily accessed by a multitude of devices and platforms.

The booking system was built using Typescript with React as the in-browser web framework running in AWS S3 and on CloudFront. Node and Koa were integrated into the application framework using AWS API Gateway with DynamoDB.

Technical architecture diagram of the PIRS booking system

Developing a new website

To deliver a truly improved customer experience of the new booking system, we realized we needed to give it a refreshed home by improving the Pop-Up Child Care website as part of this project. We developed a new IA for the website and collaborated with the PIRS team to create content that told the story of the program and its services in an impactful, exciting way.

Given the need for ease and flexibility, using a templated website builder was ideal for the staff at PIRS. Leveraging Wix, we created a custom template using the program’s design principles and bought the brand story alive.

PIRS booking system shown on an iPad and a laptop


Because the launch of the new booking system and website took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, the shutdown gave the PIRS staff the opportunity to transfer all their data to the new booking system and train their team on this new suite of tools. This unexpected pause also gave the Pop-Up Child Care team chance to identify multiple gaps in their documentation and process. The new booking system has also empowered PIRS to explore a new business model — a staff augmenting agency.

The accompanying website has seen some positive initial results.


New Users Acquired



Decrease in bounce rate

Internally, Apply Digital is also working to white label the booking system solution and is exploring opportunities to offer it to other not-for-profit and for-profit organizations.

“It was a really exciting moment for us when we learned that Apply Digital understood our challenges and wanted to help.”

— Martha Scully | Ex. Social Enterprise Manager