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The Challenge

Design a new venture to help American Family Insurance connect with its customers and improve their condition of living

The Outcome

Moonrise, a digital platform that matches workers who need extra money with employers who need to fill extra shifts

More than half of Americans don’t have the cash to cover a $400 emergency expense like a car repair or trip to the hospital. Taking that reality to heart, American Family Insurance, a Fortune 500 company that offers car, home, business, and life insurance, was seeking a way to make an impact. The company also hoped to keep its brand top-of-mind by helping people earn and protect—not just insure—the things they value.

American Family approached IDEO with an ambitious goal: to innovate in a way that would help working families—many of them existing customers of The General, part of the American Family enterprise—who need a financial cushion in case of the unexpected.

American Family thought people might need budgeting tools, but from the very first research interview, another urgent need emerged. Sitting in the kitchen of a working single mom of four in Tennessee, the IDEO design team heard her story. She couldn’t afford childcare, so she’d organized her home to allow her 11-year-old to watch the younger kids: partitioned snacks, timers on the TV, chore charts on the fridge. The last thing she needed was help with organization or budgeting. What she really needed, she said, was more money, so a surprise expense like a doctor’s visit or stretch investment like a kid’s basketball uniform wouldn't derail her plans. Like many of the people the team visited across the country, she didn't want to take on debt; she wanted extra work and the dignity and peace of mind that come with it.

Moonrise User

During a live prototype of the Moonrise platform, a Moonriser in Wisconsin works a shift with a partnering employer.

Could we, the team wondered, offer people who already have jobs the extra hours and income they need in a way that reduces, rather than exacerbates, the stress they already face? Would employers get on board?

The short answer was “yes.” Today’s businesses depend on on-demand work, including seasonal warehouse and retail shifts. Typically, companies look to temp agencies designed to help the unemployed, but these workers aren’t always reliable. In talking to working families, IDEO and American Family identified a previously untapped pool of just the kind of people businesses want: dependable, skilled, motivated workers.

Knowing innovation was the path to growth, American Family took a chance by embracing this radically new brief: Create a tool to help families living on the edge bridge the gap between the size of their paychecks and the size of their dreams. The result was a new venture called Moonrise.

When customers told us that having an easy way to earn extra money could improve their lives, we were compelled to pursue a solution. Moonrise is a business with a human-centered mission. We’re proud it’s part of our American Family.

Jack Salzwedel, Chairman & CEO, American Family Insurance

The Moonrise platform lets workers sign up for shifts with partner organizations through a simple text message interface and get paid as soon as their shifts are done. Employers that sign up to partner with Moonrise can list open shifts on the platform.

“Moonrisers” are W-2 employees of Moonrise, not contractors, so they don’t have to pay self-employment taxes. They also get personalized business and comment cards to take to job sites, making their interactions with employers feel more professional. In this way, Moonrise helps workers not only build a buffer against unexpected bills, but also explore new positions and fields—and perhaps even land new full-time work with Moonrise partners.

Moonrise Screens 1

After working a shift, the Moonriser gets paid right away with money sent to a debit card. Moonrise can also help workers track progress toward their financial goals.

To test the program in real time, IDEO and American Family assembled 11 Moonrisers, six employers, and a team of designers and programmers to work out kinks in the platform. During a one-week live prototype in Wisconsin, Moonrisers finished a combined 28 work shifts, earning an average of $121 each, while IDEO designers worked behind the scenes to keep the process running smoothly.

With the success of the prototype, American Family launched the new startup; Moonrise was born and became a wholly owned subsidiary of American Family. Moonrise recently launched to the public in the Chicago area, with plans for a nationwide rollout. The company signed Enterprise Rent-A-Car as its first employer and has started matching workers in Chicago with shifts, while building more corporate partnerships.

IDEO and American Family Insurance interviewed customers of The General—a division of American Family—about how they budget to make ends meet. In this conversation, customer Chandra told designers how $62 could be the difference between breaking down and breaking even for her family.

With children, there’s always unexpected expenses—diapers, clothes, gas money, bus fare...With Moonrise, I’ve been able to save to get a car! It’s exciting, and I’m looking forward to hitting more goals.

Jazmyn, Moonriser

It’s not always easy for established companies to innovate, especially outside their core businesses. But innovation is a high priority for American Family, and designing a non-insurance focused startup like Moonrise can help distinguish the company from its competition and attract employees who want to be part of a creative, caring organization. Together, American Family and IDEO identified a pressing human need and built a program from the ground up to meet it. American Family is committed to scaling Moonrise in order to help its customers and all hard-working people who just need a little extra support.