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Fundação José Neves Brings Portugal Universal Access To Education

4 developers
6 months from idea to deployment
250 applications processed per month
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Fundação José Neves is a nonprofit organization with a mission to transform Portugal into a knowledge society. With its rapidly approaching launch, the foundation needed to quickly build two apps to help students make informed education decisions and apply for repayable tuition grants.

By using the OutSystems platform, the team developed both applications in under six months, thereby meeting its demanding launch deadline.

  • Case Management
  • Customer Experience
  • Business Process Management
  • Digital Core Systems
  • Operational Efficiency
  • Web Apps & Portals
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"Given our pressing deadline, we looked for off-the-shelf solutions. We soon realized that customization to our unique requirements would be too difficult."

Carlos Oliveira Executive President, Fundação José Neves

A Mission to Build a Knowledge Nation

In 2018, José Neves launched Farfetch, a luxury fashion retail platform that grew to become Portugal’s first unicorn. After a successful IPO, the entrepreneur decided to donate two-thirds of his assets to help fellow Portuguese access education.

The vision for his foundation (Fundação José Neves “FJN”) was to enable universal access to future-oriented education that would improve prospects for learners in a more vibrant knowledge-based society.

As the country lacked sustainable student loan programs, the deployment of the “ISA-FJN” (Income Share Agreement) was revolutionary. ISAs would provide education funding grants to students for qualifying future-oriented degrees and training courses. Students would repay the grant later, but only once their income passed a pre-defined threshold.

FJN needed a digital approach to on-board suitable education providers and their courses and manage student grants from initial application to repayment.

“We simply couldn’t have launched within these timelines if we were building from scratch. With OutSystems, we avoided reinventing the wheel so we could speed up development.”

Carlos Oliveira Executive President, Fundação José Neves

The foundation also wanted to provide meaningful insights to potential learners regarding skills, qualifications, and employability. By aggregating a vast array of data and trends regarding the labor market and employers’ needs, FJN would help citizens make the best-informed decisions when choosing education paths.

Off-the-shelf software was not an option for FJN, as Carlos Oliveira, the foundation's executive president, explains. “Given our pressing deadline, we looked for off-the-shelf solutions. We soon realized that customization to our unique requirements would be too difficult.”

In September 2019, with only seven full-time employees, FJN needed to work with technology partners to bring its bespoke digital vision to reality. And as a nonprofit foundation, it needed an approach that would be fast and cost-effective.

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Why Fundação José Neves chose OutSystems:
  • Speed-up development and improve agility
  • Powerful integration
  • Improve UX

Two Applications, One Pressing Deadline

Paulo Rosado, the OutSystems CEO, shared José Neves’s passion for providing universal education opportunities and developing Portugal’s knowledge economy. So, he gave the foundation free use of the OutSystems development platform.

“We immediately saw how OutSystems would help solve many of our challenges. It would reduce development effort thanks to reuse and faster visual design. We’d be able to focus our efforts on user experience and features rather than coding. And the platform provided the scalability and security needed for citizen-facing applications.”

Carlos Oliveira Executive President, Fundação José Neves

FJN selected the OutSystems delivery partner Askblue to support the development of its ISA application. Two developers joined the FJN project team, with a further two developers joining for the second phase of development.

In just three months, the team delivered the education provider portal for the ISA application. The portal enabled universities and other education providers—including colleges and bootcamps—to register their institutions and courses on the system. It also allows the FJN team to validate and approve providers and courses that met their future-orientated criteria.

In another three months, the team delivered the student application experience, including KYC identity checks, to eliminate fraud risk. With OutSystems, FJN now had a completely digital onboarding process for both education providers and students. The system also provided secure management of student grant accounts, payments, and collections, directly integrated to FJN’s bank.

While the ISA application was nearing completion, FJN started developing its second application, called “Brighter Future.” Whereas the ISA application was transactional, Brighter Future would help learners make better-informed choices about education paths. It would provide meaningful insights regarding skills, qualifications, and employability.

Here, the role of OutSystems was to provide an elegant user experience to help users explore and gain insights from two sources—Microsoft’s Power BI platform and a content management system called Contentful.

OutSystems was used to build the entire front-end, integrating PowerBI, Contentful, and various Azure services, including Cognitive Search, to improve the user experience.

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Immediate Impact on Portugal’s Education Environment

Despite only starting development of Brighter Future in May 2019, it was ready alongside the ISA system for the public launch of FJN on 22 September 2020.

Both applications saw high demand right away. Brighter Future saw 400 simultaneous users almost immediately, and the team expects this number to increase over time. Users have also been very enthusiastic about the ease of use of the two FJN systems.

Meanwhile, the ISA application has helped process around 350 applications for funding in the first month and a half. Each of those students is now benefiting from training or degree courses funded through FJN Income Share Agreements, which will be repaid later from a share of earnings. Such universal access to education is a powerful social-good for Portugal.

“We’ve already seen a lot of demand for the services and positive feedback from users,” says Carlos. “We simply couldn’t have launched within the timelines set if we were building from scratch. We needed a platform like OutSystems to deliver on time."

The outlook for the two applications is quite different. With the ISA system almost feature-complete, the team plans to move it to ‘maintenance mode’ soon. On the other hand, Brighter Future will continually evolve, including new data sources, visualizations, and self-assessment tools.

“OutSystems has provided the modular development we needed to build these exciting applications—and build a brighter future for learners and educators in Portugal.”

Carlos Oliveira Executive President, Fundação José Neves

Beyond the ISA application and Brighter Future, FJN is also moving forward with four new pilots that will continue to drive its mission forward. “We’ll continue to use OutSystems as much as we can,” says Carlos.

“When we first started searching the market, we couldn’t find tools that allowed us to be creative,” explains Carlos. “But OutSystems gives us the freedom to innovate, helping us to build a brighter future for learners and educators in Portugal.”