A few weeks have passed since this year’s Apps for Good Awards but we still haven’t gotten over the excitement of meeting amazing student teams from across the UK. In our latest blog Apps for Good Expert Claire Unwin, from Atos, looks back at the evening of the Awards and some of the fantastic teams she met.
It’s over three weeks since the Apps for Good Awards took place at the Barbican in London, but I’m still buzzing from the energy and enthusiasm that was generated on that Monday evening when England were still in Euro 2016.
Stepping into the Gallery space at the Barbican centre, I was hit by a wall of noise. When I’ve attended conferences and trade fairs, there’s a subdued mumble in comparison. Here, when I tried to listen to the children promoting their app, some of the younger team members literally had to shout to be heard!
Fifteen finalists each had their own pitch on a stand and the invited guests circulated around the teams in the ‘Marketplace’, discovering the story behind each App. There was a healthy element of competition. This year, as well as the winners chosen by the ‘Dragons’, there would be a winner for People’s Choice. This year hundreds of app ideas had been submitted to the final selection by schools across the UK who are delivering the Apps for Good course. I was thrilled to see three of the teams that I’d helped in my role as volunteer ‘expert’ had made it to the final.
Each of the finalist teams had to present their ‘pitch’ to the Dragons in the afternoon. There are five categories of awards, all of course with the theme of benefiting people rather than being for profit: Accessibility, Information, Connected Communities, Sustainable Communities and Productivity.
But this is now the fifth year of Apps for Good and not only has the number of entries grown, but the ways in which those involved can be recognised has also grown. This year, the awards ceremony was run by ‘Fellows’ i.e. school children who had been through the Apps for Good programme. There was an award for Expert of the Year, which deservedly went to Sandra Gonzalez, as founder of UX for Change and the person who first introduced me to Apps for Good.The Employability awards recognise the teams who may have done the best market research or the best marketing.
I spoke with the team for Rocket Code, a computer ‘game’ where you are lost in space and have to code a spaceship to get you home. If you want to travel faster in space, you code yourself a booster charger! The team were so passionate about their project, they said they’d be progressing it even if they didn’t win. Other apps I loved were Lillies, for children having to deal with bereavement, who had contacted 100 charities involved in the area as part of their research. Then there was DiPloy which is an app to support people with disabilities get into employment and where the team had gone into partnership with an existing Luton based charity to provide a service to generate CVs and run a job portal. Finally, Changes won the People’s Choice award and is an app for children dealing with going through puberty. All teams had found a problem to be solved, researched the market and were passionate about their project.
Leaving the Barbican, I was reflecting on what I love about Apps for Good? I love that it inspires everyone. I love that it’s such a simple model but with structure and purpose. (It’s effectively an MBA course for 12 year olds!) It’s a course where you learn to research, market, promote, present, pitch, problem solve, design, prototype and even code. I loved that one of the teams I’d helped had been brave enough to abandon their initial idea and were here in the final with a fresh new idea. I love that 50% of team members are girls and I love that nearly 50% of volunteers are women in tech.
If you asked me to take charge of the recent cabinet reshuffle, I’d propose a Minister for Entrepreneurism impose a tax on tech companies to support Apps for Good who are making such a huge contribution to training our next generation of employees!
To close the evening, Debbie Forster, CEO of Apps for Good, stood on stage with the finalists and once the applause died down, said simply “I defy anyone here tonight, not to feel inspired!”
It was a great night and great cause and I look forward to supporting Apps for Good in their sixth year.