UX for Change: Taking the plunge as an Apps for Good Dragon!

Claire Unwin, Systems Analyst at Atos, shares her experience of taking the plunge and becoming an Apps for Good Expert. 

On the upper floor of a lively pub near Moorgate, I attended the inaugural Meetup of UX for Change. Sandra Gonzalez, who I’d met through the Axure London Meetups, had a vision to shape the next generation of UX Designers. We’d all heard about the government initiatives to get children coding, but what about getting children learning thoughtful, user centred design skills?

It was an enthralling and energising evening for me. Sandra had assembled a fantastic group of UX panellists, able to share their experience of the industry and their vision for the future. One key speaker, Debbie Forster, CEO of Apps for Good told the story of how the initiative “Where young people learn to create apps that change their world” had grown 400% in the last 2 years. Supported by a network of ‘experts’ in the field and industry, schools sign up to a program of taking a mobile app from concept to coding to launch. I have over 20 years’ experience in software delivery including mobile but always in a commercial, profit driven environment. Here was my chance to share experience and be part of something really good!

So the next day, I checked out the Apps for Good website, read anecdotes from other industry experts, watched the videos of their experience giving Skype calls with school groups for Ideas Screening or UX Design modules and then eventually, (yes I know – far too cautious!), I took the plunge.

Registered as an ‘expert’, I chose the modules where I felt I could add value and waited to see what happened. An email arrived inviting volunteers to support Skype sessions with schools. I booked a session with a primary school for the following Thursday, in my lunch hour. When Thursday came, I booked a meeting room at work and then sat nervously waiting for the school to contact me on Skype. The children were great – very engaged, equally nervous and despite the technology failing a couple of times in the 40 minutes, the teacher was on hand to get us re-connected, as he put one group in front of the camera at a time.

Nerves out of the way, I now try and do a session a month to fit in with the day job and I was thrilled to be asked to be a ‘Dragon’ at an in school pitch event being run at Denbigh High  in Luton last month.

‘I was thrilled to be asked to be a ‘Dragon’ at an in school pitch event’ 

Keeping up the UX for Change momentum, I most recently supported the initiative to design Lean Personas for a Humanitarian cause which tested our ability to imagine what needs, fears and motivations a young, vulnerable, pregnant refugee may have for a mobile app.  For me, in exchange for a small amount of time or the crowdfunding donation of the Meetup ticket, UX for Change and Apps for Good provide an opportunity to grow and learn. So I’m very glad I went to that noisy pub in Moorgate last year.