New adventures

A personal message from Debbie Forster, Apps for Good co-CEO, on the next chapter for AFG UK and her future steps with AFG and beyond.

About six weeks ago, I got a bit of a shock on Whatsapp.  My 19 year old daughter, Jess, had been travelling by herself around Europe for a few weeks and had set up a message group titled, “Do Not Worry Parents.”  On it, she would send us updates of where she was and the highlights and lowlights of her travels.

On this day, there was a very short message that every mum looks forward to hearing, “So, I just jumped off a cliff at 1500 metres and paraglided through the mountains…..”  I stared at the message, trying to process it. Before I could fully react, she added, “Just about the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced…haha and yes I survived. :-)”

If I didn’t know it before, I knew it then.  My daughter and I were now at a very different phase of our relationship. Her father and I had worked hard to “raise her right”, to support her, to challenge her – anything we could do to help her become a strong, independent woman. And now she is. And she is loving it.


I will always be Jess’s mother and I hope we will always be close. She might even need my advice or support from time to time. But this was definitely the next chapter, and I love that I still get to watch her adventures. Yes, there have been times that it has been hard to let go, but she continues to amaze me and make me feel proud of her… and not just when she is paragliding from 1500 metres.

Many of you remember our App Launch last February, when we kicked off Apps for Good’s 5th birthday.  In her talk, Mohima, one of our first students and now a Council Member, referred to me jokingly as her “Apps for Good mother.”  We all laughed, but the last five years have felt like that.

Don’t get me wrong, AFG has never been the work or inspiration of any one person. In the early days, we really weren’t sure what AFG could be. But from dashing up and down the country in my broken down car to meet all our first amazing teachers who gambled on us, to speaking to all the enthusiastic Experts and companies who worked so hard with us to build something that could scale with quality, to finding and growing the most incredible team I’ve worked with, we’ve been able to make AFG what it is today. And for the last few years, I’ve had the absolute pleasure – at times headache and worry-filled pleasure – of leading this great organisation here in the UK. And at that Launch, I did feel like a proud mum welcoming everyone home for a family celebration.

Later that year at our Awards in June, I saw how AFG had grown and established itself in the UK and was thriving, and I realised that, for me, my AFG baby had grown up.  And on that day, I knew that while there were still challenges ahead, like Jess, AFG UK was ready to start the next chapter and so was I. So we decided to look for a Managing Director for the UK.

After a long search with a strong external field, the team, Trustees, Iris and I are delighted that the right person for the job is our own Heather Picov.  Heather has been part of the senior management team at AFG for four years and brings not only deep knowledge of AFG and commitment to our mission, but also a strong sense of where we can go in the UK. We are at a crucial and exciting phase in AFG UK’s growth, with both challenges and opportunities, and I know that now that Heather and the team have worked to set the vision and next chapter, it’s the right time for me to step back.

So from March, I will be stepping down as co-CEO and taking my place as a member of the Council.  As you all know, AFG will always be in my blood (I often say, “If you cut me, I’d bleed Apps for Good.”)  I will work on projects like our pilot in the US but also begin working on projects outside AFG.

Debbie with Finalist teams at the Apps for Good Awards 2015

I look at Apps for Good, and like any proud mum, I feel tearfully proud.  My thanks go to all the amazing students, teachers, Experts, corporate partners, the Trustees and Council Members, Iris and the team – one of the best teams I’ve worked with in my whole career. Thank you all for making this first chapter such a fantastic one.

I’ll miss being at AFG every day, but as with Jess, I’ll be in a ringside seat and on social media to hear about the next adventure, bragging about their exploits to all who will listen and be pleased, proud and excited about AFG UK’s next adventure.