Diversity in tech: breaking down barriers

This year, one of our key goals at Apps for Good is encouraging and championing greater diversity within tech. Working with thought leaders, Fellows and our Expert Community, we’re helping to transform young people’s perceptions of technology as well as highlighting the opportunities and diversity within the tech sector.

As part of this process, we have been identifying the barriers to diversity and looking to address these challenges through a series of initiatives. These include face to face engagement activities such as workshops, focus groups, Expert hangouts and workplace experiences for our students & Fellows. We have also been hearing from women and other minorities within tech and business about their own experiences as well as the growing opportunities for young people within STEM careers.

The importance of role models

Attending events like the WeAreTech:Women Conference and ADA lovelace live, we were able to hear from pioneering female role models within STEM and learnt one of the main ways to address these issues is by increasing the visibility of both senior women and “near mentors” to our students.

“I absolutely believe you can’t be what you can’t see and without role models and visionaries, younger girls don’t know what they can aspire to be.” – Melissa Di Dinato (Area VP of Salesforce, UK)

We’ve been making sure to champion ‘near mentors’ by highlighting the successes of some of our student teams, such as WeKonnekt and I’m Okay, who recently celebrated being nominated for BBC Teen Hero award. 


3 With the -I'm Okay- app pupils.jpg

Near mentors: Successful Apps for Good Fellows like weKonnekt & I’m Okay can help inspire students



We’re also building more relationships with tech leaders and were able to speak at events organised by CogecoPeer1 and Capgemini. By collaborating with these companies we can help spread the word on diversity issues and work to grow our Expert volunteering community. We have already seen some success with the Expert Community’s female membership grow from 32% in 2015 to 44% in 2016, with the aim of getting to 50% by 2018. This is important as 50% of our students are girls aged between 10-18 and it is vital for these girls (and the boys in their classes) to see examples of women working in the tech sector so that they can understand there is a place for them in the industry.

“It was lovely for the girls in our school to meet a female role model who is working in the industry.” – Rhona Winterburn (teacher), The Abbey School

One of our most engaged female Experts, Sian Davies recently led a workshop at Elstree UTC where she spoke about her own journey into tech and explored tech careers more broadly with both boys and girls.



Sian Davies discusses tech careers with students at Elstree UTC


Although increasing visibility is important, we’re also keen for students to have hands-on experience within the world of work.  Fellow Tasneem and a number of other students spent a day at SAP, where they had the opportunity to try real-world tools and look at skills building for the future. In the new year, Spotify will be hosting a female Fellows takeover, where Fellows will get to shadow senior members of the team, network with Spotify employees and gain some insights into the future of digital music.

Wider diversity

As we approach 2017, our aim is to move beyond gender diversity to also focus on inclusion and wider diversity within STEM. We have been hearing from other groups within tech, including Arfah Farooq from Muslamic Makers, on the importance of celebrating wider diversity in tech and want to hear from other communities. We will be running a Diversity panel in February bringing Fellows, Experts and thought leaders together to look at how our course and programme can be more inclusive, and what steps the wider industry needs to take to become more inclusive.

As our campaign continues, we’re looking forward to continuing our work with students, Experts and partners to identify the skills and support young people need to move towards a career in tech and explore how we can be as inclusive as possible. By doing this we hope to inspire and excite both girls and boys about the opportunities available to them in the world of work and beyond.

Exploring ideas and tech careers at Elstree UTC

Apps for Good Expert Sian Davies is a Business Analyst in BI and data projects recently led an Idea Generation session at Elstree UTC. Here she tells us all about the session which saw Elstree’s students sharing their creative and innovative solutions. 

I would like to impose a 3-minute rule on all office meetings; if the problem or solution which gave rise to the meeting cannot be expressed adequately within that time, then the meeting should be cancelled immediately. That’s where we started from at UTC Elstree where the team from Apps for Good had invited me to facilitate an Ideas Generation Session and to give a short career talk on my tech industry experience to a group of students. A lot of seasoned professionals freak out when I give them a 3-minute countdown. The assembled brains at Elstree took it in their stride.


Sian Davies speaking with students from Elstree UTC

Elstree UTC is a technical school focusing on media and the arts. Meeting the students, witnessing their ambition and fire, and touring the school to view their unique facilities were highlights of the visit. Knowing that they were staying late to meet us, we all tried to keep the sessions interactive and fun – but we needn’t have worried – each of the students were engaged and lively, coming up with fresh ideas and communicating them happily to the group.

Talking to them about my experience in the tech industry was trickier to plan; what to tell them, show them, how to get across the breadth of roles and opportunities they will run into when they have completed their education, the sorts of challenges they might encounter; all of this whilst harbouring suspicions that they probably already know more about new and emerging technologies than me!

But I instinctively knew what were the messages I needed to get across because they were the ones I wish I’d had; that evolving your career through your own decisions is ok – and knowing what you want to do in your mid-career when you are 16 is not compulsory. That it’s ok to be wrong – I gave them an example of my incorrectly interpreting a technology trend and publishing it. And that the industry requires lots of different skill sets, which can be learnt on the way.



Students worked together to share their ideas 


Finally, by my appearing in front of them as a woman who has made their way in this industry, I feel I am contributing to a wider effort to shift perspectives. I hope to be followed into this school by more women in tech, and especially women of colour so that the female students present will see people who look more like them, presenting their chosen industry.

weKonnekt celebrate Teen Hero nomination at BBC studios

Hasan, Shayaan, Shakil, Itesham and Luay created weKonnekt – an app which helps young carers across the UK.  Since winning the People’s Choice category at the Apps for Good Awards 2015 the team have continued to promote their app and have also taken part in a number of exciting opportunities. Recently they were shortlisted for the Make it Digital Award at the Radio 1 Teen Hero Awards, in this blog they tell us about the experience. 

Several weeks ago, we got some exciting news – out of hundreds of nominations, our team was one of just three that had been shortlisted for this year’s Radio 1 Teen Hero Make It Digital Award. The award celebrates young people who are making a difference to the world through the innovative use of technology. On Tuesday 18th October, we got to spend an incredible day at the BBC, touring both the News and Radio 1 studios and working with a BBC producer and professional camera crew to create a film (check it out below) for Radio 1’s YouTube channel.

In the morning, we met the other inspiring nominees in all the Teen Hero Award categories, including the Apps For Good award-winning girls whose app ‘I’m Okay’ had proved an inspiration in the early days of developing our own app. After getting to know each other, it was time to meet some DJs, including Greg James, Scott and Chris and Nick Grimshaw, who suggested that we should form a boy band!  Continue reading

Celebrating diversity in tech

In our latest blog Arfah Farooq shares her experiences of working to improve diversity within the tech sect. Arfah leads on the various marketing campaigns to get people excited about Makers Academy, a 12 week coding course! She is passionate about changing lives and empowering more minorities and women into technology. She has set up MuslamicMakers a meetup for Muslims working in tech and is a Youth Trustee of charity Spark+Mettle.  You can follow her on Twitter to keep up to date with her work.

I am a British Muslim Pakistani woman who has been working in technology for 3 years. In this respect, I am unusual –  only 15% of the UK technology workforce are female, and even fewer are Muslim. For the last 2 years I’ve been working at Makers Academy where I’ve met an incredible diverse amount of women from a variety of backgrounds who have learnt to code.

My journey into technology was a bit of an accident and I often found myself suffering imposter syndrome where I feel like I don’t quite belong or I don’t deserve to be there because no one really looked like me or came from the same background. This is why it’s great that Apps for Good is pushing more women to take the role of expert to inspire more girls to consider a career in technology.  By encouraging women to become experts it helps women realise that they are an expert, but also it helps inspire the girls who can look up to these women are role models.


Afrah Farooq is passionate about encouraging diversity in tech. 


Having role models is super important and it was one of the reasons my friend Murtaza and I, set up “Muslamic Makers” – a community for Muslims working in technology. A question we often get asked is why? There’s poor ethnic representation in the tech startup world, there are barriers such as traditional upbringing, lack of opportunity, education and resourcse.  There is also a huge gap in confidence especially as the technology world can be overwhelmingly white and middle class. Me and Murtaza however knew of a handful of Muslims working in and around technology so the mission was simple: to bring them together to create a community and create a safe space for guys & girls who wouldn’t attend the usual tech events due cultural barriers like not drinking alcohol. A simple space space to inspire, network and create future role models to contribute to a much more inclusive technology world.



Inspired by what I was doing and their own experiences in technology, two amazing Makers Academy graduates, Chuka Ebi and Adil Ali, decided to set up “Black Techies”, a community for black professionals working in technology. As Adil says “I came up with the idea of black techies when I realised that one of my only black role models in tech was Chuka. The first time I met him was at a party during my second week at Makers, and he was working at Fjord. He was someone that I could look up to, and aspire to be like, and he gave me a lot of great advice that night and thereafter.”

Adil continues, “Black Techies was created to make a community of black developers and hopeful developers, so that we could support, inspire, and collaborate with one another. It’s not hard to be different, nor is it a curse (as a lot of people seem to assume), but being alone is extremely difficult, and sometimes very disheartening. Black Techies was made so that black developers could have a place where they weren’t alone.”

My own passion for diversity in technology is continuing to grow stronger! I now curate a Snapchat account celebrating #DiversityInTech. My hope is that the account will be taken over by women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ, and anyone else who works in technology and wants to celebrate diversity. I’m excited about the Apps for Good’s fellows who will be taking it over at some point! If you’re interested in taking over just send me your details here and be sure to add the account!


Improving your Apps for Good journey: introducing our new Educator Dashboard

While summer temperatures may have just arrived in the UK, summer holidays are coming to an end and schools across the UK are ready for a new school year. At Apps for Good we’ve been putting  our summer to good use and are proud to reveal our brand new Educator Dashboard!

First newsletter image

Our new Dashboard doesn’t just look sleeker, it’s packed with information, tools, lesson plans, CPD training and more  to help make sure that delivering Apps for Good is as straightforward as possible for teachers. There’s lots to explore, but today we’re giving you an overview of 4 essential features in order to get the most out of the Apps for Good course.

1). Start a Course

start a course. 2.jpg

As you make your way through the course content you will see a prompt at the bottom of your screen inviting you to start a course if you have not already done so. Clicking on this will enable you to create a class and start your journey through either the full course or the mini course.

2). Track your Progress

Mark as done. 2.jpg

This new feature at the bottom of each topic page will allow you to mark each module topic as “done” and will thus allow you to keep track of your progress on the course you have selected.

3). Lesson Primers

Lesson primer. highlighted

These handy documents are designed to work in tandem with the 5 minute lesson plans and will provide you with extra help when planning lessons by defining key terms, offering further reading suggestions and providing example assessment questions.

4). 15 Minute Training and Deeper Learning

CPD screenshot

These tools are located in the CPD Training tab on the dashboard. The 15 minute training pages include inspirational videos and informative links which will enable you to teach your students about everything from e-safety to the importance of grit and remaining resilient when challenges arise during the course.

The deeper learning pages will provide you with an in depth look at how to foster creativity in the classroom.

We want to know what you think of our new Dashboard. Got any comments, ideas or suggestions for how we can keep improving the Dashboard? Let us know on education@appsforgood.org.



Energy and Excitement at the Apps for Good Awards 2016

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.


Team DiPloy from Denbigh present their app

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 and SEO practices.

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.


All the finalist from the Apps for Good Awards 2016


Press release: Britain’s tech future is bright following announcement of winners of 2016 Apps for Good Awards

Six teams of young students from across the country have been recognised for their digital skills, as Apps for Good announces the winners of their annual awards. Following a tough competition entered by hundreds of student teams, the six winning teams of students are going to be working alongside professional app developers and sponsors to get their app ready for market in February 2017.

Now in its fifth year, the Awards recognise and celebrate young tech entrepreneurs who are creating apps to change the world for good. Any students who study the free Apps for Good course – currently being delivered in over 800 schools nationwide – are able to enter.

The winners all between 9 and 18 years old, were selected from 15 finalists from across the UK, to have their apps created and made available on Google Play. The announcement comes following the Apps for Good Awards on the 20th of June at the Barbican. Five of the winning teams had to present their app to a team of industry leaders, made up of Chris Linnett, Director of Design at Spotify; Tunji Akintokun, Director of Global Virtual Sales, Cisco and Gayle Noah Media Director, L’Oréal UK & Ireland at the Apps for Good Awards ceremony. The remaining winning team was chosen by an online vote in the People’s Choice Award.

Winners for the Apps for Good Awards 2016
Category Sponsor Winner
Information Thomson Reuters Fear Nothing
Sustainable Communities Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Donate IT
Connected Communities Salesforce.org Lilies
Productivity SAP Allergy Basket
Accessibility Samsung Diploy
People’s Choice Award EE Changes

Debbie Forster, co-CEO of Apps for Good explains, “This entrants for this year’s competition were amongst the best we have ever had in the Apps for Good Awards history. We’re incredibly excited to have such talented, and creative students taking part, and believe Britain’s future as a tech hub are bright.”

“Our mission at Apps for Good is to equip these young people with the skills to allow them to move from being technology consumers to technology creators. Our five winners wowed the judges, and amongst the brightest young minds, and we look forward to their launch in February next year.”


For a full list of winners head to http://www.digitalnewsroom.co.uk/afg/

To arrange interviews, speak to spokespeople or with any questions, please contact:

Elly Barham Marsh, Niamh Kelly
0203 1279 270
elly@manifest.london, niamh@manifest.london

Fear Nothing
A team of 9-10 year olds from Westfields Junior School, Hampshire have been announced as winners in this year’s Apps for Good Awards. Their app Fear Nothing helps children deal with their phobias, it won in the Information category powered by Thomson Reuters, helps children deal with their phobias.

Donate iT
A team of two 18 year olds from Connell Sixth Form College has been announced as the winner of the Sustainable Communities category sponsored by Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at this year’s national Apps for Good Awards. Their app Donate iT aims to help users donate furniture, equipment and other items to the charities that need them.

A team of 13-14 year olds from Stratford Girls’ Grammar School, Warwickshire has been announced as the winner of the Connected Communities sponsored by Salesforce.org at this year’s national Apps for Good Awards. Their app Lilies  helps support 10-16 year olds who have lost a loved one.

Allergy Basket
A team of 9-10 year olds from Westfields Junior School, Hampshire have been announced as winners in this year’s Apps for Good Awards. Their app Allergy Basket tells users if the ingredients they are allergic to are in a food, was shortlisted in the Productivity category powered by SAP.

A team of 12-14 year olds from Denbigh High School, Luton has been announced as the winner of the Accessibility category sponsored by Samsung at this year’s national Apps for Good Awards. Their app DiPloy aims to help disabled people looking for employment by simplifying the process, collating suitable job opportunities in one place.

A team of 10 & 11 year olds from Coleridge Primary School, London has been announced as winners in the People’s Choice powered by EE for their app idea Changes The team has spent months working on the app, which helps children who are too nervous to ask adults about puberty by providing them with useful information.

As well as the finalists for the six main Apps for Good Awards categories, a series of additional awards were announced on the night to celebrate other schools and individuals involved in the Apps for Good curriculum programme.

Judging Partner: Capgemini

Venue Partner: Barbican


Additional Prizes

Fellowship Prizes powered by 123 Reg

Sophie Willis from Bolton St. Catherine’s Academy
Katie Louise Griffiths from Stratford Girls Grammar School
Ellora James from Wick High School
Jashvanth Srikantharajah from Sutton Grammar School
Ben Jilks from The Boswells School
Rebecca Jilks from The Boswells School

Employability Skills Prizes

Tech Prize:Petsit, created by: Stella Boutcher (13), Caitlin Briggs (13) and Karin Lelengboto (14) from St. Marylebone CE School, an app that helps connect pet owners and pet sitters in an area.

Research Prize: Briefcase, created by Francesca Clutton(14), Jesse Lee (14), Lilian Waters (13), Katie Wellstead (14), Jessica Zheng (14) and Molly Quelch (14) from Stratford Girls’ Grammar School helps young adults trying to find work in their area

Marketing Prize: Trim, created by Ben Croucher (14), Shalan Mendes (14), Tim Murphy (14), Armand Coretchi (14) and Tej Shah, (14) from Sutton Grammar School for Boys helps to reduce waiting time in restaurants.

Impact Prizes powered by SapientNitro

Educator of the Year: Jon Kemp, teacher at Bolton St. Catherine’s Academy. Kemp is active with both encouraging students to join Apps for Good and mentoring the Fellows after they have completed the programme.

Expert of the Year: Sandra Gonzalez, Principal UX Designer at Just Eat. Gonzalez is the founder of UX for Change and has founded a scholarship programme to give Apps for Good Partners professional UX training.

School of the Year: The Boswells School, Essex. The Boswells School has implemented the Apps for Good programme since 2014 and has already become an advocate for the course. After having a student team, My World of Atoms, win a prize in the 2015 Awards, the school has utilized its fellows and teachers to raise awareness of the programme in the Essex community.

Information sponsor: Thomson Reuters
Sustainable Communities sponsor: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Connected Communities sponsor: Salesforce.org
Productivity sponsor: SAP
Accessibility sponsor: Samsung
People’s Choice Award sponsor: EE

About Apps for Good

Apps for Good is an education technology movement that is transforming the way technology is taught in schools, turning young tech consumers into tech creators. Apps for Good aims to unlock the confidence and talent of the next generation of problem solvers and digital makers: young people who are ready to tackle the 21st century workplace and are inspired to create real technology products that can change their world for good.

Working alongside educators Apps for Good has developed a free flexible course framework that infuses digital learning with teamwork, creativity and entrepreneurship. Students find a problem they want to solve and apply new skills to making a real life app, exploring the full product development cycle from concept to coding to launch in a way that brings the classroom to life.

Apps for Good partners with educators in schools and learning centres to deliver its app development course to young people 8-18 years of age. Since launching in 2010/11 Apps for Good has been delivered in over 1,000 schools to more than 75,000 students. Apps for Good is a registered charity and is supported by partnerships with companies and foundations who share their vision of improving technology education. Corporate partners and sponsors include technology leaders Thomson Reuters, Salesforce.org, Nominet Trust and Samsung to name but a few.