Students create digital tools to solve problems

by CDI Apps for Good
Apps for Good Fellow Amarah
Apps for Good Fellow Amarah

The 2014/15 school year is off to an excellent start, with an estimated 25,000 students from 470 education partners poised to deliver the Apps for Good programme (see map of where we are here), 700-1000 teachers slated to access our newly launched online continuous professional development platform and our pilot Fellows community already enjoying participation from 100 former students (Fellows) and several Apps for Good teachers.

Our Fellows Community is a development we’re particularly excited about, as it offers a means of bridging the gap that many of our former students experience, between participation in the Apps for Good programme, and entry into higher education or employment. While the Apps for Good programme gets students excited about solving problems using technology, and building their STEAMED skills, once they finish the course, they are left without an outlet or sense of how to develop further. The Fellows programme offers a means of sustaining contact with students once they finish the course, and continuing to nurture their skills development.

We came to identify the need for a Fellows community via requests from our former students and current teachers for more materials to engage with, as well as for internship and volunteering opportunities. Because of this demand, we opted to pilot a small project, using our Innovation Cycle to manage the process (see our Nominet Trust blog on innovation here) and coming up with a framework for the project (LADDR).

We are helping students get access to the following opportunities:

Learn: Continue to develop more skills (incl. coding/programming)

Achieve: Enter competitions and challenges

Discover: Get advice and guidance from Apps for Good Expert volunteers

Do: Gain work experience (on site and virtually)

Return: Become an Apps for Good Ambassador (speak at events, mentor students etc.)

Another factor fuelling our interest in creating a Fellows programme is our mission to, “empower students from all backgrounds to seize the opportunities of our digital age and create solutions to the problems they care about, using technology.” While a mere 17% of tech industry professionals are female, and the Guardian’s most recent report on A-Level results found that 9/10 students taking the computing exam were male, an average of 50% of Apps for Good students are female, and 33% from a visible ethnic minority, as well as 51% of our schools above the national average of Free School Meals. This leaves us well placed to support the talent of traditionally underrepresented groups in tech, and highlights the importance of having a network in place to do so, after our students finish the Apps for Good course. While still in early pilot stage, our fledgling Fellows programme has already placed several students in work experiences or internships, including Amarah, pictured with her Buzzer Buddiez partner Tamanna.

To that end, we were delighted to help 14 year old Apps for Good Fellow and former Coding Ninja, Alex Gower gain access to the global headquarters of Google, Facebook and Twitter, in Silicon Valley, California. Alex wanted to take a close up look at life in the tech sector, and judging by his blog visiting these three giants really captured his attention and built his interest.

In his words:

The coolest thing I saw at Facebook was the vending machine that dispensed technological devices. At Twitter, I liked the roof garden a lot because it had such good views of the city and had towers looming above it from all sides. The coolest things I saw at Google were the conference bikes that sat up to 7 people who each pedalled whilst having a conversation.

Alex’s visit fuelled his desire to become a computer engineer, because, in his words, he, “like[s] to understand how things work and this job would be at the heart of making a project.” Alex also noted the, appeal of ‘flexi working hours with tech companies’ as each of the three companies he worked for were happy for their teams to enjoy flexible working hours and remote locations, as long as communication was strong. His site visits helped him get a clear idea of what was required to achieve his goal, including: “[making] technical projects in my spare time, and by doing this, learn[ing] techniques that could become useful in a real-life scenario. Also, by taking part in open-source projects, I could learn skills such as coding in a team and reading other people’s code that could also help in a computing job.”

We were delighted to hear that Alex is still dreaming of becoming a full time digital maker, and that the trip to California was inspiring and informative. We’re looking forward to helping more of our Fellows find their way to exciting new learning opportunities. For more stories of the adventures of Apps for Good Fellows, please visit:

To provide internships, work experiences and other opportunities to our Fellows please contact us at:

Apps for Good Fellow Alex, at Facebook
Apps for Good Fellow Alex, at Facebook
Alex with his colourful Google bike
Alex with his colourful Google bike


Pitching the idea: Occasion Location on site
Pitching the idea: Occasion Location on site

The 2014 Apps for Good Awards were an exciting whirl of activity, featuring 18 finalist student ideas for apps to solve issues in the environment, communities, learning, information, productivity and finances, selected from among those submitted by 17,000 Apps for Good students.

In addition to the six issue area categories, the Apps for Good Awards include a People’s Choice Award, bestowed on the most popular app idea. The journey Apps for Good has taken as an organisation is neatly mirrored in the journey of the People's Choice Award category, with the astounding number of votes cast at this year’s awards reflecting the growth of the organisation and of public awareness of the Apps for Good programme and mission.

At the first Apps for Good awards in 2012, the event was quite small and voting for the People’s Choice award was confined to the event itself, with paper ballots cast on site and frantically counted by hand backstage, by one of the 8 Apps for Good staff the organisation than employed. The following year, voting was slightly more sophisticated, with a digital platform used to cast votes, and voting confined to the area where students were presenting their ideas. As the votes came in, the monitor realised that people off-site were casting ballots, and with that realisation came the awareness that interest in the Apps for Good finalists had grown beyond the confines of a single building.

This year the People’s Choice Award voting opened weeks in advance of the Awards, with votes coming from far and wide, from Caithness, Scotland to Budehaven, Cornwall to North Carolina, U.S.A., reflecting the global reach of Apps for Good and the diverse origins of student participants. Over 14,000 votes were cast this year, resulting in Occasion Location from Sutton Grammar School for Boys, in Surrey winning the award. Occasion Location and the other winning teams went on to attend Skills Matter workshops on turning an idea into a great product, and will continue to receive mentorship and advice from the amazing Apps for Good expert team, as they work with development agencies over the next 6 months to truly bring their ideas to life, and launch them on the marketplace.

Apps for Good Finalists
Apps for Good Finalists
Learning in action at Apps for Good Awards
Learning in action at Apps for Good Awards
People's Choice Winners, Occasion Location
Students pitching at the Apps for Good App Launch
Students pitching at the Apps for Good App Launch

As Easter approaches, Apps for Good students are busy preparing their entry submissions to this year’s Apps for Good Awards.

After several months of refining their problem-solving app ideas, completing feasibility studies, working on their marketing and business modelling strategy and developing their product, this year’s cohort of 17,000 Apps for Good students are now making the final alterations to their apps before submitting them to our national competition.

It is at this stage of the programme that Expert sessions become especially valuable for the students. Apps for Good teams are eager to gain specialised feedback on their app ideas and recieve advice from industry professionals on how they can improve their product and its features before submitting their entry.

Now is also the time for students to brush up on their public speaking skills. Delivering a killer pitch is a key ingredient for success at the Awards. Students have to present their digital products to a judging panel of heavyweight technology leaders and entrepreneurs who will select their favourite app. The winning teams will then work with development companies over the subsequent six months to have their app built professionally before being publicly launched onto the market.

Case-study: Apps for Good partner Barclaycard goes the extra mile

One of Apps for Good’s long-term and strategic partners, Barclaycard, took mentoring to the next level this month.

Philip McHugh, Barclaycard’s CEO Business Solutions and Michael Bristow, VP Marketing visited one of the Barclaycard-supported Ninja Education Partners, Mount Grace School in Potters Bar, to deliver a very special mentoring session for the morning.

This was my first school visit and it was very inspiring, some great ideas, and fun. Seeing students really develop their critical thinking and confidence presenting ideas matched with building technical knowledge are life-long skills that will make them more successful. I look forward to more opportunities to help." Philip McHugh, CEO Business Solutions, Barclaycard

“A pretty tough crowd to please!”

Philip spoke to the entire Year 9 group, who are taking the Apps for Good course this year, about his career, motivations and interests. Commenting that the students were a “pretty tough crowd to please,” Philip advised them to always be driven by their passions and strengths. The buzz of the students as they exited the Assembly Hall was testament to the energy and inspiration of Philip’s talk. 

2013 Apps for Good winners take the stage

Last year’s Apps for Good students and People’s Choice Award winners for their app Social Bank, Jack, Andrew, Arlo and Adam got involved on the day to give an insider’s view to the next cohort of students, sharing their tips on how to succeed at the 2014 Apps for Good Awards. The Apps for Good alumni also took the opportunity to pitch their winning product to Philip and Michael, who gave expert advice on how to take the app even further. Watch this space for Social Bank version 2.0! 

Barclaycard and Social Bank team up as judges

Philip and Michael joined the Social Bank team on a judging panel to hear current Apps for Good students pitch their app ideas in preparation for this year’s Awards. The creativity of the problem-solving apps was remarkable, ranging from one to source Equestrian clothing to another which acts as a forum for young people with mental health illnesses to support one another. The panel gave feedback on the apps and asked probing questions to encourage the students to think deeper about their product and its development.

“I have just spent an incredible morning on a school visit with Apps for Good.  Seeing the groups of students deliver their pitches was a great proof point of the benefits of the scheme – problem solving, presentation skills, critical thinking and team work, all skills that they will use throughout their lives at work and beyond.  Any opportunity to remain involved would be gratefully received.” Michael Bristow, VP of Marketing, Barclaycard

We look forward to receiving all this year's app entry submissions by the end of April. Bring on the shortlisting!

Barclaycard and Social Bank hear students pitching
Barclaycard and Social Bank hear students pitching
Social Bank pitch their app to Barclaycard
Social Bank pitch their app to Barclaycard

After months of hard work, the Apps for Good winners are now at the last stage of the product development process. All seven apps, which solve specific problems within the students’ communities, look professional and are functioning efficiently. With the digital products in their final design and testing phase, we are excited to announce that they will be officially launched onto the market in January.

It’s an incredibly exciting and rewarding moment for the seven teams who won the Apps for Good competition back in June. Working alongside professional developers, the students have been committed to the building of their product right from the conception of the app idea through to the creation of the final designs and branding strategy.

Throughout their Apps for Good journey, each student has developed a range of invaluable skills and learnt some vital lessons. The winning team of the People’s Choice category, a group of four 14-15 year old boys who have developed a Social Bank app to make saving and managing money fun for young people, have explained how they learnt to always be ready to pivot ideas and alter tactics throughout the process. During the course, the Social Bank students pursued a different app idea for several months before receiving advice from an Apps for Good Expert on the high number of other similar products already on the market. At a late stage, therefore, the team of boys changed direction and began working on another digital product – the winning Social Bank app. Not only learning how to pivot ideas but furthermore creating business plans, leading marketing strategies and gaining key technological skills have been cited as huge benefits of the Apps for Good course and post-development process. 

The real ownership that the teams feel over their digital products is also clearly evident. The students were instrumental to the professional production of their app; creating mood boards to send to the developers, giving feedback on all the designs and functionality and always having the final word on how something should look or work. Furthermore, all the marketing, branding and business strategies behind the app were the work of the students themselves. Nearly all teams have created their own websites and have begun exploring various channels to advertise their upcoming apps and build a potential customer base. A team of girls who are creating the Pockupation app, which helps young people locate jobs for pocket money in their community, have organised market research within their area and even secured a press article in their local newspaper to raise awareness of their upcoming product.

As a result, when their app is publicly launched in January, the students can feel proud to have become leading innovators and entrepreneurs, creating and owning a new digital product on the market. 

Since the Apps for Good Awards in June this year, the winning teams have been busy developing their apps. Throughout the summer and into the new school term, the students have been working hard with professional developers, learning how to transform their idea into a real working product.

Each winning team has met with professional experts to discuss further all aspects of the final app. The students have received specialised advice on how to tweak the design, functionality, marketing and branding of their app in order to produce a feasible product that meets the needs of their target market.

Most teams have now created a landing page for their app and are linking this to an email communications system and social networking sites in order to launch and then manage their marketing strategy. The students are also learning how to use online analytics tools so as to better understand their potential audience and build a more targeted marketing campaign as a result.

In all, the student teams have learnt important business skills and sharpened their appetite for the technology world. One of the students from the team producing the ‘Social Bank’ app has explained how he felt the post-competition process has completely “exceeded” his expectations as “working with the experts is amazing” and he has described the whole experience as “incredible”.

The range of different types of apps currently being developed by the student teams is huge. Amongst others, there is an app to encourage owners to keep their pets healthy, an app to guide children through tuning their instruments, an app to help those with learning disabilities and Alzheimer’s disease and an app to support young people looking to develop their creative writing skills. Keep an eye out for these apps on the market when they are officially launched in January!

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Organization Information

CDI Apps for Good

Location: London, UK - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Sophie Ball
London, London United Kingdom
$22,142 raised of $80,000 goal
304 donations
$57,858 to go
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