It seems like there’s an app for everything these days and charity work is no exception. The internet has made it exceptionally easy to give to a good cause. From JustGiving.com, which allows you to sponsored and be sponsored with the click of a button, to those countless Facebook games that allow you to donate grains of rice in exchange for answering trivia questions, it’s never been more simple to get involved with a charitable endeavour. However, though these point and click donation sites are extremely useful, there can be a danger that with that ease comes complacency. Giving shouldn’t be a mechanical act. There is a new breed of smartphone charity app that tries to engage with the user beyond a request for money and tries to educate and engage in new and innovative ways. Here are a few exceptionally good ones:
iHobo (available on iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad)
Something of a classic of the genre, iHobo asks the player to take charge of a virtual homeless young person for three days. This means you must make all the important decisions required to keep your character alive on the streets, locating food, shelter and support to stay off drugs. What’s especially interesting about this app is its use of the ‘Push’ notification system that allows the character to ask directly for help, giving players get a realtime sense of the intense emotional and physical burdens placed upon him. Players earn points for caring and lose points for neglecting the youth. At the end of the three days, you can also see if you’ve earned enough points to be entered into the Facebook-based League Of Care. Some will find the ‘gamifying’ of homelessness a little problematic but this app has done wonders for the visibility of DePaul UK, the charity it supports, and the app makes it exceptionally easy to make donations.
Do Some Good (available on iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia and Android)
Orange’s Do Some Good app also attempts to gamify altruism by using your phone’s GPS to locate nearby opportunities to perform bite-sized pieces of volunteer work. These assignments can be anything from mapping areas of local interest, completing a charity survey or taking photos of wildlife in your local park. The idea is that small acts performed by many people add up to real, meaningful change. Orange also operates a rewards system where for every 60 completed actions, you can earn music rewards through Orange RockCorps Collective. Everybody’s a winner.
Fix my Street (available on iPhone, Android and Nokia)
This is one of those ideas that is so brilliant you wonder why it isn’t common knowledge and part of the parlance of everyday life in the same manner as “Just Google it.” Fix My Street is an app that allows you to report on any problems you see in the street to the council in charge of its maintenance. Your phone’s GPS allows you to locate the problem precisely on a map and then, once you’ve entered the details of the complaint and/or taken a photograph to illustrate it, the app sends the report straight to the local authorities. Since Fix My Street has been launched, there have been 242,038 responses to user reports and, at the time of writing 2,493 faults have been fixed in December alone. There’s something very compelling about the civic-minded nature of this app, and the feed of small road-based problems in your immediate vicinity is oddly soothing. There’s no need for gamification when there are lots of gently outraged missives about flytipping to read. It’s a very British app and one well worth downloading.
So there you have it – all outstanding examples in their way and proof that altruism needn’t be a thoughtless tap or clicking action. Hooray for smart phone-based nuance. Now let’s sort out those potholes.
About Guest Author:
Rebecca Harrison blogs about technoology and voluntary recruitment.