Save the world with technology? App-solutely.
“There’s an app for that” may be one of the most common phrases of the past 5 years. 90% of us are connected to the other 90%, 90% of the time through our mobile devices. Yet despite being able to Google in a jiffy, stream in a second and Like in an instant, our use of smart devices seems far from well, smart.
I can plan my whole life through an app. Hire a cleaner? There’s an app for that. Find a date? There’s an app for that. Track hormones/pregnancy/menopause. Yep. But can apps make a difference on a larger scale than the individual? Bethnal Green Ventures certainly think so.
[vimeo 80611044 w=500 h=281] BGV are an accelerator programme for start-ups taking on social and/or environmental issues with technology. Through offering resources, networks and financial support, BGV aim to show that “start-ups can be used to solve social problems”. This encourages a bottom to top structure for change rather than waiting for large corporations (often swayed by more capitalist economies) to solve issues which are not likely to be on their agendas.
I recently went along to the hip mecca that is Brick Lane in East London to attend BGV Winter 2015 launch night. All 10 pitches were of a high standard and the evening itself was friendly and communal; removing the stereotype of the exclusive club of introverts the word ‘tech’ can sometimes conjure. Issues addressed ranged from helping unlock the NHS’s communication breakdown to syncing up sports activities with wannabe athletes. Here are the three pitches that spoke to me the most, but all the ventures are worthwhile and have the capacity to succeed.
Birdsong is perched on the edge of mainstream success, ready to swoop in and ride the thermals of fourth wave feminism into the hearts of fashionistas everywhere.
Empowering women from all angles, Birdsong creates fashion without sweatshops and sells it without Photoshop. Made in community centres across London, Birdsong acts as a social selling platform which funds resources back into those producing the goods.
Putting 'fashion' into ethical fashion, Birdsong.london already oozes stylistic sophistication which simultaneously captures East End edge with West End finesse.
As a literature graduate, an app that seeks to make the world a better place with sentences and words was always going to reserve a spot in my heart.
Matching readers' experiences and tastes with their current situation, challenges and difficulties, Biblio offers therapy for the masses without the vanity stigma often attached to the Self-Help genre. Working with Bibliotherapists (yes it’s a thing and yes I want to be one) readers will be able to receive recommendations and connection suggestions to others in a similar situation. Making reading communal and encouraging emotional well-being through empathetic literature, Biblio is self-help redefined and has the capacity to help a lot of individuals.
When trying to change the world it is very easy to become awfully serious awfully quickly. It can be the same with running which can often feel so all or nothing many never get of the sofa to give it a go. Run an Empire is a refreshing approach to the overtly serious tendencies of both.
Choosing to gamify physical activity is nothing new. Both ZombieRun! And Fitocracy are great examples and leaders in the physical activity app space. So what makes Run an Empire different? Strategy. Rather that levelling up until the point of plateau, Run an Empire encourages continuous runs by appealing to the human instinct of friendly (or not so) competition. Miss that midweek run? That kid round the corner didn’t and just took a chunk of your empire. Want it back? Go get it. Run an Empire keeps players on their toes. Literally. Let the gauntlet slip and you risk being usurped publically by that guy across the road. No one wants that.
Like any human invention, the world of apps has many opportunities to do good, but isn’t often utilised to do so. BGV seek to change this and therefore the world. The evening was inspirational and entrepreneurial, crystalising a fair few of my ideas which have been distilling in my head. Now to make sense of them all and get the ball rolling in time for BGV Winter 16… If only there was an app for that.
You can read more about all the pitches and how you can support them here.