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BU Global App Initiative provides free app dev for nonprofits

Posted by Chad O'Connor  December 16, 2013 06:00 AM

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Having recently been tipped off to impressive student organization Global App Initiative at Boston University by Navah Fuchs of Angel Ed I decided to follow up with them to see what was going on. Below is some recap information from student co-founder Habib Khan about their recent history and plans for 2014.

Chad: How did Global App Initiative at BU start?
Habib: I founded Global App Initiative (GAI) in September 2012 with Brian Nussbaum, my co-founder, under the advisement of Jonathan Rosen and the sponsorship of the Kern Family Foundation. Last year (2012-13 academic year), we set out to have 4 teams of students develop an iOS app for 4 different nonprofits. We went from 0 members to 80 members during the course of last year. However, people did not learn as much as they wanted to. So this year, I formed an Education Committee to hold lectures in iOS, Android, Windows 8, and Design (as opposed to last year when we only taught iOS programming). Fall 2013 has allowed our ranks to swell, gaining 12 new nonprofit teams and reaching over 300 active members who I see every week! I've even learned almost all of their first and last names. It has been a pleasure to see these students work in these teams on projects that they care about.

Chad: Sounds like a large undertaking. Who else is involved in helping to run it all now?
Habib: We have 17 team leaders, 7 people each in the marketing, education, business dev, and operations teams (some overlap), and then the Executive Board of 4 officers that oversee the entire organization. Since I'm graduating in May 2014, I've also formed a Sustainability Committee to ensure that the legacy continues long after I'm gone. Much to my surprise, I've successfully rallied 40 student leaders in the Operations, Marketing, Education, Business Development, and Leadership Teams who each contribute to GAI in their unique way. For example, Ivan Uvarov, a freshman in the Marketing team, is building a brand new website for GAI that is much sexier and more interactive than our current one.

It's not all about code though as we have a Sophomore, Yuen Chun Lee in the School of Management, who contributes her knowledge and expertise on the legal division of our Business Development Team, making sure that students are not liable for misuse of our software. Each and every person in this club is remarkable in that they volunteer their time to developing software solutions for these amazing nonprofit organizations. We are made up of BU students of diverse backgrounds majoring in Communications, Fine Arts, Management, Arts & Sciences, and Engineering. It's my hope that these 300 students can complete developing an app for all 17 nonprofit organizations by May 2014.

Chad: You're planning on doing apps for 17 nonprofits?!
Habib: Yes! In November we published the Harlem Hospital App. The iPad app is for Harlem Hospital's Pediatric Emergency Department and it helps parents treat their children's illnesses by telling an informational story and then quizzing the users to make sure that they are getting the information. The content is available in Spanish and French as well! During this last semester we had 3 nonprofit pitch sessions that yielded 12 new projects.

To do all of that we are actively looking for students who want to get involved, and no experience is necessary.

Chad: So how is that possible, to get all of that done with people with no experience?
Habib: First of all, we are looking for developers for iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, as well as graphic and UX designers, and software testers. We will teach anyone! We have a student who is a Public Relations major who knew nothing about code, and learned how to make a basic iOS app during our two open office hours per week. Then we'll need more students to help our management team with Operations, Business Development, Marketing, and Education. Again, we know we can teach anyone!

We will also have an ongoing lecture series to get people ramped up on development skills. Bi-Weekly lectures will occur for each platform simultaneously using two adjacent rooms. It will work out to 24 lectures next semester.

Chad: What's the best way for people to get in touch to get involved?
Habib: Anyone who's interested can fill out our simple form to tell us a little about their interests and background. And besides our website we also have our Twitter, Facebook, and a YouTube channel for anyone who wants to follow our progress and get more info.

Chad O’Connor is a communication consultant, teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Organizational Communication and Culture at Northeastern University, and is editor of this blog. Connect with him on Twitter @chadoconnor.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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