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now-u: an app for social change created by a Bristol student

By cultivating a community of users engaged in activism, now-u app aspires to ‘play a huge part in driving positive change'.

By Edward Deacon, SciTech Digital Editor

By cultivating a community of users engaged in activism, now-u app aspires to ‘play a huge part in driving positive change'.

A computer science student at The University of Bristol has created a mobile app that aims ‘to educate, inspire and empower people to tackle the most pressing problems of today.’

James Elgar and his sister Lizzie, a recent Cambridge graduate, have recruited over 50 volunteers to develop the non-profit app now-u.

The  undertaking was prompted by James returning home from University early and Lizzie being furloughed as a result of the pandemic.

Having acknowledged the compassion of people to help one another during the coronavirus crisis, alongside a willingness to make changes to their lifestyles to protect individuals and those around them, now-u is taking this a step further.

The question of when life will return to ‘normal’ is on everybody’s mind. However now-u view this as  presenting a unique opportunity; rather than returning to the status quo where many other global issues such as poverty, high infant mortality and climate change remain pressing issues, now-u seeks to educate people to encourage lasting social change that will ‘start shaping a better world and a better future.’

Having begun the project in early April, in just under three months now-u has gone from an idea, to being launched yesterday, on the 1st July.

Speaking to Epigram, co-founder Lizzie explains that she and her brother James noticed that ‘many people wanted to do something to help during such difficult times, but many didn’t know how… We decided to try and create a platform that would empower everyone to tackle causes they care about.’

The app aims to reach a wide base of users across society using collective action to create ‘real and sustainable’ change. Each month, users can select campaigns they are keen to get involved with. These are categorised under one of three main areas:

  1. Human rights and welfare (e.g. health, safety, equality & education);
  2. The natural world around us (e.g. protecting our environment & animal welfare);
  3. The future of humans and our planet (e.g. sustainability & pandemic prevention).

Following this, users will be able to learn about their chosen issues and are invited to partake in weekly ‘personal actions.’

Related challenges will be set for influencers, companies, and governments. These actions will take the form of ‘signing petitions and open letters, pledging behavioural changes, sharing campaigns on social media and making small donations of time or money to a cause.’

Information about the campaigns are sourced from ‘a wide range of online sources’, and these are then sent to charities, allowing them to ‘suggest improvements or specific actions we could propose to users to directly support their work’, Lizzie explains.

By cultivating a community of users who act in this way, now-u believes they can ‘play a huge part in driving positive change – in the fight for the future of our planet and all its’ inhabitants.’

To keep users engaged, now-u will deliver ‘engaging content’ from third parties as well as their own, utilise a news feed, and will release ‘new actions at regular intervals throughout a campaign’.

Users will be shown ways to continue to support causes in a ‘blog and news feed, and will hopefully have a follow-up actions feature, which is currently being developed.’

Lizzie explains that thanks to their team of volunteers, now-u have ‘managed to keep costs very low’ and are working towards ‘developing a fundraising strategy’ for the future.

They have acquired partnerships with over 15 charities and social enterprises, which are viewable in app, and are ‘looking to support many more’.

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Explaining the role of the app in the context of growing activism among students both in Bristol and further afield, Lizzie explains that now-u want to position itself as ‘a way of facilitating various approaches’ to social advocacy.

The aim is to collect various ways in which people can ‘support causes onto a single platform’, allowing them to make ‘lasting change’.

The now-u app is available on the App Store and Google Play Store. Watch the promotional video below and view now-u’s website here.

Featured: now-u

Are you tempted to download the now-u app and see how it can help you get involved in activism?