In November, 2016, The Grassroot Project received Tech Impact's Technology Innovation Award in the K-12 & STEM Education category funded by CenturyLink. The funding will go towards the pilot of a mobile application that will provide middle school students in their program the opportunity to connect with their student-athlete "coaches" and to acess TGP material outside of face-to-face in school interaction. Having direct, uncluttered information about programs and TGP opportunties at their fingertips will help increase the quantity and quality of involved, dedicated, and aware coaches. It will also make sexual health education materials easily available to a population at risk for HIV/AIDS.
Q: Tell us about the progress you’ve made in developing of the mobile application outlined in your proposal. How have your Technology Innovation Awards funds been used so far?
With the funds from the Technology Innovation Award, we engaged a mobile app developer to begin building the mobile app outlined in our proposal. The app has been designed and we are finalizing it this week. Once finalized, we will pilot the app in one or two of our programs this semester. After receiving feedback from the student-athlete facilitators (“coaches”) using the app, we will make any necessary changes over the summer prior to a full scale pilot in all our programs during the 2017 fall semester.
Q: How many students and mentors do you anticipate using the application? If the application pilot is launched, how many are currently using it?
When the app is completed, we anticipate approximately ten teams of student-athlete coaches, and approximately 200 students, will be using it each semester. The coaches will use the app to take attendance and complete fidelity checklists each week. Additionally, they will be able to receive anonymous questions from students in their classes through the app that they will then be able to answer in subsequent class periods. We are very excited for the planned full rollout of the app in the next several months.
Q: What kind of feedback are you receiving from students, mentors and schools? If the pilot has been launched, is it garnering the usage you hoped?
Though we haven’t yet begun piloting the app in schools, the feedback from the student-athletes about the app’s features has been largely positive. The app will make the logistical and administrative features of the facilitators’ jobs infinitely easier; not only are the coaches much more inclined to complete these tasks on a mobile device, but also completing them via the app will save time and be more efficient. This will leave the facilitators with more time each week to do their important work of teaching and engaging the students about sexual health, healthy relationships, and decision-making.
Q: Do you anticipate that this application will change the way TGP delivers programs? If so, how?
The app will improve TGP’s programs in two important ways. One, it will free up time each week for the student-athletes to converse with the students about TGP’s curriculum, build trust and rapport, and answer questions the students have. Two, it will offer a number of ways for program participants to
deepen their learning and even improve their overall health and wellbeing. The anonymous question feature of the app will give students the opportunity to anonymously ask questions of the student-athlete coaches outside of the regular weekly program hours. The coaches will then be able to address these questions in class the next week, allowing all students to benefit from the knowledge that the coach is sharing. The community health sites map contained within the app will also be a valuable resource for program participants, allowing them to locate youth-friendly, free or low-cost health resources in their communities.
Q: What have you learned so far in doing this project that might hold valuable insight for other nonprofits seeking to do something similar?
We have learned so much about mobile app development, including overall cost. Mobile apps are incredibly valuable tools and resources, and we are confident that the development of our app is worth the investment. What would we suggest to other nonprofits looking into app development? Prioritize and overestimate the cost of desired features in your app. That gives you the freedom to add any new ones in if you come in under budget!
Q: What has wining the Technology Innovation Awards meant to your organization? What have you done to communicate about your win and, perhaps, leverage it for other key opportunities?
Winning the Technology Innovation Award has allowed us to take an important step towards being more technology-friendly in our programs. We believe the app will allow our programs to grow their impact, as the app extends the amount of time and communication that our student-athlete coaches have with program participants.
We have shared the news about our win throughout our communication and social media platforms. Our supporters, alumni, and donors are very excited about the win and the app, and believe – like us – that it will help us improve our impact on our students.