April 1, 2010

10 mobile apps for social good

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GoodGuide on iTunes

GoodGuide, Find Green, Give Work make Socialbrite’s Top 10 list

By Kim Bale
Socialbrite staff

droid-vs-iphoneMobile applications are flooding the market at a dizzying rate — more than 150,000 now for the iPhone and tens of thousands for Android and Blackberry. And it’s important to keep in mind that only 18 percent of the phones in the United States are smart phones, as reported at yesterday’s Where 2.0 conference, so text-only SMS plays an important part in many of the campaigns run by nonprofits, NGOs and anyone interested in doing good.

In the past few months, though, a host of very cool smart phone apps have been released, making it easier for people and volunteers to carry their top-of-mind social causes in their pockets. And, take note, all of the iPhone apps listed here also work on the iPod Touch and the new iPad.

Here are 10 of our favorite mobile apps, from nonprofits and social change organizations, that are contributing to a sustainable economy of social good. This is by no means a definitive list, so please add your own favorites in the comments below.

Download the handout here (also at bit.ly/10mobileapps)


GoodGuide: Scan products for social responsibility

1Available in the iTunes App Store, the GoodGuide iPhone app allows you to scan the barcode of a product while you’re shopping and immediately receive ratings regarding health, environment and social responsibility. How cool is that? Other mobile users can text product information to 41411 to access ratings for more than 70,000 companies and toys, foods, health and beauty products — including an API that lets any website operator create a custom product directory that pulls from its database. GoodGuide on iTunes


Find Green: Locate nearby green businesses

2Locate green and sustainable businesses via the Find Green app for iPhone and Android from 3rd Whale. Looking for a farmer’s market within walking distance? Find Green will note your location and search their database of more than 60,000 businesses to help you find one. Submit your favorite locations, rate existing businesses and reap the benefits of sustainability living tips in the palm of your hand. Find Green on iTunes


The Extraordinaries: A way to ‘micro-volunteer’

3The Extraordinaries app for the iPhone allows anyone to spend just a few minutes of spare time completing missions for causes they’re passionate about. They even coined a term for it: micro-volunteering. On your commute to work, or waiting in line at the DMV, rate tweets from SXSW or tag photos for the Brooklyn Museum instead of racking up points in Solitaire. (Disclosure: I recently worked for The Extraordinaries as community outreach specialist.) The Extraordinaries on iTunes


Give Work: Crowdsourcing for good

4Created by CrowdFlower and Samasource, the Give Work iPhone app asks users to complete simple tasks that check the work done by Samasource’s refugee workforce. It provides a sort of quality assurance while increasing the quality of life for Kenyan refugee workers. To date, Give Work has been downloaded in more than 76 countries. Give Work on iTunes


Causeworld: Rack up donations through shopping

5Check in at your favorite stores via your iPhone or Android and rack up Karma points to spend on causes you’re passionate about. CauseWorld lets you offset carbon and donate to Chile earthquake relief without spending a dime, all while earning badges to represent your good deeds. Corporate sponsors provide the necessary funding that you give in the form of virtual Karma points to causes and organizations that matter to you. CauseWorld on iTunes


mGive: Donate to causes via SMS

6mGive puts the power to donate in the hands of anyone with an SMS plan. For a fee, nonprofits can register with mGive and then ask supporters to text donations in increments of $5 or $10 to a designated number. The donation is charged to the user’s cell phone bill and distributed to the organization. In just three weeks, mGive processed more than $37 million for Haiti, proving the costs associated with starting a campaign may be well worth it. mGive on iTunes


Frontline SMS: Help & engagement through text

7Another text messaging option, FrontlineSMS makes it easy for nonprofits and NGOs to keep in touch and engage with their community. Available to anyone with a cell phone, the service helps organizations share information with their community via text message. Uses can include sending daily notes of encouragement to disseminating calls to action to anyone with a mobile signal.


SnapImpact: Connecting volunteers with local opportunities

8SnapImpact is an app for the iPhone designed to connect potential volunteers with opportunities in their area. The app searches All For Good’s database of volunteer opportunities by location, providing users with a variety of options to give back to their local community. Applications for Android and Windows Mobile are in the works. SnapImpact on iTunes


Ushahidi: A platform for collective action

9This platform for crowdsourced crisis information can now be accessed via Ushahidi’s Apps for Android, Java Phones and Windows Mobile. Users can view real-time maps for crisis areas around the world and contribute crucial information regarding disaster relief. An iPhone App is still in development, and other mobile users can send SMS reports with crisis information.


MobileRice: Donate grains of rice to hungry

10The MobileRice app for the iPhone, powered by Free Rice, tests your vocabulary skills while donating grains of rice through the World Hunger Programme. Match words with their definitions or synonyms and help diminish hunger worldwide. The app is connected to the website, which has collected 77 billion grains in 2 1/2 years — enough rice to feed millions. MobileRice on iTunes

What are some of your favorite mobile apps for social good?


Net2 Think Tank: Apps for Good (NetSquared)

Helping Haitians via mobile, crowdsourcing & social media (Socialbrite)

The Extraordinaries: Building the ‘micro-volunteering’ movement (Socialbrite)

All for Good: A Craigslist for Service (Socialbrite)Kim Bale was recently the community outreach specialist for The Extraordinaries. Follow her on Twitter at @balekimb.

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30 thoughts on “10 mobile apps for social good

  1. great stuff fm socialbrite.org ! Now add geotags + upload pics – every1's can get truth out on bad actors, LULUs hazmat spills things that need fixing

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    • Ourblocks is a great set of resources, Leo. We'll start looking into the local dimension, which is largely new terrain for most of us. – jd

      • Thanks JD, you're very kind. While we're on the subject, do you know of any apps or other free/cheap tech resources that people can use to find other do-gooders and organizations in their neighborhood? Here's an example of "asset mapping" using Google Maps.* I'm hoping there are easier tools that even non-geeks could use.

        * http://ourblocks.net/mapping-the-assets-of-your-c

        • We've just started working on a story about that, starting with tools & apps that can be used on a community level, from All for Good and Social Actions to Snap Impact, seeclickfix, citysourced. – jd

  3. Thanks for compiling such a great list! I'm a CauseWorld addict! Super excited for their product coming in June.

  4. Just heard about the DoGood iPhone app: "What if 300,000 people committed the same random act of kindness in one day?" – jd

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  11. I’ve been browsing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be a lot more useful than ever before.

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  14. SMS marketing has been great discovery in the IT world and the best way to use this advancement is to generate charity funds across the globe and the simplest way is to ask people to text to charity and help under privileged people for any Charity SMS Campaign you can visit @ http://www.texttocharity.com to get further details

  15. You should also consider favsmile.com mobile app. Share and search anyones favorites to try to make people smile.

  16. Might want to check a new one, http://www.GiveMobiley.org. Rather than texting for donations it allows supporters to scan a QR code which loads the organization’s app on their device. From there they can easily donate with PayPal or a credit card. It’s available free, too.