New charity app promotes activism during lockdown

Credit: Lizzie Elgar

Rachel Stamford
News Editor

The now-u app will create three monthly campaigns for users to engage with causes at various levels of activism.

As lockdown continues to encourage people to stay indoors, a new app launched on 1 July aims to make activism and volunteering accessible from the comfort and safety of home. 

After siblings Lizzie Elgar, a recent Cambridge University graduate, and James Elgar, a computer science student at Bristol University, moved back home to Kent because of COVID-19, they noticed many people wanted to help with problems exacerbated by the pandemic. At the same time, numerous charities were creating campaigns and in need of volunteers. The Elgars realized people wanted to engage with causes they were passionate about, but a surplus of organisations asking for help made navigating activism in the age of coronavirus somewhat overwhelming.

“We wanted to create a platform that makes it easy and enjoyable to do good yet fits into your daily routine,” Lizzie said. “It would be broken down so that users could understand it and become more informed on issues. Then they will feel inspired to do something about it.”

In wanting to bridge the gap between remote volunteerism and campaigns, the siblings connected with over 65 volunteers across the UK and United States who specialized in skills ranging from marketing, copywriting, technology and research. The team communicated remotely on apps such as Slack, and over lockdown developed an app called now-u.

Now-u partners with charities to create three monthly campaigns on various causes. After users watch a brief introduction video on a particular campaign, now-u presents them with a multitude of materials to get involved including petitions to sign and fundraisers to donate towards. Now-u also has a newsfeed that includes positive articles relating to the campaigns or additional causes.

Dorottya Rusz, a researcher at the University of Glasgow and volunteer with now-u, said students will particularly find now-u appealing because it can fit easily in their schedule, and since Glasgow has issues with health, poverty and housing, the app would be a great way to connect with local neighborhoods in need.

“There is just so much for students to do like studying, working, and trying to get a good career,” Rusz said. “The app is a great way to still volunteer without it requiring so much time.”

One of now-u’s first campaigns centers around combating domestic violence. In a recent study published by the Scottish Government, 88% of all domestic abuse incidents in Scotland occur at home. The Scottish Women’s Aid said in April that the pandemic would increase the opportunities for those who are already abusing to control and coerce the women and children they live with.

The Newcastle Integrated Domestic Abuse Service (NIDAS) is a charity that offers programmes for victims of domestic violence and workshops to educate about domestic abuse. NIDAS is collaborating with now-u for one of the app’s first campaigns.

Sabah Hussain, the charity’s safety support worker, said: “The collaboration with now-u will help to build our presence in the wider community and the specialist support services NIDAS offer. It will also help to raise awareness around domestic abuse and how the wider community can help and the actions [and] steps they can take.”

The app’s first campaigns will center around issues exasperated by the pandemic. These issues include helping refugees in camps who are at risk of catching coronavirus; water sanitation and hygiene because people who do not have access to clean water have a more difficult time staying healthy; and environmental issues.

Alexa Netty is the executive director of SolidariTee, a student-led charity aimed at assisting refugees. Netty said the group is delighted to partner with now-u as they continue to fight for change in the refugee crisis.

“Raising awareness of the refugee crisis is central to SolidariTee’s mission, and we aim to provide a route for everyone, especially students, to come together and make meaningful, lasting change. The work now-u are doing to coordinate campaigns and provide a centralised resource base really fits with our ethos, and we hope this platform will empower anyone interested in learning more about the refugee crisis or contributing themselves to be able to do so as impactfully as possible,” Netty said.

James said while now-u is accessible for activists who regularly volunteer, he hopes the app will inspire a new wave of people who have never participated in activism before because they did not know where to start.

“The aim of now-u is to get more people to volunteer and expose campaigns to new audiences,” James said.

The app is available to download on the App store and Google Play Store.


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