February 5, 2016 Joe Newlin

Nonprofit App Development: 10 Things We Learned from the ACLU

Do you like mobile? Do you like justice? Do you like awkward, inscrutable queries? Then follow me to nonprofit app development paradise, my friend.

As a co-organizer of the LA Tech for Good meetup, I was privileged to hear all about the development process behind the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app. ¬†We were particularly interested in the lessons for other nonprofits that could be applied to their digital aspirations. Here’s the write-up we sent to the poor souls who missed out on the event. In the interest of radical transparency, I left a typo in.

We here at LA Tech for Good tend to geek out on technical details, so we thought you’d also be into these ten details about the development of ACLU’s Mobile Justice app that we learned at the last LA Tech for Good meetup.Also, RSVP right now for the March 9 social shindig soiree get-together at Angel City Brewing, so you remember to be one of the first 20 arrivals & get a free beer!

Back to the wrap-up of the very informative and quite exciting presentation on January 13. Many thanks to Marcus Benigno, new media strategist at the ACLU of Southern California.

Warning: this is going to give you some serious FOMO for the upcoming meetups.

  • The ACLU of Southern California produced this video for $100 (two zeros!).
  • But setting up the back end, including data storage (see, you have to think about this kind of stuff when you create an app) cost $12,000 (three zeros!)
  • ACLU had to create different versions of the Mobile Justice app state-by-state, because the laws governing observation & recording of police activity vary state-by-state.
  • ACLU straight-up cold-called celebrities & other social media influencers to get them on board with promoting the app, and partly because of that…
  • They got 13,000,000 (six zeros!) Thunderclap impressions.
  • They jettisoned a Gmail-based reporting system because of privacy concerns, but…
  • Further development of the app will be funded by a Google grant.
  • You can do only two things with the app: learn about your rights, and exercise your rights. You can’t even donate to the organization.
  • Some of their outreach & publicity successes followed unfortunate events. Events in Ferguson and Baltimore, especially the smashing of a witness’ phone, provoked more interest in the app.
  • Next step: into the stream. There’s currently a 3-minute lag time for uploads, but they plan to implement streaming soon.

We look forward to seeing you March 9 at Angel City Brewing!

silly gif

Okay, so that last part, about the March 9 meetup, is not germane to the subject of nonprofit app development and is pretty much a transparent excuse to include the gif from the original email.

Anyway, you can come to that too.