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Depaul UK’s iHobo app sets a new standard

Charity iPhone apps have until now been like buses: you wait ages, then two come at once. Last week saw the launches of “iHobo” from homelessness charity Depaul UK, and Marie Curie Cancer Care’s “Blooming Great Tea Party”.

iHobo, as you may have read, is an “interactive video embedded experiential” application, where iPhone users take responsibility for a virtual homeless young man’s survival as he guides us through his daily struggle.

It’s provoking outrage. “These are real people, not f***ing Tamagotchi,” said one irate commentator on advertising industry website Brand Republic last week; “shameful” and “patronising”, tutted another.

Marie Curie, meanwhile, has opted for a gentler approach to support next month’s Blooming Great Tea Party fundraising campaign. Its app does nothing more controversial than let users decide who is making the next round of tea (users enter names, photographs and milk-and-sugar options, then spin a wheel).

So which approach is right? Marie Curie’s is a good app, but Depaul UK’s “Tamagotchi” sets a new standard. Getting users to make life-or-death decisions confronts them with the brutality of life for homeless people. And an effective way to influence elusive young donors is to understand how they experience and understand the world. If they do so through interactive games, then it’s right to risk trying the format.

And it appears the risk is paying off: iHobo has attracted praise in the national press. What’s more, it has started to raise money through its text-to-donate’ prompt at the end of the game. Almost £2,000 is the total so far. Not a huge amount, but as the charity points out, not bad for the early days of a cold fundraising campaign.

  • Carl Allen

    Reform the House of Lords, with the sector in it by an election process.

    • Paul Barasi

      Carl, even though you were the only elected board member of Compact Voice in 16 years, I must disagree with you on this.

      The House of Lords is part of the legislature – an organ of the state – from which the sector should be independent. Having Lords in modern Britain is elitist and anachronistic anyway. Those still committed to democracy should insist on a fully elected senate (with each senator accountable to constituents like for the other chamber). But I’m losing confidence in British democracy anyway: in MPs who restrict their representational role and won’t help their constituents in campaigning for good causes by facilitating access to government. If we are going to have anachronisms, then I’m not sure I’d object to such MPs being sent to the Tower.

      In the 4th June piece on this site headed ‘Interview: Gareth Thomas’ he says the Charity Commission “needs to demonstrate that it is a champion for charities” – surely absurd as it can’t and won’t play this role. But then, who can? Something needs to be done to counteract the far too prevalent dictatorial practice of charities lining up chairs/fixing board membership, not least those who go on to somehow represent the sector nationally; and also as a counter weight to AGMs where a slate of trustees is pushed through or whose appointment is simply announced as part of being the Company.

      The suggestion made here by Richard of an elected representative, or maybe rather an elected sector champion, should certainly be tried.

  • Wally Harbert

    Before we can have a leader who speaks for the voluntary and community sector we have to decide why the sector exists. Is it to hoover-up as many government contracts as possible, to provide a voice for the voiceless, save public money, fill gaps in statutory provision or enhance community life?

    The leader at any one time is he or she who shouts the loudest in this Tower of Babel.That is the sector’s strength and weakness. Does the sector need a single voice – or is that just to ape the corporate sector?

  • Ivor Sutton

    I do wonder that when the Country continues to pose uncertainty to many employers – whether it be in the third or private sectors, what positive influence is the House of Lords making – given that the Work Programme is still failing even the most proactive job seekers and employers continue to be uncertain.

    In my view, the only voice that is loud and continuous is the one that ‘lacks reason’ amid our Parliamentarians. For me, this is a true failing.

    I am not too sure whether the House of Lords needs to exist, but under a new form of legislation, or whether it should just simply be withdrawn from use – as I am not sure of what it actually does to influence a fair and Just impact of government policy.

    For me, the Work Programme is the most biggest and single challenge in Parliament that fails to be addressed by the Labour opposition or by the news media. I would expect that given the height of unemployment, and the desperate need to ‘bridge the gap’ between job seekers and employers, for the sake of social mobility and economic growth, why does this area still go unchallenged to question its viability?