The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Nov 29, 2012

Philly project puts youth at center of software design

Posted by Donna Frisby-Greenwood

Philadelphia has a growing software development community. Unfortunately, the blacks and Latinos who make up 50 percent of city’s population have very little stake in it. 

So recently, Youngjin Yoo, a professor at Temple University working on an Urban Apps and Maps Studio, approached Knight Foundation with an idea: to use the studio as a place where digitally-native youth from underserved communities - themselves heavy tech and media consumers - can work alongside developers, business people, and designers and create apps that address urban issues.

The result is new Knight funding that will bring 300 high school and college age youth to Temple over the next three summers for a six-week program. Classes will offer training in design innovation, digital mapping, digital storytelling, and applications development. About a dozen will then become year-round community fellows working with the university to create apps that solve urban challenges. 

Putting these young Philadelphians at the center of the design process we hope will help ensure that the apps reflect the needs of the communities they seek to serve. 

The program also fits in with Knight’s focus to engage the talented millennials who are building the future Philly, and to ensure digital access and inclusion for all as a way to move Philadelphia toward a knowledge-based economy.

So far, the Urban Apps and Maps Design Studios have produced apps for urban farming, improving health care and using games as a way to educate youth about personal finance. I’m excited to see what happens when more young adults bring their ideas and enthusiasm to the table.

By Donna Frisby-Greenwood, program director/Philadelphia at Knight Foundation

Related: "Grant to educate Phila. youth in art of app making" from the Philadelphia Business Journal.

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