Five ways apps are contributing to social purpose

The app market is booming. Recent predictions from AppAnnie claim the industry will double in size by 2020, as it soars to a market revenue of $101 billion. While the ocean of apps provides games for us to play and new media platforms or mediums to organise our lives, it can also provide mobile ways to generate positive social impact, something that could improve brands’ and charities’ purposeful activities. Here are five key ways:

Collective action

When people come together, they are able to achieve things no one could as individuals. This is not a revolutionary idea. But technology is enabling more and more ways for people to combine their resources. Crowdfunding has bubbled over from the internet into mobile apps. The Kickstarter platform has an established app, as have more recent platforms, such as GoFundMe. These crowdfunding projects increase the reach and power of community and grass roots projects. Crowdfunding also provides a level of authenticity to projects by demonstrating genuine personal interest and support from others.

Other examples of collective action are carpooling apps, such as Bla Bla CarPool My Ride or Waze and car sharing apps, like Zipcar. By making it possible for people who have never met to share long distance journeys or own a car together, these apps go a long way to reducing the carbon footprint of their users. Plus, you get to meet new people along the way.

Fun fundraising

There seem to be endless ways to go about this, all suiting different interests. Some use event promotion, others use photography, or sport. Charity Miles, for example, donates money to a chosen charity every time its users run, walk or cycle a mile. After exercise, we get hungry; Share the Meal enables us to share our food by donating as little as $0.50 to provide a meal for a child in the Za’atari refugee camp in North Jordan. By showing how many meals your friends have shared, it encourages donations. Major charities are following the trend; Oxfam has recently released its own app, which enables donors to have a more personal and flexible donation set up, in their pocket. And that is the beauty of these apps: by enabling users to give on-the-go, they don’t have to wait before they can donate and risk the emotion dissipating. Users can give, anytime, anywhere.


Innovation is crucial to bringing about positive social and environmental change. Two apps that nail directly having a positive impact are Ecosia and Respect Yourself. The former is a mobile friendly browser that gives 80% of its profit to tree planting programmes, promising that with every online search, a tree will be planted. At the time of writing, 8,005,274 trees have been planted. The latter is a mental and sexual health app from the UK charity, Respect Yourself. All content has been directly requested by young people and collated to enable them to take control of their mental and sexual wellbeing.

Consumer ease

As consumers begin to seek out and pay more for brands that are trying to change the world for the better or promise ethical and environmental production processes, it grows increasingly confusing how to discern the genuine claims from the unsubstantiated. Apps like the Good Guide and Avoid take consumers to trusted brands without them having to do the research, making ethical shopping quicker and easier.

Apps have also been making it easier for us to track our impact on the environment, and in some cases, save money at the same time. The British Gas app monitors consumer’s gas and electricity usage. Commute Greener tracks the greenhouse gas emissions from users’ journeys and offers greener options, while Greenmeter tracks the efficiency of the user’s driving. Finally, Oroeco measures users’ daily carbon footprint.


Whether delivered emotionally or concretely, information and awareness are critical to influencing cultural norms, inspiring positive action, and building authentic social purpose, like Tom’s shoes impact page. Myriad news media apps have made information increasingly easy to access. But apps now exist for specific issues; Pollution measures the quality of the air at that very moment in time; #Climate provides up-to-date feeds on environmental issues with an accompanying call to action. And Skeptical Science is a library of facts, stats and arguments that debunk the claims of climate change deniers.

These apps harness the vibrant cultural desire and expectation for exciting new thinking that tech innovation has conjured. This provides an opportunity for brands to build a real and recognisable piece of purposeful action. Whether an app brings together consumers for social good or raises awareness, there is a clear space to bring together this growing market of mobile apps and the rising demand for ethical and sustainable purpose.