Building an online community for young people around the world

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Global Nomads Group had a problem. The nonprofit connects students around the world to promote empathy, understanding and action. He was in the process of introducing a new program, Seat at the Table, where young people could connect to discuss everything from homework to world hunger.

The problem was that Global Nomads used Zoom and, as workers around the world can attest, the app had limitations when it came to scheduling across multiple time zones, enrolling students from different countries, and ensuring access. at meetings. Beyond that, Global Nomads did not have the staff to increase the number of sessions in Zoom.

Global Nomads needed to find a technology tool that suited the tech-savvy students using it, while providing the bandwidth needed for program growth and the automation needed to make the most of its limited workforce. . In short, it needed skilled programmers to create an app that could connect the world, at an affordable price.

Brainstorming a dream app

Megan Shen didn’t know it yet, but she was going to be part of the solution. The 20-year-old, a computer science student at the University of Maryland, had recently learned of a hackathon organized by JPMorgan Chase called Code for Good. Held in Jersey City, New Jersey in September 2019, Code for Good had a simple premise: bring together many tech enthusiasts for 24 hours and let them pitch ideas to help nonprofits.

And so Shen found herself in a giant room with three nonprofits and about 300 other coders, including several JPMorgan Chase engineers. “The atmosphere in the room was really exciting,” she recalls. “After meeting our teams, each team sat down at a round table in a large room with all the teams, and it was so invigorating to work alongside each other.”

Shen’s mission? To help out a nonprofit that seemed really cool, but she had never heard of: Global Nomads Group.

There was pizza and soda – and LOTS of caffeine – with beds set up for anyone who succumbed to sleep. Above all, there was coding and conversation, as a group of strangers dedicated to helping others became a team. After the experiment was completed, Shen felt very satisfied with the experience, especially its proposal that students could click on a country’s flag to get in touch with someone from that country. And, after graduating from college, she applied to work full-time for JPMorgan Chase, where she is now a software engineer.

Make a dream come true

While the hackathon was over after just 24 hours, work on Global Nomad’s app was just beginning. Code for Good, the JPMorgan Chase group that organized the hackathon, had generated a bunch of recommendations. It now fell to Force for Good, a group of dedicated programmers and engineers at JPMorgan Chase, to bring the ideas of the student coders to life.

Hasnain Aziz, Executive Director of JPMorgan Chase, has volunteered to lead the 12-member Force for Good team responsible for turning ideas from the hackathon into a fully functional and sustainable application for Global Nomads Group. The project lasted eight months, says Aziz. Coders started by dedicating part of their regular work week to it, which is standard procedure for Force for Good programs. However, as they progressed, they also began to work in their spare time, between regular work and, often, evenings or weekends. In other words, it became a labor of love.

“It was a joyful experience,” recalls Aziz. “And it was a lot of fun playing with tech tools that we might not be able to play with at work.”

There were a lot of interesting wrinkles to iron out. For example, Global Nomads wanted to expand their user base from teenagers to young adults up to age 25, as they found that students were also keen to reach young people around the world.

But with this age range, Global Nomads needed to configure the app for people of the same age to talk to each other, as opposed to a 15 and 25 year old chat. The nonprofit also wanted other security features, including automatic recording of all video chats and engagement features like chat prompts that appear during chats. Making that happen was the job of the Force for Good team.

Christine Goussous, regional director of Global Nomads in Jordan, estimates that the work provided by JPMorgan Chase likely saved the nonprofit $80,000 to $120,000. More importantly, improved technology has allowed more students to enroll. And, in turn, the increase in the user base has enabled Global Nomads Group to attract more financial partners.

Since the app went live, Goussous says, teens and young adults around the world have taken advantage of it, just as everyone hoped. In the words of a teenage user from Tanzania, “Seat at the Table is the perfect platform to connect with teenagers around the world, share different experiences and the bright ideas that are bubbling in our minds.”

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