Bidding and fundraising app for people living with HIV

Brought to you by: Housing Works

Connect Learners, Find Jobs


Housing Works is a healing community of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Our mission is to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts.  We provide medical care, housing and job training to our clients. Most funding for these programs is received through grants, private and corporate donations and revenue from our 12 thrift shops, bookstore/event space, and our catering company.
We hold auctions for items of clothing and accessories in our store windows. Customers can bid for these items online to purchase. All purchases go toward funding our healing community.  Our auctions have evolved over the years – we used have computers in the store, but it caused a lot of maintenance issues and was phased out. Right now there is no way to bid on these auctions in-store. Right now a customer will see an item in the store, and then they have to go home to log into their computer to bid on it online. We want to let people bid via mobile and act on their impulse immediately. In the future, we see potential to integrate iPads in store for additional purchase power.  In store auctions are the most lucrative way we raise money to fund our various social services programs.

This will also help to broaden our customer base and visibility to reach a larger customer base of non New Yorkers via the ability to share with friends through social media platforms.

Our target audience includes current customers who are familiar with our auctions and two types of new customers; the ones who shop in our stores but haven’t bid on auctions and the ones who have never shopped with us because they’ve never heard of us. Although we’d like to reach everyone, 18-30 year old females are not a demo we’ve been successful in targeting and we’d like to change that.  They are interested in one of a kind or unique ‘finds’ which they shop for frequently. They care about self presentation as well as the presentation of their home. They are of various financial means and like to brag about a bargain or an expensive purchase. Ideally they prefer to shop second hand for the benefit of charity and the environment.

    • This application needs to be smartphone accessible and highly sharable via social media (facebook twitter).
    • Our preference would be for an html5 mobile app that can run on any platform, android, ipad, etc.
    • It would also be great if it could interface with our salesforce platform and php mysql database.
    • In the future, we would like to explore the possibility of integrating a purchasing option that would allow customers to both bid and purchase via their mobile device. This would need to integrate with paypal and google checkout.
Success =
  • Short term:
    • Hit revenue goals – currently the % that comes from mobile is low – we hope to grow that.
    • Increase in account creations/new customers that join via mobile
    • Increase active bidding on mobile
  • Mid term:
    • Grow % of income via mobile intake
    • More than 30% are using this new avenue of engagement
    • Growing customer base outside of the city
    • Annual review – track usage over time, new feature requests
  • Long term:
    • Fully integrated component of sales and engagement.
    • iPads up and running in all our stores to encourage in store bidding

User Story

Jada F. Creates Art that Heals

For the past four years, clients in Housing Works’ art therapy program have had the chance to share their art with a broader audience. This year’s exhibition, held at the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation in SoHo in late July, featured the work of at least 35 clients—and brought in the largest number of patrons thus far. Among the clients with work on display was Jada Fredericks, 29. Four years ago, when she came to Housing Works, she was homeless, HIV-positive, and hardened by the discrimination she’d experienced as a transgender woman. Housing Works became her rock: She signed up for our Transgender Transitional Housing Program, which gave her a place to live until she could find an apartment of her own. She enrolled in primary care and mental health services. She also started attending our creative art therapy program. In hard times, she said, art has been her most reliable companion. “I was going through a really, really rough time,” she said. “And I’ve found that art allows me to get out and explain my life in terms of why I am who I am without having to put everything into words.” She’s been an artist since she was six, when she began designing clothing for her sister’s Barbie dolls. For the client art show—her first—she designed a silky leopard-print dress and asked a friend to create a matching gold mask. The mannequin wearing it, she said, is also HIV-positive. “She and I collaborated and decided that HIV does not have us—we have HIV.”

Resources & Assets

We have a full time in-house web developer who has been working on the auctions platform for a number of years We also have 2 Full time in house designers All of our customer data and sales data are stored in the cloud with

Severe weather crowdmapping challenge


Severe weather crowdmapping challenge

Brought to you by: NYC Office of Emergency Management

Be Prepared, Engage in Community


In January 2011, the New York City Council passed legislation requiring New York City government to provide a platform for residents to share comments and photos about how snowstorms are affecting their neighborhoods. After a few iterations using free web tools like WordPress and Flickr (introduced during the busy 2010-11 snow season), OEM settled on Ushahidi’s Crowdmap to provide this service and launched the NYC Severe Weather Crowdmap ahead of Hurricane Irene in August 2011.

However, OEM recognizes the shortcomings of the current NYC Severe Weather Crowdmap and believes the New York City public would be better served with a more user-friendly crowdmapping solution. The ideal NYC Severe Weather Crowdmap would be more customizable and strongly encourage users to submit location information, photos, and an explanation of what they are experiencing or observing. A “drop pin”-type feature on a map would be optimal. The map would also be bounded to the five boroughs and offer reverse geo-coding so the map point a user selects generates an address or intersection that the user can verify. Other features of the ideal NYC Severe Weather Crowdmap would include: a profanity filter, a spam filter for special interest “bombs,” and the ability to categorize problems by type for better data analysis.


Established in 1996, the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) plans and prepares for emergencies, educates the public about preparedness, coordinates emergency response and recovery, and collects and disseminates emergency information. To accomplish this mission, OEM maintains a disciplined unit of emergency management personnel, including responders, planners, watch commanders, and administrative and support staff, to identify and respond to various hazards.

Target Audience

New York City public


Related Challenge:


Resources & Assets

OEM can offer expertise from its Geographic Information Systems staff for guidance and mapping options. OEM may also be able to provide a cloud space to host a successful crowdmapping solution.

Front office, back office bridge challenge for social services

Brought to you by: Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty

Bank the Unbanked, Engage in Community, Find Jobs, Improve Health


Met Council is a unique human services agency for the wide range of services we provide to needy people — crisis intervention, food, family violence services, career services, benefits enrollment, affordable housing, in-home services, home care, legal services, and much more. Regardless of clients’ entry points to the agency, social workers assess them for all their needs, providing them on-the-spot services or referring them to the appropriate department. All these services and clients must be tracked carefully in order to keep programming data-driven and high quality. In one of the most sophisticated data tracking tools in human services, Met Council’s back office breaks down all services provided by ZIP code, allowing us to break down service numbers by electoral district or neighborhood. This tool keeps us innovative; it allows us to recalibrate services according to levels of need across the city and submit high-quality reports for funders and elected officials.

Our front-line social workers need a platform to enter data in a way that is integrated with our back-office analysis workflow. The daily barrage of needy people, and limited resources, prevents social workers from taking extra time to input notes into data systems, sometimes resulting in data lapses and inaccuracies that take time to correct. Technologies exist to facilitate both social work services and back-office analysis separately (e.g., “smartpens” / voice-to-text for social workers; data-tracking software for the back office) — but there exists no platform to bridge the two components.

As a result, the entire field of social services suffers from a gap between the front line and the back office that limits our ability to give help to the people who need it most.


The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council) is the voice of the Jewish poor and the first line of defense for our community’s needy. We fight poverty through comprehensive social services and treat every individual with dignity and respect. Our grassroots Jewish Community Council network strengthens families and neighborhoods throughout New York City. Met Council is a community-based organization that serves all New Yorkers in need, regardless of religion, race, or background.

Met Council is the umbrella organization for 25 affiliated local Jewish Community Councils (JCCs), the front-line contact for people of all backgrounds who are vulnerable. Met Council helps 100,000 individuals find lasting solutions to complex problems each year.

Target Audience

Met Council is a community-based organization that serves all New Yorkers in need, regardless of religion, race, or background. Met Council’s services are especially targeted to communities whose unmet needs are not fully addressed by government and other social service agencies. Our clients include people in crisis, working-poor and near-poor families, low-income seniors, the homeless, immigrants, and the recently unemployed.

Appropriate Platforms

  • Voice to text to voice
  • SMS
  • Mobile


A platform to bridge client services/social work interviews with back-office data analysis would make the field of human services truly seamless. Met Council in particular could more easily track the types and levels of poverty needs around the city and make the appropriate adjustments, strengthening the safety net for our community’s most vulnerable.

User Story

Michael Mercado

As featured in The New York Times at : Michael Mercado, 20, has made a bargain with fate. He would finish school and find a good job working on cars if only, he says, “the cancer stays away.” He has battled an aggressive form of the disease that spread throughout his body, and the burden has been mostly his alone to bear. Both of his parents died after fighting their own illnesses. The only family he has now, he said, is a 15-year-old German shepherd mix named Munchkin. He had enrolled at Lincoln Technical Institute in Queens to study to become an auto mechanic. But one day, he suddenly could not eat or hold down food. X-rays revealed he had testicular germ-cell cancer that had metastasized in his stomach and lungs. His mother had worked as an administrative assistant until she got sick, but by the time she died, most of the family’s savings had dried up. Mr. Mercado said he spent what remained on her funeral, but struggled to pay the maintenance fee for the apartment. Met Council provided Mr. Mercado emergency financial assistance to pay his apartment’s maintenance. To help cover his $34,000 tuition, Mr. Mercado got a $24,000 school loan. He was uncertain where the remaining $10,000 will come from, until Met Council’s publicity and advocacy got his college to waive all outstanding tuition. Met Council helps tens of thousands of people in crisis just like Mr. Mercado every year.

Resources & Assets

We run one of the most sophisticated data analysis offices in social services, but it remains unintegrated with front-line social workers. We have data-tracking software and expert analysts who can work with developers. Our entire team — managers and social workers alike — is committed to creating a more seamless system for helping the needy.

Connecting NYC youth to support and opportunities



Connecting NYC Youth to Supports and Opportunities:
New York City has a wealth of resources and opportunities that are underutilized. Youth from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods often share that they never travel beyond a few blocks from where they live, resulting in them missing out on the numerous supports and opportunities available in their boroughs and across the city.


There are many sources of information about these resources; however, there is no one easy way for youth to access this information. DYCD operates the Youth Connect hotline, which receives over 50,000 calls each year from youth interested in accessing services. In addition, DYCD has thousands of followers on social media. DYCD and youth-serving agencies also have partnerships that could benefit youth, such as colleges and businesses that offer youth discounts. A technology solution is needed to combine these information sources in one system that youth and families can access across NYC.

Specifically, features might include:
(1) Youth Profiles: Youth save a personal profile to allow them to sign up for opportunities, get targeted texts, emails, discounts (based on neighborhood, interests, age, etc.)
(2) Youth Connect: Integrate the Youth Connect database
(3) Business Discounts
(4) Link to Neighborhood Map
(5) Link to Calendar Function
(6)Government Agencies, Nonprofits, Businesses can update it themselves
(7) Youth Can Report a Problem


The Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) was created in 1996 to provide the City of New York with high-quality youth and family programming. DYCD supports New York City youth and their families by funding a wide range of high-quality youth and community development programs. As the designated Community Action Agency for New York City, DYCD also supports a wide variety of programs that address the conditions of poverty.

DYCD is committed to building and expanding on partnerships that generate innovative and practical programs for youth, their families and communities. Over the past year, for the fourth time, DYCD was selected by the America’s Promise Alliance and ING as one of the country’s 100 Best Communities for Young People. The award is an acknowledgement of the tremendous work of this agency and its partners to cultivate research-based, quality programs to engage young people and put them on a path to success.

Target Audience

NYC Youth – DYCD serves a diverse population of youth, from elementary school programs through early adulthood, up to 24 years old. In many programs, DYCD targets neighborhoods with high poverty rates and significant numbers of youth who did not complete high school or are unemployed. The primary audience for the technology tool is youth, age 10 through 24. According to the 2000 Census, the total number of youth in this age group in NYC was 1,641,288.

Appropriate Platforms

  • SMS
  • Mobile App
  • Social App


Ways to measure success might include: A large percent of youth in community programs with profiles in the system; an increase in the number of youth accessing multiple services and opportunities; regular updates from nonprofits to the technology tool calendar or list of resources; and more frequent communication with youth using the tool.

Resources & Assets

DYCD’s network is vast—with hundreds of service providers that partner with the agency and over 200,000 youth served each year, there is the potential for mass distribution and use of the technology tool. DYCD already has strong communications systems in place to promote use of the tool through multiple channels, with thousands of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and YouTube fans/followers. DYCD also hosts many large events throughout the year. Finally, DYCD has IT staff who would be able to support use of the tool after it has been developed and implemented.

CERT members social network app

Solutions: Bring your ideas to life


In response to the CERT- Disaster first responders network challenge, we believe that CERT members who are trained to be first responders throughout the country would benefit from having a way to voluntarily connect and know of each other’s skills and location during a disaster.  Locator technology exists on smart phones today.  There is currently a CERT app available. Its only real function is to direct to a website.

A new or existing CERT app could be developed that allows CERT members to opt-in to sharing their own location and a basic profile with other CERT members. This app would be able to recall the last known location of members who opt in. In addition it could maintain basic profile information about the members like expertise and professional background of the members. Currently CERT trainings are administered by the Department of Homeland security. Member data is not shared and trained responders do not generally have a way to find each other except during trainings or events. The challenge is to create a simple, fun to use application that could be presented as a voluntary component of becoming a CERT.

Other emergency locator apps or disaster apps would naturally follow and could comprise a suite of solutions designed to help citizens in a disaster. Currently there are some related applications out there, though none that put people in touch with each other.

CERT app textbook with details on what to do in case of emergency

Emergency Response deployment planner on Android



  1. Avina Ramnani says:

    I attended CERT training recently, and I was really excited to hear about this app. It would go a long way in keeping everyone who can help in case of an emergency in the loop. It would also save precious time that could make all the difference in critical situations. I think the CERT members social network app is a splendid idea that will be tremendously successful!

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  2. Arthur Grau IV says:

    Any features you would find essential, or nice to have?

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    • AFraser says:


      The most important feature is to be able to locate other CERT responders when an emergency occurs, so you can form a team and get to work.

      Beyond that, the ability to identify the location of a team on the application map would be helpful (recommend using Google Earth). That way CERT managers can keep track of where teams are working. And if the team needs help or stops responding, the manager knows where they were last located.

      The ability for teams to text each other would be another important feature. They could exchange information about what area their covering, what resources they have available and what help they need. This would be a terrific tool for calling for more resources, such as an ambulance, etc., without tying up 911 or other resources.

      Arthur, as a CERT instructor and an experienced SAR leader, I can think of dozens of important features that this application could address. Many of them could literally save lives. But before we get into all of that, we’ve got the base application going. So I want to thank you for take up this effort and representing it before the challenge committee.

      You know this may be one of those situations where you look back some day and realize that you helped save people’s lives. You’ll probably never know who they where, but you can feel good about the fact that you helped get this application off the ground and because of it, some people are still alive.

      Best regards,
      Alex Fraser

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  3. AnnetteM says:

    I’d like to see a feature where the application stores a snapshot of the location of CERT members on the mobile device. For example, the app periodically stores your current location and the current location of other CERT members in a 1/2 mile radius on your mobile device. If an earthquake occurs and the cell network goes down, you have something to work with.

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  4. AnnetteM says:

    Another feature I’d like to see is a ‘Disaster Mode’ where the mobile device sends a locator signal to help Search and Rescue find people who may be injured, unconscious or trapped. The mobile device is instructed to enter this mode when a disaster/emergency alert is broadcast in the local area. This would be similar to the Emergency Broadcast System, but for mobile devices. (FYI, this technology and protocol has already been developed by FEMA and is in use today). The app places the mobile device in a low-power mode to save battery. Every so often the app puts the device into normal mode, sends out a special locator signal and puts the mobile device back into low-power mode. Cell towers then collect the information and report locations to local authorities. If you’re not injured, unconscious or trapped, you can manually send an ‘I’m OK’ message and the app will take your mobile device out of Disaster Mode. If you don’t send an ‘I’m OK’ message, the app will continue to periodically send the locator signal.

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  5. AnnetteM says:

    Adding comments on behalf of Colin T. – CERT Instructor in the south San Francisco Bay Area

    “Some of the features I’d like to see are:

    1. Like you suggested having the snapshot would be useful. I’m scratching my head regarding the what-if scenarios like having five CERT members in one area and all five decide to move to another CERT and miss each other. I suppose there would be a software fix for this and would leave that challenge alone until the project is okayed.

    2. Privacy. I don’t want other CERTs seeing where I am unless I permit that feature. A simple on/off switch would fix this.

    3. Profile. It would be helpful to have a profile that would be visible once a person turned on their CERT app.

    4. Texting between CERTs and ? After a disaster we can assume the phone system is going to be shut down and perhaps only texting will be available. Is there some way to enable simple app to app texting (separate from ordinary texting) from within the app?

    5. Disaster Updates/Instructions. CERTs might receive instructions via this app from their home CERT or from the CERT jurisdiction in which they find themselves in the post disaster environment.

    6. Resource Mapping. Is there a CERT ARK or resource building located near to the CERT member? Are the local Fire Stations points to gravitate towards after a disaster? This kind of information (deleted unless it is updated or confirmed every six months) would be useful to CERT members.

    7. Radio Frequencies. First note all local FRS and/or HAM radio frequencies that would be used by CERT and/or ARES/RACES so CERTs could tune into the right frequency if they have their two way radios with them. Then note all other frequencies of first responders so CERT members can listen in on what is happening (if they have the right equipment).”

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  6. AFraser says:

    I’ve been teaching CERT classes for five years and have trained more than 450 students. One of the concerns that always come up is how are CERT trained responders going to find other CERT responders when a disaster occurs, so they can form a team. Until now, there’s never been a good answer and it’s been one of the real weakness in the CERT program.

    This smart phone application is the first real answer to that problem. It allows CERT responders to identify themselves and let other responders know where they’re at when a disaster occurs. They can then get together, form a team and begin helping those in need. This not only makes for a much better CERT responce, but it also helps ensure the safety of the responders because they’ll be working with other trained CERT responders.

    I see this application as an essential tool the CERT Program and I think the Department of Homeland Security should own the app and make it avaliable to all CERT programs in the US.

CERT- Disaster first responders network challenge



When a major disaster occurs, citizen responders need to begin to make decisions and take action immediately.  Having instant access with other similarly–trained individuals can reduce time spent in organizing teams and improve the quality of the acute response.  However, it is currently not possible to locate nearby CERT members.

The Situation:

Natural and man-made disasters occur frequently.  Wild fires, earthquakes, and severe weather (for example, hurricanes and associated flooding) cause injuries and death, disrupt normal services and displace hundreds each year. In large cities like San Jose, California there are over a million residents and less than 700 police, fire fighters and emergency medical personnel. According to the Persuadable Research Blog, more than 50% of Americans have less food and basic staples than would last more than a week in a disaster situation.


In a major disaster, regular citizens will have to help each other to survive until emergency and other services like utilities and phones become available again.  FEMA recognized this need and started theCERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program.  The program develops ‘citizen first-responders’ who step up to manage the situation for the hours or days it might take for professional first-responders to arrive.  Citizens first learn how to prepare for disasterand in the event of a disaster they also learn how to respond.  Training includes learning to recognize hazards and keep small problems from becoming large problems.  CERT members also learn to perform triage, conduct light search and rescue and provide basic First Aid and CPR.

The challenge is to create a simple, fun to use application that could be presented as a voluntary component of becoming a CERT.

Visit our suggested solution idea to comment or help:


Resources & Assets

Because CERT is a FEMA program, federal funds may be available for development.

What’s Still Needed

Application developers, designers, social network plug ins, a CERT organization willing to pilot.

University students local text book exchange challenge


Brought to you by: CUNY Institute for Software Design and Development


USA Today (2012) reports a 15% rise in the average cost of a 4-year college education, with increases as high as 40% in states like California and Georgia. Such statistics fuel the growing sense that a college is moving beyond the financial reach of many American families. Textbooks are the largest burden in this equation after tuition. The College Board estimates that texts for full-time students average $898 per year, which at institutions such as SUNY and CUNY (the 2nd and 3rd largest university systems in the US) equates to nearly 17% of tuition.

The textbook system is flawed. Faculty select books after heavy marketing from publishers; bookstores sell them at a profit; and students bear the brunt. No better is the problem articulated than from Steve S. in his reply to the USA Today article. Steve writes: ‘Why do textbooks cost $150+ each? Why are new versions released yearly for subjects like algebra that don’t change? Who benefits?’

While advances in digital publishing, innovative pricing models, and used books (from booksellers) offer some relief, the savings is marginal. We believe that a student-to-student exchange (which can include low-cost reselling between students) reduces the total number of books to be purchased, eliminates add-on costs imposed by middle men, and lowers the overall costs of textbooks. Peer-to-peer exchanges are now common place, and there success bodes well for the success of this project. The project can be copied in other urban areas.


The CUNY Institute for Software Design and Development promotes economic development in New York City and encourages the growth of the New York software industry. Specifically, CISDD pairs CUNY’s experienced faculty members with software industry professionals and governmental institutions to sponsor and develop the research and creation of new and marketable software technologies, provides specialized professional development courses, creates job opportunities and continues to build CUNY’s reputation as a software center in New York.

Our group, a combination of faculty and student researchers, works on projects in mathematics and algorithms, imaging and visualization, networking and telecommunications, software architecture, computer security, and systems design.

Target Audience

We focus on students from New York City’s 250 colleges and universities. While the Internet allows exchange on a national level, a local emphasis is logistically viable, faster, and cheaper. Students attending the same school can make swaps on campus as they do in traditional posts to a bulletin board. However, through our app, students from different local colleges can participate in the exchange making more book titles available to a greater network of people. More effective and efficient!

Success =

We would consider the project a success if after 18 months, one thousand (1,000) books per semester were exchanged through our site. This would represent an estimating savings of $35,000 for New York City students. This is a beginning. The model could be reproduced in urban centers across the US. While the total dollar amount might seem small, it is a relatively big number given the target audience.

User Story

Students share their story

By Amit and Milan College tuition expense is a major burden for many students like us. It takes up 50 to75% of our earnings without financial aid, as college students generally work full time at local stores for minimum wage. We also rely on our savings to purchase the usual $300 – $400 per semester textbooks. Though it may sound like only couple of hundred dollars to many working professionals, it is a tough to sustain these costs semester after semester for four years. Many of us resell our texts (some of which we should be keeping) and then we buy used books to help take off some of the pressure; but it’s not enough. We all believe that our time and dollars are investments for the future: for ourselves, our families, and our communities. Indeed, many of us are the first in our families to attend university. However, for many of our friends the total cost of college is either unaffordable or so limiting that they take only one or two classes each term and often just give up and drop out. Each little bit that can be done to reduce the cost of college will help. It may be the difference, for some of us, on whether we graduate or not.

Resources & Assets

Our team has already developed a prototype site with very limited functionality. In addition, we are in the process of creating a wireframe model of the expanded application. Our group includes programmers who are fluent in HTML and CSS. To recognize the full potential of our app, we need additional expertise in web and mobile programming (iPhone and Android) as well as database development. Lastly, assistance in design and usability would strengthen the final product.