Amber Pope came to the University of California, Santa Cruz wanting to be an accountant but soon realized that her Economics major wasn’t adding up. Looking for summer opportunities in line with her switch to Sociology, Pope applied to BAVC Media’s Bridges Fellowship on the recommendation of one of her professors. “My goal was to mix business with social issues, something like social innovation,” she explains.
The Bridges Fellowship fosters entrepreneurial skills for young adult participants while encouraging them to pursue self-directed projects with a social justice focus. “That’s where I found common ground with the rest of my cohort,” reflects Pope. In addition to a supportive, socially conscious peer group, Bridges also gave Pope and other participants the chance to visit companies such as LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Google (“It felt good to just sit at the table,” she says), where they spoke with employees and other industry professionals about the challenges and possibilities of a career in tech.
When it came time to develop her own project, Pope wanted to address a serious issue that has received renewed national attention – racialized police profiling – but in a way that was accessible and unexpected. Initially, she organized a stand-up comedy show on the UCSC campus but changed course due to scheduling conflicts. Back at square one and with only three weeks left in the Fellowship, Pope returned to an earlier idea: an app with a social justice focus.
Using a simple app building program and driven by her newfound passion for social justice, Pope started developing Law Buddy.
Law Buddy will use many of the inbuilt features of a smartphone to provide instant assistance and outreach to emergency contacts when a user has been stopped by the police. From reminding users of their Miranda rights to ensuring that their personal networks are aware of what is happening, Law Buddy will provide users with clear access to their rights, information, and basic instructions during a very stressful moment.
“I want this to become a resource for a variety of reasons,” says Pope, who hopes to continue developing the app through some of the contacts she made as a Fellow. Pope also cites the Fellowship as having given her the confidence to apply to graduate school.
For Pope, an app isn’t just a convenience or a novelty but, potentially, a life-saving tool. But putting the entrepreneurial skills she developed through BAVC Media to work for a greater good — that’s real innovation. “My grandma was telling me to trust my inner self and this was the first time that really made sense to me,” Pope says.
Update from Amber:
“I entered my project for the Bay Area Inspire Awards in November and was a finalist. I did not win because there was not a way for my app to sustain it’s self. Since, I’m a senior I had to put Law Buddy on hold for the moment but I enrolled in an app development course on Udemy to teach myself programming during my free time. The fellowship inspired me to pursue social innovation so I joined the Everette Program on my campus which focuses on social entrepreneurship and technology. Through the program I joined a Nigerian start-up. We are trying to develop a mobile app for finances and an organization to teach business development in Lagos, Nigeria. We are currently in the project design phase but hope to submit our proposal for funding in May/June. Hopefully, the knowledge and experience I learn can be applied to my original project during my time at BAVC Media. I will definitely keep you updated.”
BAVC Media’s 2016 Bridges Fellowship focuses on Young Women’s Leadership. Applications open Tuesday, February 2, 2016.
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