2019 was the first year that Sync the City introduced a charity challenge into their event.

The Charity Challenge was simple. Local charities were invited to submit a concept, which could be solved by technology. The 54-hour hackathon event brings together budding entrepreneurs with experienced business mentors and technology experts to turn ideas into start-ups, with a cash prize at the end. The charity challenge had to be sponsored, which was kindly supported from Andy Almond and his team at Langham Recruitment.

Both Charlene Girling, Head of Youth Services and Angela Brett, Development Manager took part in the event and joined a team of experts, who included local tech-based organisations such as Rainbird, Foolproof, Eartware and Naked Element.  We all worked together over an intense 54 hours to come up with a tech-based solution to the challenge set.

On day one, OPEN Youth Trust submitted the idea.  To find a solution of how to help young people access the support, advice and any help they may need at any time and in a simple way. Specifically if they find themselves in a crisis and needed support or to help a friend, in a safe and confidential way.   We know, as a local youth-based charity, there are lots of service providers out there, the challenge is for those in need, is that it is confusing knowing how and who to reach out to. This could be relating to any subject - housing, bullying, safety, support, wellbeing, mental health, money, school. The list is endless. As we know, there is no central portal in Norwich, where young people can go to access information either for professional or voluntary services. Not all young people have opportunities to engage with trusted adults, but most engage with their mobile device. By building a central for portal young people and those supporting them, would give them access to all services, make better choices and hopefully improve their lives.

If you have never experienced Sync the City yourselves, or know anyone first-hand, it was an amazing experience, spot on for self-development and learning more about how ideas from start-ups can become a reality with the right team in place.  I would recommend it 100%.  Sync has been running since 2014, the organisers, John Fagan and Sean Clarke have done an amazing job making this bigger every year.  We thank them for their continued support in choosing OPEN as their venue.

By day two, we had a name,  Signpost. With a simple message; “Right pathway, Right support”.  It is an informal, compassionate and discreet chat bot, whereby you can log in anonymously, the chat bot will then guide the user to service they need on their terms.

At the end of day three, we were invited on stage to present the final product to all participants and the judges.  This is where the magic happened,  John Fagan came on to stage at the end and asked for commitment of local individuals, the people in the room, who would be prepared to make Signpost a real product and launch it.  18 local developers and designers joined John onstage for his "commitment shot".  So, from here, watch this space for more news about how we are making Signpost a reality…

 To know more about Sync the City, here my pitch and promo of this years event. I would encourage you all to get involved in future...

Blog by Angela Brett, Development Manager