Take action with Tearfund and Nudge

Nudge is a new iOS app from Christian charity Tearfund. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, but presently only in the United Kingdom due to its focus on contacting members of the U.K. government to take action on various issues.

Nudge is an app designed to raise awareness of pertinent social issues ranging from global warming to charitable relief efforts, and which allows users to quickly and easily “take action” on these issues by contacting the relevant people in local or national government.

Upon opening the app, the user is presented with a list of current issues. Tapping on one reveals the full details of the issue along with how many other people have “taken action” through the app. Tapping the “Nudge” button beneath the details of the issue brings up a pre-composed email designed to be personalized and sent to the appropriate member of local or national government. The first time the user does this, they must enter their personal details, including their name, email address, U.K. postcode and address, which is calculated using the postcode. The postcode and address are used to determine exactly who the “Nudge” email should be sent to, as users in different locations around the country will have different people to contact. The postcode finder was a little unreliable at the time of testing, occasionally complaining of being unable to reach the Nudge servers. Closing the app completely from the iOS multitasking bar and restarting it resolved this issue, but judging from App Store reviewer comments, this is not an isolated incident.

The email messages sent to relevant people regarding each issue are all professionally composed and suitable for sending as-is, but the app encourages users to modify the messages as they desire in order to have a more “personal” impact. There is no requirement for them to do this, however, meaning that the message can simply be sent immediately if the user simply desires to feel like they have done something without having to make any real effort — in essence, a form of “slacktivism.” The image of this being a particularly good app for slacktivists is further perpetuated by the fact that following the successful sending of a Nudge email, it becomes possible to share the news of the user’s “contribution” to the cause via Facebook and Twitter.

The intent behind Nudge is good, but the execution is perhaps questionable. Barrages of status updates on social networks designed to “raise awareness” through minimal effort are often met with cynicism these days, and while Nudge’s use of pre-composed letters to people who can actually make a difference to some of these issues is a little better than friends spamming each other with the reason they’ve changed their Facebook avatar that day, it’s still an app clearly designed to get people to feel like they are engaging with important issues without requiring that they do anything more complicated than tap a couple of buttons on their phone. It’ll be interesting to see if it develops over time — or indeed if other charities attempt to use a similar system.

You can follow Nudge’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social games and developers.

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