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Ford partners with Detroit Mercy to create a better world

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August 03, 2017
GoodTurn team

Thanks to a unique partnership with University of Detroit Mercy, nonprofit organizations that partner with Ford Motor Company volunteers have a new way of connecting those groups with willing workers.

GoodTurn LogoDetroit Mercy recently released GoodTurn, an iPhone app that brings nonprofits that have materials to move with volunteers who have vehicles to move it. GoodTurn stemmed from an idea by Detroit Mercy alumnus Cecil St. Pierre ’16 and refined by Robert Collard ’12, ’16 and Ashley Levi, two of his coworkers in the Ford Purchasing department.

“I had this piece of furniture I wanted to donate, but I didn’t have the vehicle big enough to do it,” St. Pierre said. “I would see all these cars driving by my apartment and think ‘someone could take this for me,’ but I didn’t know how to reach them.”

The three coworkers submitted their idea to the Bill Ford Better World Challenge, an initiative that focuses on mobility solutions to problems such as food, shelter, or water-related issues such as hygiene and sanitation. Ford chose the idea as one of the first two projects funded by the challenge; the initial grant was for $200,000. An additional $50,000 grant helped complete the project.

It works like this: A distributor wants to donate some food to an organization that gets food to those who need it. They load the information into the app — when and where the donation is to be picked up and where it is going, and how large a vehicle is needed — and volunteers see what’s needed and whether they can help.

Ford chose Detroit Mercy to produce the app because of its long and successful partnership with the University. Interim Dean of the College of Engineering & Science Katy Snyder, Ph.D., led the team of alumni, faculty and staff who came together after work, over the phone and on weekends to design and build GoodTurn in an impressively short six-month time span.

“We had asked tech companies to partner with us, but they said they couldn’t do it in the timeframe we wanted,” Collard said. “So we just did it ourselves.”

Snyder added, “No one on the team had built a phone app before, so we just did what made sense and learned as we went.”

One of the hopes for the app is that it might change the way volunteerism is approached, Levi said. App users may be able to simply make a pickup and delivery on their way to or from work with minimal effect on their commute, but maximum effect on the organizations and the people they serve.

Though GoodTurn is currently only available to the more than 30,000 Ford Volunteer Corps members, other companies have heard about the app and are interested in adapting it for their workforce’s volunteer efforts. Ford hopes to introduce the app to its volunteers working around the world.

Next up for the Detroit Mercy team is to develop a version of the app for Android devices, and use their success with GoodTurn to develop partnerships to develop other apps.

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