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Ever felt like you had a really good idea for an app that could change people’s lives and make the world a better place?

Perhaps the only thing stopping you from taking action was you didn’t know where to start, or thought no one else would be interested?

Well, hear that sound? That is opportunity is knocking on your door.

A competition launched by Nokia Product Sustainability, and co-organised by Parsons the New School for Design in New York, is asking people to design, implement and showcase new ideas for a mobile application that could benefit society and help to build a brighter future. 

More succinctly, the challenge is to ‘Design and Develop for People and Planet.’

Ideas and Hackathon

The competition is being held in two separate phases: the first one is the ideas gathering challenge and the second phase is the Hackathon.

In the first phase, the ideas must be submitted by July 31.

Teams who want to take part in the actual Hackathon need to register before August 13 and submit a short description of the mobile application they intend to develop on the Hackathon web site.

After the registration closes there will be a pre-selection amongst the candidate teams.

At the Hackathon itself, teams or individuals can pick one of the selected ideas if they wish, but they can, if they prefer, to work on their own ideas as well.

The Hackathon has two categories: Do Good and Open Data. In both categories the design of the application will play a key role.

The Hackathon will take place simultaneously in two locations: New York City and Helsinki over 25 hours on September 5th and 6th

The organisers have released the following guidelines to help entrants develop their ideas:

  • Changes one’s mindset towards more environmentally friendly behaviour
  • Solves important problems and generates societal interest
  • Quality and designed for ease of use
  • Aesthetics and delight
  • Real life use is feasible
  • A gaming element so the user can Do Good and have fun at the same time
  • Encourages Open Data (for example data offered by public sector for everybody to use and develop on) and addresses local needs

The prizes

If changing the world was not enough of an incentive to get involved, there are also substantial cash prizes on offer.

Each local (one in New York and one in Helsinki) category runner-up will receive 1,000 euros. Each local category winner receives 2,000 euros.

The overall Hackathon winner will get 20,000 euros if the app is a standalone one or 50,000 euros if the app utilises the Internet or Cloud in its backend.

In addition to the big pot of money, the overall winning app will also be enrolled into the Aalto App Campus Program.

This provides mentoring and assistance to transform their winning idea into a professional and high quality app. Then, when the app becomes available for download in the Windows Marketplace, 70% of the monetary prize will be awarded. The overall winner also needs to fulfil Aalto App Campus criteria.

Kluuvi, Helsinki, Finland

A better world through design

The competition is being held as part of Nokia’s Helsinki World Design Capital initiatives.

Riitta Jantunen, a Nokia manager who helped to organise competition, said: 

“Helsinki is the World Design Capital and that gave us the idea to promote design as it plays a major role when thinking if the apps are easy to use or not.”

“In addition, there is a lot of creativity out there, which we want to dig out and find the best apps to encourage people to behave more environmentally friendly in their everyday lives.”

As well using design to help people ‘do good’, Open Data is also an important category for the competition. The competition provides some examples of Open Data in Finland and in New York on their website.

“Open Data is also interesting and the Hackathon is a good way to find out how people would use it.”

“My dream is to offer a foundation for a successful start-up business and that is possible through the Aalto App Campus program for the overall winner,” says Riitta.

“I am also really happy that Parsons The New School for Design in New York has joined in as well. They do really good work combining beautiful design and mobile technology.”

Feeling inspired and ready to make the world a better place? Get more information and register at

image credits: Sterling College & timonoko