Student Group Spotlight: Code the Change, Building Software for Social Impact

Haotian Mai and Caitlin Dawson | August 14, 2020

Founded in 2014, the organization aims to help nonprofit organizations in the LA area develop software projects.

Throughout the school year, Code the Change members work with their clients to deliver apps or websites — projects that many local nonprofit organizations would not have the time and budget to undertake alone. Photo/iStock.

Throughout the school year, Code the Change members work with their clients to deliver apps or websites — projects that many local nonprofit organizations would not have the time and budget to undertake alone. Photo/iStock.

Student coders and designers in USC’s Code the Change (CTC) student organization are using their skills to do good and solve real social problems. Founded in 2014, the organization aims to help nonprofit organizations in the LA area develop software projects. The undergraduate club now has around 30 active members consisting of developers, designers and product managers.

Students from Code the Change, pictured in 2020 prior to social distancing measures, work on software projects for nonprofits. Photo/Code the Change.

In the past few years, the club has expanded its number of nonprofit clients, which have included Vision to Learn, a free eye exams and glasses provider for students in low-income communities; Climate Cents, a crowd-funding platform focused on fighting climate change; and Green Dot Public Schools, a nonprofit educational organization in Downtown LA.

“I’m very inspired by the mission of helping nonprofits grow financially with the power of technology and software, and giving them access to resources that, unfortunately, not a lot of nonprofits have access to,” said Jessica Au, who served as president until April, when she passed the baton to fellow computer science student Jamie Flores.

Helping nonprofits grow financially

Throughout the school year, Code the Change members work with their clients to deliver apps or websites — projects that many local nonprofit organizations would not have the time and budget to undertake alone.

“I’m very inspired by the mission of helping nonprofits grow financially with the power of technology and software.” Jessica Au.

“I’m passionate about Code the Change because many nonprofits don’t have the money to hire expensive computer scientists to build the products they need,” said Aliya Petranik, a senior majoring in computer science, who has secured a job at Facebook after graduation.

“Being able to provide services for them has showed me that doing simple things with my skills can really make a large impact.”

In a recent product design online workshop, “Building Software for Social Impact,” team members shared some of their project design experiences with fellow computer science students. There are four steps in their development process, they explained: identifying the nonprofit client’s need; understanding users; product features ideation; and finally, development.

Code the Change has partnered with Vision to Learn, a free eye exams and glasses provider.

This year, CTC has partnered with Gladeo, a digital media studio and technology nonprofit that provides career exploration resources for underserved populations. Their need: producing engaging video content that connects working professionals to their users.

After meeting with stakeholders, brainstorming and conducting initial research, the CTC team decided to help Gladeo build a video-recording app, which could be used by professionals from different career tracks to easily create short Q & A videos to share with site users.

“The best thing about the CTC project experience is that it gives you a sense of how a real nonprofit company would operate,” said Bryan Huang, who is serving as the lead designer for the Gladeo project.

“We are executing real project engineering skills to help meet our client’s needs.”

Code the Change Q & A

 Who does Code the Change work with?

Code the Change works with Nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations to create technology solutions for their needs. We’ve historically worked with organizations in the Los Angeles area, but will be opening applications in light of COVID-19.

Do I have to be a computer science major?

Not at all. CTC welcomes students from different majors and backgrounds and there are no pre-requisites to becoming a developer, designer, or product manager.

Do I have to have extensive product design or engineering portfolio to apply?

Ultimately, CTC is looking for people who have passion for social impact. Of course, applicants are welcome to demonstrate their technical abilities and previous projects—anything that showcases your passion and potential to build.

Are there any additional way to get involved?

Code the Change also hosts events open to all USC student throughout the year, such as programming workshops, social impact talks with companies, and so on. Students can find more information on their website.

Interested in getting involved? Code the Change will begin accepting developer and designer applications on 9/8.

Share This Story