Sheron Brown was at a meeting of the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative when the first seeds of her idea to create an app were planted.
“The meeting ended and then people spent another 30 minutes afterward sharing what was happening at their organizations,” said Brown, who serves as the Collaborative’s executive director. “I was sitting there thinking ‘Oh OK, this meeting is over and we’re still here? Is there another way we can do this?’”
Then, at another meeting in January 2020, she was talking with some TBHC members about their biggest challenges in achieving their shared vision of health equity and one common theme kept coming up.
“Everyone was looking for more opportunities for people in the Collaborative to be able to connect and network and find out what everyone else is doing so we can leverage each other’s strengths,” she said.
Then the idea for the app clicked in Brown’s head, which she envisioned as a mashup of LinkedIn and match.com with a calendar feature added on. She was excited about the concept and knew it would be a valuable tool for collaboration, and that was before the pandemic.
“Once Covid came, it showed us we needed this type of app even more,” Brown said.
After receiving a $25,000 grant from the Tampa Bay Resiliency Fund, which offers financial support to nonprofits that provide assistance to vulnerable residents impacted by Covid-19, Brown got to work on the app, which she essentially built from scratch. It launched last week, and already has 90 people signed up – a small portion of the 10,000 health equity-related nonprofits operating in the Tampa Bay area – but an encouraging start nonetheless.
The app, called Collaborate, is open to everyone. It allows users to create profiles and tag the areas their work is focused on, such as healthcare access, suicide prevention, obesity and more, as well as their physical location. It also gives them the chance to easily network with other people in similar spaces to enlist help on initiatives, and can help connect them to funding opportunities.
“If I’m starting an initiative and I’d like to have other partners, I can put that out there and whoever is connected to an issue I choose, they get notified,” she said.
The final component of the app is a calendar where people can both post events – with administrator approval – and search for them based on tags and location.
“There’s so much going on, but we don’t always know what everyone is doing,” Brown said.
In the next three years, Brown hopes to expand the Collaborate app to serve all of Florida through sponsorships and advertisers and turn it into an income generator, which will make TBHC less reliant on grants. She also plans to explore the idea of making the app available to nonprofits nationwide by creating a private-label option.
“This is just the beginning,” she said.
To download Collaborate to your desktop, click here.
For Android, click here.
For iPhone, click here.