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[Stories of social change] Building a good news site during COVID-19

Over the years, the world has seen remarkable and rapid advancements in technology which are deeply impacting society. Despite this, we continue to struggle with issues such as poverty, violence, and climate change. At Thoughtworks, we believe that technologists have a unique role to play in how we can positively impact society and push for a more equitable tech future.

In our Stories of Social Change series, we are sharing stories from Thoughtworkers around the world who have leveraged their skills and experience to build technology that truly impacts people and effects social change. These stories show that technologists are in a unique position to change the world and inspire action in others.

Fernando Fernandes Thoughtworks the Good News COVID-19 Brasil

Name: Fernando Fernandes

Thoughtworks home: Brazil

Preferred pronouns: he/him

Joined Thoughtworks: 2020

The negative impact that COVID-19 has had on the world naturally leads us to scenarios of hopelessness. While there are many negative aspects to the global pandemic, we often forget that there is also fantastic news: the number of cured patients, a search for a vaccine at an unprecedented rate, and collaboration between international organisations and civil society.

With that in mind, at the beginning of social isolation some friends and I got together and created The Good News Coronavirus. This site is meant to be a beacon of hope for those who are drowning in a sea of bad news. While negative news can be important when it comes to preventing and understanding the pandemic, it also causes anxiety and despair.

Fernando Fernandes Thoughtworks the Good News COVID-19 Brasil

After about a month of operating, we reached our first goal of improving readers’ mental health. Some of our indicators include thousands of positive comments, countless thankful messages, along with 3.5 million hits, coming from 1.6 million people. On average, our site is seeing 20,000 unique visitors per day with 50% of them returning to the website. Since launching the site, we have defined a strict news validation process. In order for a publication to go live, it needs to be in at least three reliable sources from different press groups.

The desire for good news brought the first improvement to the project: a good-news-hunting bot that allowed Thoughtworkers to spend more time interacting with and responding to our visitors. Soon after the site, which previously focused only on news for the Portuguese-speaking community, became a global initiative with publications featured in both Portuguese and English. The results were immediate and on the first day we received dozens of emails from people all over the world thanking us for the initiative.

Fernando Fernandes Thoughtworks the Good News COVID-19 Brasil

We also have been working on two new system features, one of which is already fully operational: fundraising to help victims of COVID-19 through Google advertisements. Our goal is to raise and donate R$ 10,000 to initiatives combating COVID-19. Our second feature will focus on envisioning a post-pandemic world. This page will highlight the leaders and initiatives from around the world that have innovated and adapted during the ‘new normal.’ 

On this same page, we plan to report on how economies have made digital transformation a priority and how COVID-19 has made us rethink the way we live and consume, thus making a positive impact on both the environment and climate. This page will be categorized by area of ​​interest, for a better filter on news that inspires our life and work. 

It has been a great honor to participate in an initiative like this. In times of physical distance and isolation, we have never been closer. If you can, stay at home. If you go out, keep your distance, wear a mask, wash your hands, and don't touch your face. Stay healthy. Let's move forward.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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