OU Alumni starts a business to help connect communities during the COVID-19 pandemic – 2021 – Alumni – News – OU Magazine


ReciproCity Apps, a Pontiac-based company co-founded by University of Oakland Cam Underdown alumni Chris Powers and Josh Linneburg, is using technology to create public goods and help better connect communities during the COVID pandemic. 19.

“Basically, we believe that the nonprofit, social service and local government sectors, which are vital to society as a whole, typically don’t have access to technology solutions,” Powers said. “ReciproCity exists to provide access to expertise, resources and technological development for human service in order to build better connected communities, for the good of all. “

ReciproCity’s roots go back to 2007, when Powers and Underdown first met at Oakland University.

“I was actually part of Honors College and I lived on a floor called Five West Vandenberg,” Powers said. “Cam was good friends with people who lived in Five West because he had lived there two years before. I was introduced to him in the cafeteria in Vandenberg by mutual friends, then we met, had breakfast together in the cafeteria, etc. We hit it off right away and became very good friends.

Cam below

After graduating from OU, Powers and Underdown continued their entrepreneurial efforts in different industries. Powers has focused its efforts on entrepreneurial entrepreneurship across the country, while Underdown has helped launch new nonprofits and religious communities in Southeast Michigan. Friends would reunite in March 2020 during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic when Underdown developed and launched MyCovidResponse.org, an online resource created to attempt to engage various volunteer networks in a safe and coordinated manner.

As Michigan was heading into lockdown, I saw a post on Cam’s Facebook where he launched this site called My COVID Response, where his focus was basically to hire volunteers and keep them safe. everyone, ”Powers said. “I called him the day he launched the site and said ‘listen, this whole pandemic is going to be bigger than you think and the only way to answer an exponentially growing problem is with an exponential one. to which we have access, which is the technology. ‘

Chris Powers
Chris Powers

“At this point, I offered to advise him on the project and help him run it part-time,” he added. “But over the course of about two weeks it became apparent that I needed to put more than a full time effort into building it.”

By mid-March 2020, the My COVID Response network had grown to include more than 200 volunteers, including students from the William Beaumont School of Medicine at Oakland University.

“The OUWB students played a crucial role in the development and launch of our project,” said Powers. “You had a lot of students who were in residency who couldn’t attend due to the pandemic, so we had some extremely dedicated, mostly full-time medical students who really stepped up. They had some experience in public health, as well as medical training, and they really gave a lot of heart and soul to the project. “

The My COVID Response network also caught the attention of Professor Jennifer Lucarelli of the Oakland University School of Health Sciences, who was leading efforts to create a collaborative emergency food system in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“She got the idea that we could collaborate and asked if we could use our site to deliver food to people,” Powers said. “In partnership with Lighthouse of Michigan and Dustin McClellan (Founder and CEO of the Pontiac Community Foundation), we converted the first floor of the Oakland Center into a disaster food hub. In two weeks, we were shipping the equivalent of about 30,000 meals per week from the Oakland Center. “

Meanwhile, more than 120 partner organizations have signed up to work with the My COVID Response network to help with the emergency food distribution effort.

“In many cases, partner organizations have done the heavy lifting from a community service perspective,” Powers said. “What we’ve done is we’ve helped raise awareness. We had several thousand people sign up for help, and once we had that Lighthouse became the primary funder and operational partner for food as the program continued to expand. . The other part of it was sort of the technological development effort. This effort is what has become ReciproCity.

According to the organization’s website, ReciproCity was incorporated in September 2020 to “bring technological innovation to nonprofits, government and social services.”

“In the beginning, we were basically using a combination of standard tools that are freely available and a little ingenuity to get resources to people as quickly as possible,” Powers said. “As the pandemic evolved and our programs continued to expand, we continued to put one foot in front of the other on the technical side and what we found was that there was not much innovation in the nonprofit sector 1980s. What we found was that the local government nonprofit was in desperate need of innovation and innovation first for us- same and now for other parts is sort of how ReciproCity was born.

Shortly after launch, Linneburg joined Underdown and Powers in the ReciproCity team.

“My COVID and ReciproCity response wouldn’t be as effective without Josh,” Powers said. “After prototyping a solution, Josh set out to make our systems more scalable and more robust. In the beginning, as our programs grew to serve thousands of people, we quickly encountered the limitations of the “no-code” tools available for free for building startups. Josh helped Cam and I stay ahead of our technical challenges.

Since March 2020, ReciproCity and the My COVID Response network have:

• Creation of a COVID-19 information sheet and translation into more than a dozen languages;

Worked with OU’s Community Partnership Coordinator Diane Baldwin to coordinate the distribution of thousands of sheet masks;

Helped coordinate more than 49,685 food deliveries to families in need through the emergency food distribution program;

Coordinating an Adopt-A-Family program in partnership with Lighthouse to serve over 300 families in Oakland County;

Partnership with St. Joseph Mercy to launch a vaccination program for those in need.

“People have been struggling for some time and the pandemic has just exposed the flaws and inequalities in our system,” Powers said. “I hope ReciproCity can continue to create tools for various service organizations, nonprofits and local governments to help put resources in the hands of those who need them in a dignified, responsible way. , fast and effective. If someone is running a service organization and looking for help with technology, we’re here to help.

For more information on ReciproCity applications, visit reciprocityapps.org.

To learn more about the My COVID Response network, visit mycovidresponse.org.

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