Brad Gudger is a two-time cancer survivor and experienced youth advocate. He’s worked as a youth expert advisor for NHS England, worked with the NHS LGBT Health team to reduce inequality in health, and contributed to the UK Mission to the UN and World Health Organisation. Gudger has also petitioned the government to offer more support to cancer patients, and spoken in Parliament many times about his experience. In recognition of these achievements, he was presented with The Diana Award in 2019, has been named a Young Leader for the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, and received a Points of Light award from 10 Downing Street.
On top of all this, Gudger found time to start his own charity, Alike, which launched an app in 2021 to help young cancer patients connect and build a community. We catch up with him to hear why he started the charity, how it’s developed, and how technology can be a force for good.
It’s Alike’s first anniversary on World Cancer Day on 4 February. Can you tell us about your charity and how it started?
‘Alike was created to combat loneliness and isolation caused by cancer. It’s been founded, shaped and designed by the cancer community, for the cancer community. The idea started when I was 24 and in hospital facing treatment for a leukaemia relapse. I needed a digital way to find peer support, something personal to me. As a gay man, all I wanted was to find another gay guy with leukaemia – but there wasn’t a single, easy way to do that. So, I decided to create it.
‘The story of how it’s grown is one of my favourites; it’s all about community and sharing. We’ve been able to build and launch an app to connect people with cancer because of the generous and talented people I’ve met so far. This is what makes Alike special: we’re a vibrant charity specialising in utilising new and modern ways to support our community.’
It’s been a great year for Alike: a Zoom call with The Queen, as well as receiving a Points of Light award from 10 Downing Street. What did both of these highlights mean for you and your charity?
‘How do I even begin to explain how these highlights felt? Let’s be honest, meeting The Queen on a video call is bonkers in the best way. Honestly, the true feeling at the heart of these experiences can be summed up in one word: validation. We met The Queen five months after launching the app. We’re a small team driven by passion, so any recognition is always incredible.
‘Receiving an award from 10 Downing Street and speaking to Her Majesty at this early stage has been so rewarding and really makes me excited about the future of Alike. I mean, how do we top that? We’ll find a way.’
What are your goals for 2022 in terms of the Alike community?
‘In simple terms: growth. We’re focusing on building the community, not just by increasing the number of app users, but also by forging relationships with others. We like to say that Alike is powered by friendship, and this year our goals are all about finding those who share our vision, and working to nurture those relationships. Coming up with an idea is one thing, but creation is completely people-driven. It takes a village, and Alike is proof of that.’
You’re hosting a panel talk at Soho Works 180 The Strand about the future of tech for good on 4 February – can you tell us about it?
‘Tech for good is something I’m really passionate about. We live in a digital age, and I think sometimes people assume that’s a bad thing. Technology has completely changed our lives, and it’s been transformational for people who are less visible. For example, when you’re stuck in hospital, peer support can be a lifeline, and tech can make that accessible.
‘This panel event is an exciting opportunity to talk to people working in tech. I’m curious to hear about everyone’s experiences of building communities online, and how for-profit and not-for-profit organisations are changing the face of digital to be more sustainable and beneficial for all.’
What are your top three tips for someone who’s thinking about launching an app?
‘Don’t be intimidated by technology, but be realistic. Although apps are good at solving certain problems, another tool might be better suited for others. Really interrogate your idea and make sure you’re confident that the only way it can work is with an app.
‘Once you’ve done that, you need to find people who know this area well. I’ve learnt a lot about tech, because we’ve been fortunate enough to have really senior app developers guide us. If you’re new to it, understand that there’s nothing as valuable as experience.
‘Finally, you are the biggest ambassador of your vision. Be confident in it, but also be ready to be challenged. Learn and grow with it. Being able to adapt is key to moving something from ideation to creation.’
You’ve been a pillar of the Soho Works community – what’s your favourite Soho Works and why?
‘First of all, being described as a pillar is a huge compliment – thank you, it means a lot.
‘I love the Soho Works community, because it’s been such a huge part of Alike’s story. We’ve got a lot of good memories across all the sites. We’re based at 180 The Strand, which has been a great central location for our team and organisation to grow. We spent a bank holiday weekend there writing up our 2021 strategy (wild, I know) and the atmosphere was so special.’
To find out more about the 180 Works panel event Brad Gudger is hosting, please go to the page on our Soho Works app here. You can also download the app using this link.