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For Brands The Only Pivot That Matters Now is Supporting People

By Joe Conrad, Founder & CEO, 4/7/2020

Like many other brands and organizations right now, at Grit Digital Health and Cactus we are re-imagining how we can bring value to people during this global pandemic. Here’s a recent pivot we made to turn a big challenge into an even bigger opportunity and help contribute something positive during this interesting time.

For the last 18 months, our team at Grit Digital Health has been working with our partner Hopelab, a social innovation lab, to design a solution that supports college students who are isolated and feeling lonely. Together we created Nod, an evidence-based app to help address loneliness among college students.

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After wrapping up a successful efficacy study at the University of Oregon, we planned to launch Nod to the higher education market. The problem was that suddenly, there were no longer any college students on any campus as every university went to an online environment. I believe that any behavioral health issue can be addressed using research, creativity, innovation and technology, and this was another chance to prove it.

Just three weeks ago our team was inspired and determined to take Nod, a proven app that we had built and were about to launch, and re-design it to provide utility and support to students who were suddenly more isolated from their friends. Loneliness was a huge issue before this pandemic hit, and now students were more isolated than ever.

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I am grateful to announce that today, Hopelab and Grit Digital Health released Nod, a new, free app that helps college students connect during this time of crisis. Nod can be downloaded at the Apple and Google app store and uses evidence-based strategies designed to improve student resilience. It provides social connection tips and tools that help students maintain meaningful relationships while staying safe and adhering to public health directives. Our new version of the Nod app and campaign reminds students that social distancing can still be very social and this is the perfect time to connect with old and new friends in whole new ways.

Hopelab and Grit Digital Health adapted Nod to address the social connection crisis brought about by COVID-19 and are committed to sharing it for free with college students around the country during this time of unprecedented need. The Nod app uses evidence-based practices including positive psychology skills, cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing and mindfulness-based self-compassion to help support young adults in developing social connection skills and emotional resilience.

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At Grit Digital Health, we’ve taken some huge issues like suicide among working-age men (, mental health and well-being for college students ( and now we had an opportunity to collaborate on a project with Hopelab, one of most innovative foundations in the world. Bringing together specialists in behavioral health, research and strategy with experts in design, technology and marketing has proven to be extremely powerful.

Making a huge pivot together over the last three weeks, all while working remotely, has been incredible to experience. To my knowledge, no software company has ever launched a product by offering a version of it for free. However, we are not a very traditional company, these are not normal times and all that matters now for any brand is using its power to support people as much as possible.

mental health
student support