Remote communications have been the glue that’s kept our world connected over the last 12 months. From video calling to text messaging platforms, these same technologies have been leveraged by the social sector. No one knows this better than Twilio.org. To support social impact startups building innovative communications solutions to pressing issues caused by the pandemic, we were thrilled to partner with Twilio.org on a COVID-19 response vertical for our 2020 Accelerator.
We’ve been lucky to partner with Twilio.org for four years and across many initiatives. With a deep commitment to building and supporting life-changing communications technology, Twilio.org has been a catalyst for our work. From supporting dozens of tech nonprofits through our Accelerator, to Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson’s keynote at Accelerate Good Global 2019, to co-hosting events connecting tech nonprofit entrepreneurs with Twilion employee experts, our partnership with Twilio.org has pushed tech for good forward in meaningful ways.
With Twilio.org’s support, we worked with tech nonprofits Ameelio, Hopebound, AccesSOS, and Reboot Rx during our 2020 Accelerator to help them scale their solutions to meet downstream effects brought on by the pandemic. During our first-ever virtual Accelerator, the entrepreneurs had access to funding, content, mentoring, community, and so much more. And since, they’ve each gone on to make a pretty incredible impact during COVID-19. Curious how? Read on. (Warning: inspiration incoming).
$1.2 billion. That’s how big the prison communications industry is. Said otherwise, it costs a lot to communicate with a loved one who is incarcerated. Paired with a global pandemic that shut down in-person visits, communication became even harder and less accessible. Enter: Ameelio. Founded by Uzoma Orchingwa and Gabe Saruhashi, who met at Yale, Ameelio is an app that sends free letters and photos to keep people who are incarcerated connected with their loved ones.
To date, Ameelio has enabled over 40,000 families across all 50 states to communicate with loved ones who are incarcerated through their app. Without the option of in-person visits with loved ones who are incarcerated, Ameelio is often family members’ only connection to their fathers, mothers, siblings, or friends. And Ameelio isn’t stopping there – they’re also developing a video calling platform to further expand communication options, which they’ll pilot this year.
Before the 2020 elections, Ameelio leveraged their technology to meet another pressing need: voting access for people who are incarcerated. The organization launched a voter registration campaign in Maine, where they provided all 1,709 people who are incarcerated with the information and forms needed to register to vote and vote by mail. From connecting people who are incarcerated with their families, to increasing their access to the right to vote, Ameelio is enabling critical communications for these communities.
We’re in the midst of two pandemics: COVID-19, and mental health. Since the start of COVID-19, rates of anxiety and depression have been on the rise – and with less access to healthcare, underserved youth are disproportionately affected. That’s where Hopebound comes in. Founded by former teacher Christina Guilbeau, Hopebound delivers low-cost, virtual mental health support to low-income youth.
Hopebound’s solution is built on an innovative idea: to connect adolescents in need with master’s and doctoral level mental health clinicians in need of supervised clinical hours. The result? High-quality, affordable mental health support for youth who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access it. Currently, Hopebound is running pilots in Newark, NJ and Atlanta GA, two locations that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus.
Hopebound is also addressing the digital divide, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Underserved youth have disproportionately less access to connectivity while at home. The organization is providing WiFi hot spots and ethernet cords to youth, so they can access Hopebound’s virtual mental health support and engage in online learning while schools are closed. It’s exciting to see how Hopebound is addressing both of these incredibly important needs.
In 70% of the US, you can’t text 911. This is the frightening reality for millions of Americans who are left out of our emergency help system, like those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The child of deaf parents, Gabriella Wong is on a mission to make emergency help accessible to everyone through AccesSOS, an app that enables users to text 911 right from their phones.
AccesSOS is a free, accessible, mobile web app that lets users specify their location and type of emergency – all in their preferred language – and converts this information into a 911 call. Through the pandemic and beyond, the need for this communications technology is urgent. The deaf and hard of hearing community can’t wait the 10 years it’s expected to take the US to implement nationwide text to 911. Gabriella is building a solution for right now – one that could save lives.
Beyond communications solutions, Twilio.org supported key medical discoveries about COVID-19 treatments. Cancer patients are among those at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19. To accelerate the search for effective treatments for cancer patients with COVID-19, Reboot Rx released the Reboot: COVID-Cancer Project – a free dashboard that enables anyone to access powerful insights on COVID-19 and cancer.
The Reboot: COVID-Cancer Project is powered by Reboot Rx’s core technology: AI and ML that sifts through a lot of data on generic drugs to determine which ones might be effective against cancer. When the pandemic hit, Reboot Rx jumped on the opportunity to apply this technology to make an immediate impact on the pandemic. And they are – doctors and researchers are leveraging the Reboot: COVID-Cancer Project to deliver better treatment for cancer patients with COVID-19.
There’s no doubt that these Fast Forward alums will continue positively impacting lives. We’re so grateful to Twilio.org for their partnership over these past years, and are excited to continue working together to push the tech for good sector forward. Through the pandemic and beyond, communications technology will keep us connected in important ways – and with Twilio.org’s partnership, we can’t wait to help more tech nonprofits leveraging communications technology scale their solutions.