These 8 Social Entrepreneurs Used Tech To Meet The Challenges Of 2020
Dec 17, 2020
2020 brought unprecedented challenges. To meet the moment, leaders across the social sector stepped up to deploy scalable, tech-driven solutions to address the myriad of issues. Driven by an unwavering commitment to equity and improving lives, the impact of their work made waves around the globe. From reaching 13.7 million people with life-saving information about COVID-19, to running one of the biggest voter turnout campaigns in the U.S., meet eight tech nonprofit leaders who made a big impact in 2020. Edith Elliott, Co-Founder & CEO of Noora Health
Access to accurate information about COVID-19 is essential for slowing the spread. Elliott and her team at Noora Health , the nonprofit health organization improving outcomes through key behavior change practices, are delivering life-saving information about COVID-19 to people across India and Bangladesh. To date, Noora Health’s COVID-19 training and content has reached over 13.7 million people through both in-hospital and at-home programs. Their open-source COVID-19 Resource Library contains engaging health education content in 14 regional languages. Powered by partnerships with over 70 organizations, Noora Health is reaching even the most remote communities with this critical information. Innovation is core to their model - the organization is also deploying affordable tech solutions through WhatsApp and SMS to deliver information to families on their phones. Debra Cleaver, Founder & CEO of VoteAmerica
More people voted in this U.S. election than in any other. A key player in this effort was Debra Cleaver. She and her team at VoteAmerica ran one of the largest voter turnout campaigns in the country, sending more than 101 million peer-to-peer text messages to 30 million voters in 49 states and Washington, D.C.
To make voting more accessible, VoteAmerica built innovative solutions like an e-signature tool that allowed voters to request a mail-in or absentee ballot right from their smartphone or computer. And when Debra and VoteAmerica learned Texas didn’t have a way for voters to track their ballots online, they built one; thousands of Texas voters used TXBallot.org to make sure their votes counted. MORE FOR YOU
Lisa Wang, Founder & CEO of Almost Fun
Remote learning exacerbates glaring inequities in our education system. Lisa Wang is empowering BIPOC and low-income students by making at-home learning fun - almost. Her tech nonprofit Almost Fun engages students through culturally-relevant content that reaffirms and celebrates their identities. Students can learn grammar through music lyrics, math through word problems about relevant social issues, and reading comprehension through movie scripts. And their approach is working: data shows that the Almost Fun platform can improve SAT scores by more than 60 points. They’re now supporting over 3,000 students every week, and thanks to an exciting new partnership with Snap, are poised to expand their reach even more in 2021. They’re teaming up with the social media platform to build an integration that brings social learning experiences to students. Powered by Almost Fun’s content library, the feature will allow students to learn right inside their favorite messaging app. Almost Fun engages students through culturally-relevant content, like this grammar question about ... [+] Spiderman. Almost Fun
Kimberly Seals Allers, Founder of Irth
Black women in America are three times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes than their white peers. Kimberly Seals Allers is on a mission to address this unconscionable disparity. She’s building a Yelp-like review and rating platform for Black and brown parents. Irth , “as in ‘Birth’ but we dropped the B for bias,” says Seals-Allers, allows mothers and their partners to find and leave reviews for both maternity and pediatric doctors, as well as, birthing hospitals. This year, Irth made big strides in its mission to combat racism and bias in maternity and infant care. Over 1,000 parents have shared reviews about physicians and hospitals on Irth’s website. The organization is also teaming up with vision-aligned physicians and hospitals to push for institutional change. By enabling healthcare professionals to leverage its real-time data as a tracking and accountability tool for anti-bias and cultural competency efforts, Irth will play a key role in driving practice improvements in our healthcare system. Kiah Williams, Co-Founder of SIRUM
Kiah Williams and her team at SIRUM scaled up in 2020. As the largest medicine redistributor in the U.S., SIRUM connects Americans in need with surplus prescription medicine. They’ve already redistributed nearly $85 million worth of medicine - and are going full speed ahead to expand this impact even further. Kiah Williams & SIRUM will deliver $772M worth of medication to 1M people over the next five years. TED
This year, SIRUM was chosen as a participant of The Audacious Project , a funding collaborative housed at TED. With The Audacious Project’s support, the organization will grow their supply of donated medicines tenfold and expand their platform to seven new states. The outcome? SIRUM will deliver $772 million worth of medication to one million people over the next five years. Alex Bernadotte, Founder & CEO of Beyond 12
Alex Bernadotte is tackling the college completion challenge head-on using data, tech, and the power of relationships. Through an interactive platform that combines a campus-customized mobile app, virtual one-on-one coaching, and a back-end analytics engine powered by machine learning, her tech nonprofit Beyond 12 is helping first-generation and low-income students succeed in college and beyond. Beyond 12 doubled down in 2020 to give students the support they need during the pandemic. The organization acquired mobile platform GradGuru to further drive student success through “nudges,” or reminders about college-related tasks. Beyond 12 is expanding its virtual coaching platform too. Through an exciting partnership with Google.org, YouTube, and former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative, they will deploy over $1 million to bring personalized coaching to thousands more students. Beyond 12 pairs virtual coaching with an interactive app to help underserved students succeed in ... [+] college and beyond. Beyond 12
Clementine Jacoby, Founder & Executive Director of Recidiviz
The United States incarcerates more people than any country at any time in history. Recidiviz, led by Clementine Jacoby, who was named one of FastCompany’s Most Creative People and one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 , is building technology that gives criminal justice decision makers the data they need to safely, equitably, and permanently reduce incarceration. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Recidiviz built a tool to help prison and jail administrators forecast the impact of the virus on incarcerated people, staff, and surrounding communities. The states that used the tool recommended early release of tens of thousands of incarcerated people, saving countless lives inside facilities and surrounding communities. Rose Afriyie and Genevieve Nielsen, Co-Founders of mRelief
For mRelief , addressing hunger is an issue of racial equity: Black people in America are 2.5 times more likely to be food insecure than their white counterparts. And while programs like SNAP are designed to help those struggling with hunger, millions of families aren’t receiving the food stamps for which they’re eligible. That’s where mRelief comes in. Led by Rose Afriyie and Genevieve Nielsen, the tech nonprofit is renovating the cumbersome SNAP enrollment process. mRelief helps families determine their eligibility for food stamps and, if they qualify, sign up for SNAP. During the pandemic, the need for mRelief’s solution spiked. When COVID-19 hit, the organization doubled its users. To date, mRelief has served over 900,000 families in all 50 states. And they’re not stopping there. This year, mRelief built two additional COVID-19 solutions: Johnnie , a CRM platform for outreach workers to connect with SNAP beneficiaries on everything from on-demand support to submitting documents, and a pre-screening tool that informs SNAP recipients about the key flexibilities they may have during COVID-19, like being able to shop with SNAP online. These innovators give me hope about tech’s potential to positively impact lives. Their solutions will continue to provide critical support to millions as we endure this pandemic and rebuild in its wake. Displaying unwavering resilience and commitment to their missions in 2020, I have no doubt they’ll continue innovating in 2021 and beyond. I can’t wait to see how.