In 2022, we emerged from a period of isolation. The pandemic’s lasting effects on mental health are glaring. In response, tech nonprofits doubled down on community, leveraging tech to bring people together in-person and virtually. Meet five that amplified their niche communities to drive global impact.
Say hello to the most politically engaged generation ever, thanks to TurnUp. Powered by mobile technology, TurnUp is empowering millions of young voters to turn out at the polls and take civic action. Its app enables users to register to vote, access resources for activism, and discover political events. In short: TurnUp is unlocking the collective power of Gen Z.
TurnUp played a key role in driving historic youth voter turnout during the 2022 Midterms. It reached over 37 million young voters with voting reminders, and helped register over 180,000 people. Plus, TurnUp engaged 10,000+ volunteers who contributed over 18,000 hours to get out the vote in their communities. A longtime activist and current Harvard undergrad, 20-year-old founder Zev Shapiro knows how to meet Gen Z where they are. TurnUp teamed up with influencers to mobilize on social media, and circulated ads with information about how and where to vote on Snapchat, Spotify, and Twitter. These social media blitzes helped TurnUp reach every single 18-25 year old woman and voter of color in Georgia 15 times leading up to the Georgia Senate Runoff.
More than 3 million young people will turn 18 in 2023. TurnUp is on a mission to inspire each to take civic action. To get there, the organization is building out its app to expand its geographic reach, as well as running student-led voter registration campaigns within high schools with a focus on key swing states. With TurnUp as its engine, Gen Z will shape the future of American democracy.
Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP)
Asylum seekers settling into the U.S. face a host of challenges. Now, they have a guide: the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP). ASAP is the world’s largest community of asylum seekers, having connected over 450,000 members with critical resources and each other.
Community was at the heart of ASAP’s profound impact in 2022. The tech nonprofit made big inroads in helping asylum seekers secure work permits – which members identified as their biggest priority. Using ASAP’s platform, its members came together to organize against government policies that limited their ability to access work permits. And it’s leading to real change. ASAP’s advocacy has enabled more than 150,000 of its members to enter the workforce, resulting in $1.4B+ of increased income for their families. For ASAP, technology does more than touch the lives of individual asylum seekers – it taps the power of community to drive change at the systemic level.
ASAP was founded by daughters and granddaughters of immigrants and refugees. As leaders Swapna Reddy, Conchita Cruz, and Ngan Tran build out ASAP’s technology, one thing is clear: ASAP will continue to improve the lives of asylum seekers and provide a significant boost to the U.S. economy.
Scientific research isn’t a level playing field: researchers in low-income countries don’t have access to the tools they need to cure diseases plaguing their communities. Biomedical scientists Gemma Turon and Miquel Duran-Frigola saw this glaring, unaddressed issue first-hand. So they launched Ersilia. The tech nonprofit provides open-source AI models to local researchers, expediting their discovery of new cures for malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases.
Researchers can access 100 ready-to-use AI and ML models through the Ersilia Model Hub. Ersilia’s partners in Zambia, South Africa, and Cameroon are already seeing results. Scientists from the Open Source Malaria Consortium tested antimalarial compounds discovered through Ersilia’s AI models, and 50% were effective against malaria when tested in the lab – an incredibly high hit rate. Ersilia is also laser-focused on fostering connections with local research institutions, and amongst the scientists doing this work. In 2022, it convened researchers from seven African countries for a training on how to leverage Ersilia’s AI tools for drug discovery. Not only is Ersilia equipping scientists with impactful technology, but it’s also creating space for them to collaborate and connect.
In 2023, Ersilia plans to double the number of low-income countries it works in. What’s more, the team is collaborating with their partners to bring drugs discovered using Ersilia’s tools closer to clinical trials. Two years into its existence, Ersilia is already expediting drug discovery in low-income countries.
Open the Kinfolk app on your phone, and you’ll be able to reframe history through AR. Kinfolk lets anyone place augmented reality monuments of Black and Brown heroes in their environment – and learn their stories. By centering these underrepresented narratives, Kinfolk empowers us to forge a more equitable future.
Activists and artists, Kinfolk founders Idris Brewster and Glenn Cantave are steeped in their communities. They built Kinfolk to be the same. This year, they launched the Kinfolk National Tour, which gathers on-the-ground communities to uplift their local history through the Kinfolk app. Kicking off in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, these events brought together local artists, historians, and activists. In LA, Kinfolk even launched a geo-specific feature where monuments of Gaspar Yanga, Biddy Mason, and Beatrice Alva were only visible in the event location. The Kinfolk National Tour is just getting started. With five more stops on its itinerary, Kinfolk will bridge communities, tech, and racial equity in cities across the country. (Interested in attending? Download Kinfolk for the latest!).
Kinfolk’s tour isn’t the only big agenda item of 2023. The tech nonprofit is set to be featured in an exhibit at the MoMA called New York, New Publics, which highlights innovative projects changing the landscape of NYC’s public spaces. And alongside it all, Kinfolk has big plans to bring Kinfolk into schools. From our public spaces to our classrooms, Kinfolk is making history more interactive and equitable – one AR monument at a time.
Eight out of ten Americans feel they have nowhere to turn when faced with a workplace challenge. Empower Work is tackling this pervasive issue. Its free textline provides immediate, confidential support for vulnerable workers by connecting them with a trained peer counselor. Tens of thousands of workers – from restaurant employees, to home health aids, truck drivers, and early educators – have used Empower Work to get support on an employment-related issue.
It’s working. With access to support from a real person right at their fingertips, 92% of users indicated their mental health improved after chatting with a counselor through Empower Work. The organization focused on bringing the textline to more workers in 2022, leveraging partnerships and content around workplace issues to grow its reach by nearly 140%. Empower Work drove change at the systemic level too. Collaborating with the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General (OSG), the tech nonprofit wove data and insights from its platform into OSG’s new Workplace Well-Being Framework. This groundbreaking resource compiles research and recommendations for workplaces rooted in worker mental health. As a testament to Empower Work’s important role in developing the guide, founder Jaime-Alexis Fowler joined the Surgeon General onstage at the launch event for a panel discussion on workplace well-being.
Empower Work is on track to provide critical work support to three million people in the next five years. Its tech will drive this growth – but it’s the real human connections fostered by Empower Work that enable its impact on workers’ lives. That’s why the organization will continue to prioritize listening deeply to workers’ needs, and building creative approaches to meet them.
As the social sector finds its digital-first footing, these five tech nonprofits are teaching us an important lesson: impactful solutions are born from human connection. Looking ahead, I’m excited to see how tech nonprofits innovate in how they use technology to amplify the power of community to drive a more equitable future.