Tech Nonprofits Pivoting in the Pandemic - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Tech Nonprofits Pivoting in the Pandemic

Tech Nonprofits Pivoting in the Pandemic

By Carly Stern

A number of tech nonprofits that already provide services to those in need are trying to boost their impact during this tumultuous time.


These tech nonprofits will restore your faith in humanity.

By Carly Stern

Headlines about tanking markets, unemployment and the rise of COVID-19 cases are dominating the news, leaving uplifting stories few and far between. But here’s one.

The pandemic has upended daily experiences of work, school and mobility. But a number of tech nonprofits that already provide services to those in need are responding and trying to boost their impact during this tumultuous time.

Many of us are itching for ways to feel productive from home, and digital volunteering has been surging, says Nicole Dunn, program and marketing manager for Fast Forward, a San Francisco–based accelerator for tech nonprofits. “It’s like this whole new wave of digital volunteering is available, and it couldn’t have come at a better time,” she says. Read on to learn about apps aimed at lightening the load of teachers, parents and health care providers in small but meaningful ways.

For around-the-clock math tutoring

UPchieve is a nonprofit that offers free online math tutoring to low-income middle and high school students. In response to school closures, UPchieve has waived its usual fee so schools can sign up for free and email instructions to students for full access (anyone who creates an account can use the platform indefinitely). Eligible schools include public or charter schools receiving school-wide Title 1 funding, which means they get extra federal funds to support low-income students, and they must be currently closed, or slated to be closed, for at least two weeks, with half of their students being eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.  

Students can use the tutoring platform, accessible via web browsers or mobile devices, to select the subject they need help with. Within 10 minutes, they’ll be paired with a certified volunteer tutor. This kind of on-demand service can be particularly beneficial for students with working parents who might not be home to offer help with homework, says Dunn. Student requests for tutoring support rose by 300 percent weekly, while volunteer applications saw a 1300 percent uptick last month.

For translation services in hospitals

Tarjimly means “translate for me” in Arabic — and that’s exactly what this app does. The platform, founded in 2017 in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, is designed to increase the efficiency of humanitarian services by reducing language barriers for those giving and receiving help. When a situation arises for an emergency translation — from Farsi to French — users can ping a virtual volunteer translator. In the face of COVID-19, Tarjimly volunteers have been providing translations for health care workers who need to communicate critical information about the pandemic to immigrant communities. Tarjimly is used by the Seattle Flu Study, Harvard Medical School and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

For free financial support

Upsolve is like TurboTax for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. More and more people are facing financial vulnerability right now, with medical bills reported to be the primary cause of bankruptcies in the United States. If you’re dealing with debt, you can at least do so for free with Upsolve. 

The site, which helps Americans file for bankruptcy, has seen a surge since the coronavirus outbreak: In a recent week, seven out of the top 10 Google searches leading people to Upsolve were related to COVID-19, Dunn says. “One of the economic consequences of COVID-19 is that working-class families who have been laid off are falling into debt,” says Upsolve CEO Rohan Pavuluri. “Bankruptcy will be a critical part of the recovery process for millions of these working-class families” to help them get back on their feet, he explains. Through articles and videos, Upsolve walks users through every step of the bankruptcy filing process. The site has helped users clear more than $200,000,000 of debt since 2016. 

Donate to Upsolve

For emergency food rescue to the doorstep

Replate is an on-demand food delivery platform that lets companies schedule pickups of leftover or surplus food, which it then delivers to soup kitchens and service providers like NYC Rescue Mission and GLIDE. It’s operational in more than 25 states across the U.S. and in Toronto, Canada.

In response to stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, Replate is now piloting a new “direct to home” delivery — in addition to food relief organizations it supported before — for families experiencing food insecurity. The goal is to target vulnerable people unable to leave home for food, like older adults, as well as those who are immunocompromised or don’t have reliable access to nutritious, affordable food. This new home delivery is operational in San Francisco and will soon expand to places including New York City and Los Angeles.

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