Empower social change

Build stronger communities with communication: Empowerment lessons at SIGNAL 2021

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    Riley Leight
  • Oct 13, 2021

You can empower your community to be creative and innovative through every interaction. Here’s what we learned at  SIGNAL 2021 on social impact, inclusion, equity, and more.

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We see SIGNAL as much more than a time to showcase products and business innovations—it’s also a space where we can be inspired, advocate for change, and learn how to build a better world through technology. 

Driving social change is becoming a core value for organizations, and efficiency and scale often play a crucial role in work that saves and improves lives. That’s why this year’s lineup included sessions focused on empowerment, including The Trevor Project’s use of AI to support their lifesaving work and the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) efforts to deliver global aid through communications

The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide-prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, with crisis intervention counselors available by phone and text 24/7. In this sensitive work, every second counts. At SIGNAL, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project Amit Paley shared that when an analysis found delays of 10 seconds on every text interaction, The Trevor Project relaunched its texting platform, TrevorText, using Twilio Programmable Messaging. 

The change removed that delay and cut 10 minutes from each conversation, providing aid faster and freeing counselors to handle 22 percent more contacts. The new platform also introduced a triage chatbot that uses machine learning to prioritize the most urgent incoming texts. Given the success so far, The Trevor Project is actively working on moving other contact functions, including webchat, onto Twilio Flex. “Twilio Flex will give us the opportunity to serve more youth at once, build a consistent experience for our volunteers and crisis workers, and empower our community to provide support from wherever they are remote,” Paley said.

Chris Hoffman, Global Project Manager of the Norwegian Refugee Council, took the stage at SIGNAL to talk about how NRC offered a lifeline to displaced persons around the world during the pandemic. Along with Zing CEO Julian Hucker, Hoffman talked about the obstacles faced by both refugees and the agents who help them. They explained how Twilio Flex has enabled them to stand up more than 10 contact centers in a year to handle the huge influx of additional requests for help caused by the pandemic. Digital transformation of these humanitarian services, including text, IVR, and other automation, enabled NRC to communicate with two million beneficiaries in 27 countries each month, connecting vulnerable communities with essential resources and information.

Read our conversation with’s Jannet Park to hear more about how organizations within—and outside of—the nonprofit sector are using technology to drive social change.

A conversation with Jannet Park from

Jannet Park is a solutions marketing manager at, where she focuses on ways social impact organizations can utilize communications to increase their impact. She’s passionate about empowering nonprofits to transform their digital strategies to help more people and further their mission. 

What excited you most about this year’s SIGNAL when it comes to empowerment? 

Park: I’m so excited to see the launch of Twilio’s social impact app library. A curated list of code samples and templates, the CodeExchange for Good, will be an incredible resource empowering developers and teams to get started deploying apps that help people. Whether you’re looking to connect volunteers or build a chatbot for vaccine hesitancy, you can find an app in the library. I can’t wait to see how they’re used. 

What sessions did you find really spoke to empowerment, social impact, and antiracism? 

Park: While it’s hard to choose just one, I was particularly excited to hear from Benefits Data Trust on how they’re using an AI chatbot to help students enroll in FAFSA, the gateway to financial aid for most undergraduate students. I have a personal passion for the efforts aimed at closing the education gap between lower- and higher-income communities, and the FAFSA is such a crucial step in doing just that. The AI chatbot is called “Wyatt,” and it engages with students via text, helping them navigate the FAFSA process and delivering reminders to complete it.

It was also inspiring to see how Twilio products are being used to help during an extremely disruptive year for education. I was excited to hear that over 18,000 students completed the application, and 68 percent of the students served replied to at least one reminder.

On antiracism, I was fascinated by Sayali Pendharkar’s talk about a scanner Twilio built to analyze the content of every pull request (PR) to keep us accountable to our goals. The scanner identifies non-inclusive terminology, annotates it, and details its usage so that it can be corrected in the future. This is such a powerful use of technology to activate antiracism at the individual, company, and societal levels.

What are some trends specifically around empowerment that you think we’ll see across industries in 2022?

Park: I’m constantly inspired by the organizations we get to work with at and how they make very conscious decisions to ensure they are empowering the people they support— and not coming in as a “savior.” I see that approach becoming more prevalent across nonprofit and for-profit organizations alike in 2022. In the B2B world, it’s important for companies to ensure that the customer remains the hero and find ways to help them reach their goals and mission.

Find out more with The Current

SIGNAL showcased what Twilio and our customers are building, and inspired attendees around the world to do the same. Your organization can create inclusive, empowering solutions that drive change. At this year’s event, we were proud to give you some powerful examples of how to do just that. 

Read further about the sessions focused on empowerment and more in our latest edition of The Current.

Read our final edition of the year.

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Riley Leight

Riley is a full-time writer based in Annapolis, Maryland.