A bold vision for good turned into reality

It is tempting to think of technology as a complex beast making our lives more difficult. But when it is harnessed for good, it can make our lives simpler and easier. One great example is Crisis Text Line, the first 24/7, free, nationwide text line for US teenagers. 

Nancy Lublin with Richard Branson and Jean Oelwang

Crisis Text Line founder Nancy Lublin has attended our Virgin Unite leadership gatherings before. She shared her journey from CEO of DoSomething.org, the largest organisation for teens and social change in the world, to founding Crisis Text Line.

We’ve long been supporters of the organisation and I was honoured a few years ago to help get the major US phone networks waive charges for sending messages to a crisis hotline (and the charges for the hotline itself). Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon were all good enough to agree, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars and and making the service safer by ensuring the texts don’t show up in billing records. 

Crisis Text Line has now handled more than 100 million messages and handles thousands of conversations every day from teenagers and people of all ages in distress, who need somebody to talk to in a medium they know and trust. They use data smartly, using it to make their service faster and more accurate, while ensuring every text is viewed by a human.

Nancy Lublin

Dr. DJ Patil, Founding Board Member of Crisis Text Line and Head of Technology at Devoted Health, joined us for another Virgin Unite gathering recently. He shared some great learnings from his experiences, from being a fellow dyslexic to becoming the first US Chief Data Scientist, under President Obama. He saw his mission in that role as to responsibly unleash the power of data to benefit all Americans. In all of his work, he is seeking to unearth patterns, link people together and increase understanding, whether in criminal justice reform, healthcare or other areas.

DJ shared how he is most excited about the way people are using data in novel ways to solve problems affecting society. He believes the next generation of data scientists could make a massive positive difference to all of our lives, given the right opportunities and frameworks.

DJ presenting on Necker

As he famously told President Obama: “Dream in years. Plan in months. Evaluate in weeks. Ship daily.” Crisis Text Line is agreat example of this – a bold vision turned into reality, which is helping millions of people, and evolving all the time. They share their data as they go, hoping it will prove useful to others.

Head over to Crisis Text Line to read what they learned from their first 100 million messages, find out more and support their work.


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