Talk2U is a tech-based social startup and we believe that strengthening emotional intelligence is the key to outsmart life challenges and enhance mental wellbeing in youth, so they are able to live a healthier, happier life.
To do so, we design dynamic and insightful learning experiences via chat platforms, such as Messenger, Telegram or WhatsApp, that will allow youth to acquire the tools, knowledge, and skill sets needed to empower them to design and build a better future for themselves while they are being entertained and connected.
We create chatbots powered by AI characters that have conversations with young adults and provide them with evidence-based strategies to work on their socio-emotional skills. These are called chat interventions, which are strategies developed by academics like psychologists, neuroscientists and counselors that we translate into engaging digital conversations that make youth reflect, change their perspectives and acquire skills to be able to address challenging circumstances. We don’t focus on just one theme, but instead focus on contributing to development of emotional intelligence because we believe that it is the solution to all sorts of social issues.
By combining these conversations with data science and artificial intelligence, we are able to provide effective solutions to generate social impact at scale. In short, we blend effective storytelling, innovative technology and evidence-based interventions designed by experts to drive change.
Collaboration is key to effective behavior change. So we co-create our stories, not only with behavior experts and catalysts that fund projects, but especially with young people that want to help us build our learning experiences from a user-centered approach.
Our unique approach helps us connect on a closer level to youth, because we translate complex ideas and strategies into everyday conversations using gamification features or media files that make the experiences more real. Ai technology is also important because it allows for our chatbots to become more conversational while talking to multiple participants. 8 out of 10 people that interacted with our bots say that they felt they were talking to a close friend, which made it easier to reflect and be more honest while chatting.
Conversation is a really powerful tool, humans are designed to learn through stories. Our bots are built around relevant topics to youth to make the conversation more relatable to their struggles and needs, but they be about big themes such as Climate change, Sexting, Sexual Orientation, Bullying or even Inmigration.
Our AI characters tell you stories and guide you on how to be more self-aware, set boundaries, be more assertive, develop resilience and build on other key skills that will make life easier and healthier. With our approach we can address any social issue that is relevant to youth and connect them with skill development conversations.
With UNICEF’s Venture Fund we will focus on Online Safety. The chat story will focus on cyberbullying given the explosive uptake of social media usage during the pandemic. Specifically, grooming through online gaming is a theme we are considering, given that it affects more adolescent girls and according to the PGB report in Brazil 51,5% are female gamers.
We will develop a chat story to raise awareness about the topic and direct participants to three chat interventions that guide them on what to do when experiencing something similar. This will give us the opportunity to test our solution and keep validating our product. Initially, we will be launching our bots via mainstream digital chat platforms but are looking into developing our own app to be able to work deeper on features associated with privacy and security as well as personal path creations to customize each journey and track evolution.
Besides measuring the performance of our bots, data science allows us to track and analyze big amounts of data anonymously to learn more about the topic and mostly to validate our impact, making data collection easier, faster and richer.
In some projects we work with researchers to make randomized control trials to test our product and prove that our solution actually works and has made a difference in youth’s lives. These researches are designed to acquire evidence and test acceptability and effectiveness. This way we are contributing to the community and sharing results that might be useful to keep on enhancing efforts towards the issues we address and the development of emotional intelligence within our societies.
This is why this project will be our first Open source project and it really excites us since it’s a new challenge. We believe it contributes to the cause of doing greater good and expanding impact. If we share our process, we might be able to reach even more remote spaces where these conversations are needed and otherwise they might not reach them. We will be part of a community and connect with likeminded people that can help us grow too.
At Talk2U, we are building a diverse team which includes 60% of Brazilians and 40% Argentinians. 60% are women and 50% are under 26 years old. There are diverse sexual orientations within the team, as well as religious and political possitions and physical abilities. We have a partnership with a company that connects us with international interns under 21 years old and we have already hosted one american, two asian-americans and one chinese intern until now from which we learnt a lot about their culture. By July a new intern from Bulgarian will be contributing to our cause too.
We know there is still a long way to go but in order to compensate for our team’s similar professional background we collaborate with as many diverse people as we can in our projects as well as do testings and interviews with our target audiences. Research shows that human beings have a natural tendency to place people into social categories and that the unconscious brain uses social assumptions to develop biases. So we need to be able to learn from others, hear different perspectives, incorporate more diverse experiences to break through those biases and be able to connect and make our product relatable with as many people as possible.
Diversity is fundamental for Talk2U so we will keep on working on making our team diverse and that is why we are 100% remote too. In the next few months, we will have new job opportunities and we would love to have people from all backgrounds and nationalities join.
For now, we will take advantage of this great opportunity the UNICEF Venture Fund has given us. What the fund offers isn’t just money. We get to learn from others and be mentored by experienced professionals that can help us channel our ideas and boost our potential. Being part of this cohort will boost our network, expand our knowledge and for sure open up new possibilities to grow both professionally and personally. We will connect with other like minded experts and organizations to expand our relationships in order to leverage collective genius to improve youth’s mental wellbeing.
We are about to immerse ourselves in an interesting but difficult theme that will challenge us to be better in order to do good and put in our two cents. We trust that we can do it together, collaborating, so let the conversations begin!