Twilio.org, the social impact arm of telecommunications API provider Twilio, announced today that it has invested $250,000 in Edovo, a social enterprise that provides digital tablets to incarcerated inmates. Twilio.org’s Impact Fund also awarded its second round of grants to three nonprofits: International Rescue Committee (IRC), MindRight, and Caravan Studios.
According to Edovo, 12 million people in the U.S. see the inside of a jail or prison cell every year. The Chicago, Illinois-based startup wants to reduce recidivism by providing inmates with effective tools for communication and education.
The digital tablets include courses and content focused on literacy, personal finance, health and wellness, cognitive behavior therapy, meditation, and more. The tablets also provide inmates with messaging-based communications so they can stay in touch with loved ones more easily.
The investment is in line with Twilio.org’s original mission: to provide nonprofits with the best communication technology to help solve social problems. Founded in September 2013, Twilio.org has supported programs such as Code for America, the Polaris Project, Thorn, the American Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders.
To further expand the reach of this program, Twilio took the 1% Pledge in September 2015 and committed one percent of its pre-IPO equity to funding Twilio.org (the IPO went through in June 2016). With these funds, Twilio.org launched an Impact Fund in May 2017. According to the foundation, Twilio.org awarded more than $1.5 million in impact funds last year and plans to award an additional $1.5 million in 2018.
It’s important to distinguish between a grant and an impact investment. The former is money that is awarded to a nonprofit; the latter is capital that is invested in a social (for-profit) enterprise.
“Twilio.org takes equity in the social enterprises we invest in and does expect a return,” Erika Balbuena, head of the Twilio.org Impact Fund, wrote in an email to VentureBeat. “Any return that results from the investment goes back into the Twilio.org Impact Fund so that we can continue to invest into the future.”
Twilio.org, which is based in San Francisco, says there are currently more than 1,000 nonprofits and social enterprises working with the foundation.