You’ve already heard about the OutSystems Build for the Future Hackathon running until February 25: the partnership with our developer community to create a set of applications that will help a small group of nonprofits more easily deliver services to those in need.

The goal of the Hackathon is to develop the right solution for the nonprofit’s specific need using OutSystems low-code platform and skills of our OutSystems Partners. As part of this initiative, we thought it would be fun for everyone to get to know the nonprofits that we will be working with.

Today we present Strength United, California-based nonprofit organization that provides strength-based prevention and client-centered intervention services to survivors of all ages who have experienced child maltreatment, domestic violence, and sexual assault. We had a chat with Jessica Romo, Associate Director who shared with us some important information about the work of the organization and its impact on local communities.

Q: Jessica, tell us a bit more about Strength United.

A chartered center of California State University, Northridge (CSUN), Strength United has served the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys for over 30 years, supporting the most vulnerable members of our community at critical moments in their lives and providing prevention, intervention, and education in our community to address violence and abuse at the root. We provide 24/7 confidential support and response. We help children, adults, and families live abuse-free lives.

Strength United people

At Strength United, we prioritize the needs of survivors over the demands of the system. Clients have access to counseling, advocacy, court accompaniment, safety planning, civil legal services, forensic medical exams, and forensic interviews all in one location. Staffed with licensed mental and public health professionals, advocates, educators, and community partners, Strength United operates four community-based locations throughout the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys.

Q: What is the main reason you decided to participate in this initiative and what are you hoping to gain from it?

Strength United’s Crisis Hotline is staffed 24-hours a day, seven days a week, and we currently respond to more than 1,000 calls each year. The hotline has become our primary intake method during the pandemic, and we’ve added resources and training so that our advocates can address COVID-related anxiety and stress.

But we know that we are missing critical cases. It is so much more common now for people to text or chat than to talk on the phone. Particularly during the current health crisis, where people are urged to stay at home or quarantine, it can be especially challenging for a victim to call for help. If a person feels trapped in their home with their abuser, it may not be safe for them to make a phone call, but they might be able to send a text message or communicate through an online chat.

We have evidence from our clients that the health crisis has made it increasingly difficult for people experiencing domestic violence to reach out for help. Nationwide there has been a decline in reports of child abuse by more than 40%, for example. We know this is the result of a lack of reporting, not a decrease in abuse. We must provide new means for victims in crisis to seek help. While there may not be the capability of having a chat feature right away, we realize that the creation of the app will create more access and visibility to clients who may not have ever heard of Strength United.

Strength United people

Q: How can a high-performance low-code platform like OutSystems help you with your mission and increase your organization’s impact?

Strength United needs to update our technology and add text message and chat capability to our Crisis Hotline. This would require partnering with new vendors to manage our incoming calls and messages, and developer support to set up and build out our new system. We will need more training for staff to use these tools, and a comprehensive marketing campaign to promote and let the community know this resource is available.

With new tools and channels of communication, more victims of trauma and violence will be able to reach us, and reach us more safely, at their moment of crisis. This collaboration will make our community safer, by providing critical support to survivors of abuse. We will be providing life-saving intervention and helping adults, children, and families to live abuse-free lives

Q: Five OutSystems Partners are racing to develop the best possible solution for Strength United, Bool (PT), Deloitte (PT), Drakkar (BR), Netlink (USA) and Noesis (PT). You had the opportunity to meet them all, how does that cooperation and partnership look for you?

We hope that this collaboration will lead to greater engagement with the OutSystems team and other partners that creates awareness of issues of abuse and trauma in all our communities. It is our hope that the tools developed through this partnership will not only help Strength United’s clients, but also lead to greater support for our mission. We hope that this project creates tools that can be replicated and used to help even more children, adults, and families in their moment of crisis. We hope that this is a continued partnership where our App can grow as the capabilities of OutSystems grows as well.

Q: What is next for your organization post-Hackathon? What are some of the goals you’ve set once the event has run its course?

The conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced Strength United to make substantial changes to our services and how we are able to help survivors. We look forward to returning to more in-person support services, but the tools we have acquired have expanded our possibilities. We hope to utilize the technology we have engaged to further our reach in our community, to help more people in more flexible and creative ways in the future. We also hope to continue to partner with OutSystems and the CSUN CSE class that will recruit students to help us grow and maintain the app. This collaboration is part of that continued evolution, and we look forward to expanding our horizons further.

Looking to get more involved with Strength United? Check them out below to learn more!