Your job title:
Founder & CEO
Your organization name:
When was your organization founded?
In what city, town, or region are you located?San Francisco, CA, USA
In what city, town, or region is your organization headquartered?San Francisco, CA, USA
In which countries does your organization currently operate?
Why are you applying for The Elevate Prize?
TalkingPoints is at an important inflection point to leverage its recent growth for scale and be "the" family engagement leader to drive student success. COVID-19 has highlighted the urgent need for accessible communication between teachers and families. We've grown to reach more than 3M families and teachers, 35,000 schools, and 2,000 districts, with 6X growth in 2020 alone. Since our launch in 2015, we’ve facilitated more than 100 million conversations across the platform. Now, we are leveraging our growth for scale to triple our impact and reach more than 10 million teacher and families by 2023. Not only would winning the Elevate cash prize of $300,000 directly accelerate our scale, but the two-year support program aligns with the timing of our strategic plan and supports our key focus areas to increase visibility, roll-out an aggressive marketing and communications plan, and invest in thought leadership and development. The Elevate Prize would amplify TalkingPoints’ mission, vision, and impact among some of the most influential, purpose-driven leaders across the world. We also aim to expand internationally in the years to come and see great value in Elevate's global reach. TalkingPoints current funders include Google.org, Schmidt Futures, Carnegie Corporation, Cisco, AT&T, and more.
Tell us about YOU:
At 8 years old, I moved from Korea to England not knowing English. I am where I am today because my mother was involved in my education and had the ‘voice’ to do so by speaking English and knowing what was going on at school. The trajectory of many of my other immigrant friends is not the same as they struggled and dropped out of school. I realized the difference between my experience and my friends’ wasn’t a parent’s love, but their access to the skills and tools to support their children’s learning.
I went to Oxford, London School of Economics, and Stanford Graduate School of Business and have worked in many positions including as a consultant at McKinsey. In 2015, I launched TalkingPoints with a vision that every child has the support needed to learn, grow and succeed, that every family member is empowered to be a partner in their children’s education and, that teachers and schools are successful in supporting families. I am committed to quality education for all students because of my personal experience and my fundamental belief that equitable education and the innate feeling of fulfilling one’s own potential is at the crux of social justice.
Pitch your organization.
More than forty million children from low-income, minority, and diverse communities in the U.S. are being left behind in education. These under-resourced students perform academically at 40% less than peers and face educational inequities that have resulted in a learning gap of up to two years compared to peers, costing the US economy approximately $500 million each year. A rich history shows family engagement as a driving force to improving student outcomes. Yet, family/school engagement occurs up to 50% less among families in these communities and is more challenging due to barriers such as language, culture, mind-sets, and access to technology.
TalkingPoints is an award-winning education non-profit with a mission to drive student success through accessible technology that unlocks the potential of families in children’s education. Our multilingual family engagement platform connects and empowers families and teachers through human and AI-powered, two-way translated communication and personalized content. This unique approach eliminates barriers to foster strong family engagement in development of students’ academic success. An educator can send a message to many families in English, each family receives the message in their preferred language, and then, when each family responds to the message, the educator receives the messages back in English.
Describe what makes your work innovative.
TalkingPoints is the only edtech solution to family engagement for underserved, diverse communities. Quality FE involves increasing family knowledge, skills, and opportunities for supporting children’s learning. Other approaches include high-touch, in-person, non-scalable parent education programs with high per-beneficiary cost, parent-facing websites with generic content parents must search, and for-profit parent-teacher communication tools without relationship-building, skill-building, or education-specific translation. Traditionally, no proven, low-cost, scalable approaches exists for FE. TalkingPoints leverages technology and AI to personalize family-facing content and proactively push out culturally-relevant, translated, and timely support. Through this innovative, scalable product, TalkingPoints is fundamentally re-designing how families deepen their skills at supporting their children's learning and engage with teachers/schools. During COVID-19, educators referred to TalkingPoints as a ‘lifeline’ or ‘lifesaver’ to keep learning going.
TalkingPoints' innovation has been widely recognized. I was an Echoing Green Fellow, a Stanford Social Innovation Fellow, an Ashoka Changemaker, and Forbes 30 Under 30 for education. TalkingPoints won MIT Solve for Teachers and Educators Award, Gates Foundation/NYU Algorithm for Change Competition Winner and 2019 Google AI Impact Challenge. Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility, AT&T, Common Sense Media, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab also highlighted TalkingPoints for its COVID-19 response.
How and why is your organization having an impact on humanity?
TalkingPoints makes family engagement easier and facilitates meaningful connections for under-resourced, multilingual families and their schools by:
Supporting academic and whole child success
Developing the capacity of educators to effectively partner with families through in-app coaching, nudges, and professional development
Connecting families with their children’s teachers and with each other across language barriers through two-way human and machine translation
Building capacity of families to best support their children’s learning through in-app and text message-based nudges and content
By increasing family engagement in under-resourced communities through home-school connection, capacity-building, and empowerment, we narrow educational inequity and drive academic success and whole-child development for the most underrepresented students. We prioritize impact and draw on research-based practices/evidence to continuously innovate and improve our model. Research-based innovation takes time, focus, and effort. We envision TalkingPoints becoming the leading edtech solution setting the standard for family-school partnerships in diverse, multilingual communities across the world. Through our work, we will materially enhance whole-child outcomes for millions of students, influence policy, and change for the better how schools and families work together to achieve successful student outcomes.
Select the key characteristics of the community your organization is impacting.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your organization address?
Which of the following categories best describes your work?
How many people does your organization directly serve at present? How many do you anticipate serving in one year?
TalkingPoints currently serves 3 million teachers and families in total across 50,000 schools in the U.S., up from 500,000 teachers and families served at the beginning of 2020. In one year, we will double our reach to directly serve 6 million teachers and families. Key drivers over the next year include continued organic growth of teachers plus an increase from 2,000 to 5,500 institutional partners that pay a fee for our platform. Of those reached, we prioritize high need students and families, meaning from low-income, diverse, multilingual communities and communities of color. Currently, 85% of our partners are Title I-eligible schools, with a significant student population from low-income communities, and 70% of teachers and families are non-white. In the next 3-5 years, TalkingPoints will grow to serve tens of millions of under-resourced teachers, students, and families. A key part of this growth strategy includes research and development of evidence-based practices to strengthen our impact and advance the field of family engagement so that educational equity continues to grow and opportunity gaps close.
Describe your impact goals and how you plan to achieve them.
TalkingPoints increases family engagement (FE) in under-resourced communities through home-school connection, capacity-building, and empowerment to narrow educational inequity and drive academic success and whole-child development for the most underrepresented PreK-12 students. Our goals align with USDG’s education goals by:
Supporting Pre-K-12 milestone and school completion (4.1, 4.2)
Driving equitable education opportunities across gender, socio-economic status, ability, race, and culture (4.5, 4.7) by increasing access to free, accessible, and quality edtech and removing language and cultural barriers
Improving academic outcomes (4.6) through FE, which research has shown to improve literacy and numeracy
Helping schools/districts/institutional organizations promote effective distance/hybrid/in-class learning environments (4.a) through FE which proves critical this year as families are the most knowledgeable about their child's progress.
Increasing teacher capacity (4.c) to partner with families to drive student learning
We prioritize impact and leverage research results to continuously innovate our approach. Indicators tracked include reach, volume, frequency and quality of teacher/family conversations, NPS, partner retention, and family engagement levels through data analytics and surveys measuring changes in teacher/family mindset, know-how, and behavior as well as student performance, attendance, and behavior. Soon we'll track impact against student administrative data such as graduation rates, on-time grade-level completion, grades, and improved socio-emotional skills.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and how do you plan to overcome them? How would winning the Elevate Prize help you to overcome these barriers?
TalkingPoints’ biggest risk is not scaling fast enough to maximize our impact. Our momentum and track record of growth and impact along with the current administration’s increased investment in FE, Title I schools, and accessible edtech resources illustrate that the time is now for us to make systemic change in education and improve outcomes for tens of millions of under-resourced students in the years beyond COVID-19. We will overcome this risk by:
Strategically doubling down on the success of our organic growth among teachers as well as our inbound school/district partner requests with increased investments in marketing, partnership development, and outbound sales.
Improving value proposition through product development (TalkingPoins 2.0) to support meaningful, culturally responsive, teacher-family engagement in support of student success.
Rolling out an aggressive marketing and communications plan and investing in thought leadership and development.
Digging into TalkingPoints data sets to understand patterns of engagement to inform best practices for the education field and internal product development and prove out TalkingPoints' theory of impact.
Maintaining a positive work culture and infrastructure by investing in our people and values
Elevate’s support would greatly raise TaklingPoints’ brand visibility, leadership in the field, and capacity to leverage the moment.
How would you leverage the larger platform, audience, and brand recognition as an Elevate Prize winner to further advance your impact?
TalkingPoints sees thought leadership as one of many key ingredients to successfully scaling family engagement in order to create educational equity. We would take full advantage of the support of tailored media campaigns, brand recognition efforts, and fanbase development. Being selected as an Elevate Prize winner would support our strategy and increase capacity across all aspects of the organization to:
Advance the field of family engagement, influence policy, and drive support of FE in schools across the country and beyond
Raise awareness among school leaders and practitioners (esp. innovators who believe in partnering with families and communities to adopt data-driven solutions like TalkingPoints) and drive growth of TalkingPoint’s school/district product
Support continued organic word-of-mouth growth
Create inbound funding opportunities
What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership team?
TalkingPoints continues to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion to build an inclusive, culturally equitable workplace for the long term. We build our team intentionally to reflect the communities we serve in terms of its cultural, ethnic, racial, and linguistic backgrounds, which we hold as an organizational priority. Many of our team members are people of minority backgrounds having grown up as first generation college graduates, immigrant students, not speaking English as a first language or taught in classrooms within communities that mirror the under-resourced, multilingual communities we serve. We pride ourselves on our diverse and inclusive culture, which also informs the ways in which we work with our stakeholders.
To this end, we have embarked on assembling formal advisory boards composed of key stakeholders that reflect our commitment to DEI and plan to grow a board of directors that also reflect the communities we serve. As our organization grows, we intend to create more formal constructs and processes around advancing equity internally, from hiring pipeline and recruiting best practices, to manager/employee training and regular team opportunities for feedback, dialogue and reflection.
How are you and your team well-positioned to address the problem you are solving?
Education is in my blood. It’s how I became who I am and why I started TalkingPoints. Born to educator parents and having been able to study abroad through scholarships, education is where I can give back to society the generosity I received, especially to under-resourced students and families facing cultural, socioeconomic and language barriers, like I did when I first immigrated to the UK. I speak both English and Korean (my mother tongue) with an unplaceable accent. I cringe when people ask where I’m from, because my racial/ethnic/national identities blur together as a Korean-born, English-raised woman living in the US. But, I believe that these unique experiences enable me to constantly question the status-quo, not take anything for granted and believe there is a better way of solving problems for more equitable outcomes, which I continue to explore through TalkingPoints. I’ve worked on education reform to drive data-driven decision-making for Middle East public schools and served as chief of staff to a special advisor to the UK’s Secretary of Education. I helped develop what is now the Alder Education teacher training program. And, at McKinsey & Company, I advised the Gates Foundation and Teach First UK and more.
Describe a past experience that demonstrates your leadership ability.
The pandemic marked a monumental shift in education, one that put a spotlight back on family engagement and the importance of strong home-school partnership. Accordingly, it sparked a rapid increase in demand for TalkingPoints among teachers and schools looking to meaningfully connect and communicate with the families they served, especially those from under-resourced, multilingual communities who were most marginalized. During this time, we had to reimagine our potential for scale, drive innovation to our platform, secure new funding, and iterate to increase our impact with the schools, teachers, and families seeking the support of our platform during this difficult time. For example, we quickly pivoted to provide the platform for free to schools and districts last March, which resulted in 6X growth in less than six months. Now, realizing TalkingPoints’ tremendous value, the vast majority of those schools/districts converted to paying partners, accelerating our path to sustainability and keeping TalkingPoints free to the most marginalized families. Through these challenges, we launched a strategic growth campaign to triple our impact by 2023 and position ourselves for sustainability and scale well beyond the pandemic to combat the negative effects on student achievement, education equity, and the broader education ecosystem.
Have you been featured in any documentaries, television shows, or live speaking engagements? If so, please share links to any available content.
- TalkingPoints nominated the best family communication tool for schools and teachers
If selected as an Elevate Prize winner, how will the funding help you achieve your goals?
As mentioned, we launched a growth campaign to triple our impact by 2023 and raise a one-time philanthropic investment of $20M to support our rapid scale which is critical at this particular point in time given our momentum and the current climate. Support from Elevate’s network will greatly amplify awareness of our mission as we leverage our growth for scale. And, the generous prize money would drive three of our key initiatives in our strategic plan, including increasing our reach to 10 million teachers and families, developing the next generation of our platform, TalkingPoints 2.0, to include key new features that increase teacher and family capacity to support student learning, and building our research base in family engagement for increased impact and data. Additionally, an investment from Elevate would help us to build our organizational infrastructure to increase our capacity to scale.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
We partner with more than 2,000 schools across the country, including large, diverse school district partners such as Oakland Unified, Boston Public Schools, Pittsburgh Public Schools and North Carolina’s Wake County Public School System, among others.
In which of the following areas do you and your organization most need support?