I am honored to announce that I have taken on the role as board chair of Callisto, the Skoll Award winning nonprofit. Part of this news is sharing my reflections as Callisto starts a new year. Of course, that will include why Callisto is such a crucial and innovative social enterprise, and why I and my fellow board members are committed to helping Callisto succeed!
Scarce Innovation in the Sexual Assault Field
First, Callisto is a rare example of something truly new in supporting survivors of sexual assault. Our society and institutions do a shamefully poor job of this. Many campus rape survivors choose not to report, because those that do often note that their experience with the police and campus administrators was worse than the assault. The dismal statistic is that 90% of campus assaults are committed by serial perpetrators.
Callisto upends the power imbalance which leads to impunity for so many perpetrators of sexual assault. It provides a way for survivors to create a secure record of their assault. Beyond that, it allows survivors to enter into a matching system where the perpetrator’s email address, social media ids, and/or phone numbers are used to match and are securely encrypted. The magic of the matching system is that when another survivor enters information about the same perpetrator, the two (or three or more) survivors are connected with legal options counselors. The survivors continue to be in the driver’s seat on whether to take action, or not. If they choose, they can go to law enforcement with a more powerful case, strengthened by multiple independent voices accusing a serial perpetrator of these crimes. Many survivors who wouldn’t go to the police about their own experience will go through that process to help prevent more people from being assaulted in the future when they learn they are a victim of a serial perpetrator.
Callisto launched a new, more survivor-centric version of its platform just in the last eighteen months, and it’s working! Callisto has made matches on campuses, across campuses, and has an approximately 15% match rate on all the entries that have come in to date. And, that’s only on forty campuses so far!
Callisto needs to exist and reach all college campuses in the U.S., and then expand into other fields where sexual assault is rampant like Hollywood. The world needs it. And survivors need it.
The Crucial Role of Technology for Nonprofits
Callisto does not think of itself as a tech company. It’s a nonprofit dedicated to bringing trauma-informed services, and enabling great agency for survivors. But, it underlines how important technology, and nonprofits, are to addressing society’s big problems. Under the hood at Callisto is some terrific technology, developed by tech people and advised by crypto experts. The programmatic innovation is unlocked by having this innovative matching technology actually work.
This type of application is not interesting for for-profit tech companies. Freedom from sexual predation is not a profitable area. We depend on nonprofits like Callisto (and law enforcement and other sanctions such as expulsion from college) to help deliver these social goods. The world could very much use far more organizations like Callisto!
The Important of Boards
My last reflection is on the importance of boards of directors to innovative nonprofits. Anyone running a charity, at least in the U.S., knows that having a volunteer-majority board of directors is a fundamental legal requirement. Having a majority of disinterested directors is part of the social license to achieve tax exempt status which makes donations tax-deductible. But, that’s just a baseline requirement.
The job of a nonprofit board member becomes crucial during times of transition. I joined Callisto after years of admiring its charismatic founder, Jess Ladd. Unfortunately, Jess left during my first year on the board. The period from when Jess left until we found our current CEO, the talented Tracy DeTomasi, were a big challenge for Callisto’s board and staff. And I was very proud to serve alongside board members who stepped up in that time of need, including past chairs Deb Nucatola and Brian Byrd, as well as Ian Ayres, Scott Wu, Rochelle Nadhiri, and Tina Robilotto. And, we have a group of new board members who have joined since Tracy arrived: Tracey Breeden, Stephanie Connaughton, Anne Dixon, and Dr. Tameka Winston. We were united in our belief that the world would be a far better place for survivors if Callisto survived and thrived.
I am looking forward to serving as Callisto’s chair, and take seriously the responsibility to support Tracy and the team as they do the hard work of empowering survivors. And, it’s important that I not just raise money for Tech Matters and Benetech, the nonprofits that I’ve founded, but also actively support raising money for incredible innovative nonprofits like Callisto!