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How youthSpark Created an Automated System Without Developers

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How youthSpark Created an Automated System Without Developers

By Cass Hill · November 8, 2017
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A leading innovator in the battle against human trafficking, Georgia's youthSpark transforms the lives of youths at risk for exploitation and abuse. They have become a thought leader in reducing child exploitation and sex trafficking rates in Georgia and across the country, too.

Part of youthSpark's mission to reduce the rate of exploitation stemmed from an idea for an automated deterrent initiative, which later became know as Demand Tracker.

Demand Tracker starts with a youthSpark employee posting a decoy ad to lure in prospective traffickers and buyers. When someone calls or texts the number in the ad, their phone number is recorded in Demand Tracker, where anyone can search the publicly available phone numbers. Callers also receive a deterrence text message warning them that their number has been flagged and made available to law enforcement.

Demand Tracker

Alex Trouteaud, Executive Director at youthSpark, faced a serious challenge in order to bring Demand Tracker to life: How do you build an automated system without software developers?

"We've had a great idea for an automated deterrence system to help reduce perpetration rates in Atlanta," Alex explains. "But finding a developer to work with who could do what we needed, with a budget we could afford and who had the spare time to do the work was proving impossible."

At the heart of Demand Tracker are two applications: Communications APIs provider Twilio and database builder Airtable. Alex and the youthSpark team connected Twilio and Airtable through app automation tool Zapier and a couple of Zaps (a bridge between two or more apps).

Zapier logs any calls made to a Twilio phone number in Airtable, building Demand Tracker's database one call at a time. Once a new row is added to that Airtable, Zapier automatically sends a text to that number, alerting them they've been added to Demand Tracker.

Alex was able to create a system with the potential to deter thousands of prospective predators within a few weeks. All without the need for software development expertise. "We have an incredible system that is working like a charm," Alex says.

youthSpark's Automation Workflow

All images courtesy of youthSpark.

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Cass Hill picture

Cass Hill

Cass Hill is a Platform Support Engineer at Zapier, chilling down under in Sydney - Australia. She’s usually found at the beach or testing the wine in a cool new bar.

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