Hackers for Birth Justice: Recap of Our First Hackathon









Announcement: We're hosting our second Hackers for Birth Justice hackathon on June 1 and 2, 2023! All are welcome to participate.

Learn more and join the 2nd annual hackathon

In early June, the California Preterm Birth Initiative (PTBi) and Twilio co-hosted Hackers for Birth Justice — the first annual Hackathon event where tech and birth equity meet to improve Black infant and maternal health outcomes. Imagine what we can achieve when we put tech experts and mothers with lived experience in a creative and innovative space together to develop solutions to combat challenges burdening Black mamas and babies.

Twilio is a customer engagement platform used by hundreds of thousands of businesses and more than ten million developers worldwide to build unique, personalized experiences for their customers. Through their social impact arm, Twilio.org, non-profits and social enterprises use Twilio communications to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems, to respond to crises, provide life-changing resources, and inspire action. In 2020, Twilio committed to becoming an anti-racist company, and continuously act on that commitment through internal programs, learning & development, and social impact work. Twilio believes that through their actions, they have both the responsibility and opportunity to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce and world. 

On June 9 and 10, we partnered with Twilio to host this hackathon. What is a Hackathon, you ask? A Hackathon is an innovation strategy that uses hearts, minds and technology to co-create collaborative solutions for complex issues. This hackathon was two-day event where participants formed small teams, built creative solutions to a business problem, and demoed their app to peers, the PTBi and Twilio leadership.

The event had eight teams that included hackers, developers, designers, PTBi team members, PTBi CAB members, and Benioff Community Innovators to design and build prototype tech-based solutions to address the Black infant and maternal health crisis. Our judges included Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson, PTBi Executive Director Alexis Cobbins, veteran journalist/author and femtech founder of Irth Kimberly Seals Allers, and Twilio Vice President of Social & Environmental Impact Natasha Cavanaugh. Snap Inc. Women’s ERG provided a $3,000 prize for the winning idea — an app called OCRA designed to offer culturally relevant on-demand education to medical providers so they could in turn take better care for their Black patients.

The winning team OCRA members:

  • Isabel Rose Holler Lally
  • Grace Vera Holler Lally
  • Kiersten Luallen
  • TaNefer Camara

Hackers for Birth Justice was a successful event where tech and birth equity met to improve Black infant and maternal health outcomes. The event fully brought to life what we imagined we could achieve when tech experts and mothers with lived experience collaborate in a creative and innovative space to develop solutions to combat challenges burdening Black mamas and babies.

Watch the full kickoff



Kimberley Seals Allers | Founder, Irth

Kimberley Seals Allers is an award-winning journalist, five-time author, international speaker, and founder of Irth, a Yelp-like digital platform to address racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality.

Natasha Cavanaugh | Vice President, Social & Environmental Impact, Twilio

As Vice President, Social & Environmental Impact at Twilio, Natasha leads the teams responsible for crisis response, environmental sustainability and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), employee impact, grants and impact investing, and also partners with Legal on ethical product use.

Alexis Cobbins, MSW | Executive Director, PTBi

Alexis Cobbins is the Executive Director of the California Preterm Birth Initiative at UCSF. She has worked as a Social Worker with over 10 years of experience providing culturally relevant and responsive services through a trauma-informed approach. With a Masters of Social Work from California State University, East Bay, Cobbins is deeply experienced in this field, providing culturally relevant and responsive services, trauma-informed care/systems, grief and loss therapy related to community violence, reflective practice, and anti-racism work. She has also served as a postpartum doula. After experiencing a preterm birth with her second child, her interest in building a career around reducing the burden of prematurity was ignited. All of Cobbins’ personal and professional experiences drive her passion to improve birth outcomes for Black women and other women of color.

Jeff Lawson | CEO and Co-Founder, Twilio

A serial entrepreneur and a software developer, Jeff co-founded Twilio in 2008 to bring communications into the world of software. He is a father of two young boys, enjoys photography, and always makes time to hack on new software and hardware projects.