Overnight, after the takeover by Elon Musk, associations saw their help from Twitter’s charitable program cut off. Tech&Co went to San Francisco to meet some of them.
Black suit, sparkling blue sneakers and cap screwed on his head, Shaun Tai is used to talking to reporters. In Oakland’s San Francisco Bay, he visits the premises of the Bridgegoo Association, installed in a huge fully equipped hangar. Sofas, monitors, computers, everything is made to accommodate students who want to enter the tech sector.
“A few weeks ago, we were supposed to have a meeting at Twitter headquarters, which was canceled,” he blurts out during the visit.
Because since 2013, Bridgegood has benefited from the Twitter for Good program, which provided financial, human and material assistance to associations. The program was completely cut takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk last October, and Bridgegood is one of the affected associations.
Height of the situation, Shaun Tai, co-founder of the association, arrived in Teslathe cars envisioned by Elon Musk.
Founded in 2009, the association aims to provide young people who do not have access to the tech sector with the skills and resources needed to get jobs in Silicon Valley. To do this, for example, the association arranges meetings with Twitter staff, including UX designers, to interact with students and give them advice.
Visit canceled at the last minute
“Getting a job in tech is probably the hardest thing to do, so we’ve established connections with the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley,” continues Shaun Tai.
It all started in 2013 with Friday for Good, which became Twitter for Good. The idea was that two or three times a year Twitter employees participate in association workshops. “Up until today, we had a very good relationship with Twitter, from board membership to grants to head office tours where we brought 20 to 40 students,” recalls Shaun Tai.
But on November 18, everything does not go as planned. “We were excited for our students to come to Twitter to see what it’s like to work at a big tech company. The same week we had an appointment, they emailed us to cancel our meeting, due to of what’s going on on Twitter right now,” laments the co-founder. And for good reason, the entire Twitter for Good team has been fired.
When he found out that Elon Musk wanted to buy Twitter, he thought it was a joke at first, “but when it became a reality, I think we weren’t sure what was in store for us and we were in confusion.After the takeover, hoped that the same team we were working with would remain in place, but unfortunately that was not the case.
He immediately put himself in the place of the students. The latter never had access to the world of technology and really counted on an association like Bridgegood to bring them to these companies.
“Musk is focused on the product, not the community”
Since the event was canceled in November, the Bridgegood teams are no longer in contact with Twitter. “I even posted a tweet mentioning Elon Musk recently,” jokes Shaun Tai. In vain.
For him, “Elon Musk focuses more on the product and not on the community,” especially on what surrounds Twitter. “If Elon Musk is a businessman, how do you convince him that it’s good for business to help society, to have different voices and different perspectives? That’s my goal with Bridegood.”
Shaun Tai wants to continue this partnership to allow students to discover tech jobs. The consequence is not so much financial for the association, it points above all to a loss of income for the recipients. “Discussion with employees is better than financial support because the technology changes every six months. I hope Elon Musk will take the program back to its base to make it even better”, Shaun Tai concludes with a hint of hope.
“We have never collected the keys to the premises”
The association Compass Family Services experienced the same scenario. Its mission is to help homeless families in San Francisco find a stable situation. Compass’ offices are a stone’s throw from Twitter’s headquarters. Abbey Leonard, head of communications for the association, laments the end of the Twitter for Good programme: “he was a really special partner, which makes his loss all the more difficult”.
For four years, Twitter has supported Compass through a program called NeighborNest. Through this partnership, Twitter provided a space that included computers, a computer lab, babysitting rooms, and meeting rooms. People could come to attend computer courses, print documents, access the Internet, but also look for accommodation, work and get help.
During the 2020 pandemic, Twitter temporarily closed the space. “We had just made a deal to reopen it in November, except we never found the keys to the premises and the whole project went up in smoke,” laments the manager. The partnership was material, human, financial and administrative, as Twitter was represented on the association’s board.
Thinking about it
On the side of Twitter, Karl Robillard, the person responsible for the Twitter for Good program, was also dismissed. The association therefore no longer has contact with Twitter. “Even the HR we talked to left. We wouldn’t even know who to talk to since everyone left.”
“Now we have to think about how we’re going to provide technological assistance to these families. We’ve been trying to find ways to continue helping them. We’re currently looking for other partners, but it was a solid program to find a similar partnership . is going to take time,” says Abbey Leonard.
On November 14, Twitter for Good special week takes place as every six months. In this context, Twitter organizes activities between its employees and volunteers from associations, including Compass. This edition was a bit special because it was organized by ex-fired Twitter employees.
The termination of this partnership does not mean the end of the association. In the first week of December, Compass organized a collection of toys for recipient families. The number of donations far exceeded the association’s expectations: “we are really grateful, the children are so happy”, says the manager enthusiastically.