We are Helpful. Since we were founded in March 2020 (and quite a few of us actually met through Reddit!), we launched over 40 projects, including these notable ones:

We are keen to continue our momentum and share the joy, successes, and heartaches we experienced in pushing the culture of open source innovation forward to help save lives.

Ask us anything.

For today's IAmA, we have Helpful's Benjamin Treuhaft (Co-CEOs), Barry Watkins (Director of Organizational Support/Operations), Marie Kalliney (Innovation Co-Director), and Densearn Seo (Medical Outreach Lead).


Edit: Thank you, everyone, for your amazing questions - it's been three hours and our puppies are all crying for their walks so we're going to close today's AMA. We will come back in 2021 and update you all!

Comments: 142 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

BaniGrisson70 karma

Some random questions:

  1. How do you decide what projects to persue?

  2. How do people join?

  3. Where does the funding come from?

  4. Does the media and social networks give enough attention?

  5. How do you contact with people at a local level to let them know about your designs?

So many questions... Thanks for the AMA!

Edit: spelling

mapocathy39 karma

Great questions, u/BaniGrisson.

What projects to pursue: Members of the Helpful Community come to us with ideas to solve a certain problem.  Once a project has been received, Helpful reviews it internally for a number of different factors including project viability, the need it is addressing, and the potential impact of the project.  If the project meets the criteria, Helpful will make it a sponsored project, at which point we can provide it with resources such as prototype funding, volunteers, QA/RA assistance, and project management to help it come to fruition.

Funding: We receive funding from grants as well as individual donations.  We are constantly looking for more sources of funding to be able to continue to grow the number of projects we are supporting and problems to solve.  Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

Joining Helpful: We are always open to new volunteers - you can sign up here.

Media and Social Networks: We've been featured on a few media platforms (such as Scientific America, the Guardian, Fast Company, etc), but we would like to see more coverage. As we use all available funds to support the projects, our communications department works without a real budget. Therefore, we have focused on spreading the word about our mission and efforts through our own social media accounts and websites, and by building relationships with our stakeholders and using their communication channels.

We hope that with more projects coming to completion the media interest for Helpful will increase organically.

How do you contact people at a local level to let them know about your designs?

  1. We use social media and word of mouth.
  2. We are in the early stages of launching a project: Reach4Help, to enable communities to discover and solve local problems (and leverage boots-on-the-ground human intelligence).
  • Seth Manoff, Chief Financial Officer at Helpful

holyfark48 karma

As you all volunteer your time, how do you balance home, work, and your time to the organization?

mapocathy69 karma

Great question! Short answer: it’s a balancing act. Most of our volunteers have paying jobs and family commitments that come first. So we try very hard to find projects/work assignments that coincide with a volunteer’s passion and which respects how much time a volunteer can commit to.

To avoid burnout, we welcome honest communication and boundary setting. We also ensure people are working on the highest value work. We value delivery over activities.

  • Marie Kalliney, Innovation Co-Director

Auferstehen781 karma

Wish I had the time as it sounds amazing. I will have to check back when I finish my master's degree as I will have more time.

mapocathy1 karma

Thank you and good luck with your studies!

Improvement_Medical14 karma

As someone who is searching for volunteers to develop an open-source cooperative platform, where do you recommend me to search for help?

ArchetypalOldMan6 karma

Really interested in this one: anytime I've looked the accessibility to forming or just even finding out about existing collaborative groups is near non-existent. Didn't even know these guys existed

mapocathy4 karma

Sorry we didn’t get to answer this question before we signed off today, but it’s a great one and we’ll get to it in 2021!

Eethoven5 karma

Could you guys fight 18,000 Danny DeVitos?

mapocathy10 karma

An excellent question. Mathematically, what you are really asking is if one STEM engineer can fight one tiny Danny DiVitos. I will have to bring this question to our headquarters to hash it out.

tonoocala4 karma

WHat are the best and simplest steps we can each take on an individual basis to fight climate change?

Can you guys approach CEOs of supermarket chains and say "Hey, there is really no need to wrap these vegetables in plastic. You'll save money by not doing it and help the world". I tried telling this to a couple store managers and they said they'd look into it...no results

mapocathy8 karma

Thanks for the question. You’re probably already doing the right things. Drink tap water, source your food locally, ride your bike and take public transportation, recycle everything you possibly can, bring your own bags everywhere you go, and reduce kitchen waste by eating/saving/storing all food. Eat what you buy. Don’t run your AC if you can avoid it.

To answer the part of your question about raising awareness at higher or more systemic levels, the simple answer is yes we hope to do this sort of thing. In the context of COVID we have already hosted a number of conferences to bring together thought leaders and primary actors to deal with particular issues. In the context of climate change we look forward to facilitating these sort of events. Focusing an event on things that link plastics in the food industry makes a lot of sense.

Great suggestion about how grocers unnecessarily wrap their produce! It’s terribly wasteful. We love your chutzpah :)

Marie Kalliney

Innovation Co-Director

tonoocala2 karma

thank you Marie! I appreciate what you guys do and we all, as inhabitants of this world, have to do our part! happy holidays!

mapocathy2 karma

Thank you for your lovely message. We wish you a very happy holiday season, too!

gapje6664 karma

What's your favorite pasta?

mapocathy6 karma


gapje6663 karma

WoW I was confused for a second Nice one.

mapocathy2 karma


ChoseSinWon3 karma

Isn't it true you all are apart of the illuminati and this is your attempt to take over the world one good deed at a time?

mapocathy3 karma

Shhh don’t tell the CIA.

RoadRageRR3 karma

So I understand this AMA is done an over, but maybe someone will see this and provide a response.

I like cool toys. CNC, 3dp, injection molding, if it deals with engineering, I’m bout it. I built a business within a different sector, but the profits it generates is being reinvested back in to grow the business. I plan to have a full production machine shop with numerous different manufacturing capabilities. I am building this machine shop not to open it for business persay, but to have the tools to develop the things I want to develop. I’ve always thought that a nonprofit machine shop that could donate production hours to solve problems would be an excellent benefit. If I have a .5m$ machine shop with all of the cool tools as well as the experience to use them to develop and manufacture useful projects, would that be beneficial to you?

mapocathy2 karma

RoadRageRR that sounds awesome! We have a big community of prototypers so why don’t you pop over and tell us more about you? Thanks so much!

Ltfocus2 karma

What plans do you have after the pandemic?

mapocathy2 karma

Go places again.

On a serious note, we plan to look into climate change, environmental, and sustainability projects. We are a group of globally-minded people, and there is an enormous amount of work to be done in these domains. If you have some ideas to share, we’d love to hear them.

  • Marie (Innovation Co-Director)

Just-the-chin2 karma

Why are graduate students paid so little?

mapocathy2 karma

We wish we knew.

Adrina10111 karma

Are you hiring?

mapocathy3 karma

Thank you for asking! We are always looking for new people to join our teams. Please take a look at our open positions and let us know if you are interested in applying. The link also spells out exactly how to engage with us. At this time, all our positions are volunteer and non-paid.

  • Marie Kalliney (Innovation Co-Director, Helpful)

FliesWithWind1 karma

What's your dog name and are there more picks of him? Also how do you decide which ideas are most "Helpful" worth pursuing?

mapocathy4 karma

Ben’s puppy is Wally and he’s an award winning show dog! I will try to find more dog tax to share.

Starkiller_3031 karma

I have read a statistic that over half of all water pumps installed in 3rd world countries fail before the first year has gone by since installation. Organizations who go into places that don't have clean water and install these are doing a great service, but how do we make it more sustainable long term?

mapocathy2 karma

I have read a statistic that over half of all water pumps installed in 3rd world countries fail before the first year has gone by since installation.

That's super interesting and maybe it will inspire our next project. Do you have more information on the stats? We have been interested in motors for a while now.

ZjY5MjFk1 karma


mapocathy2 karma

That's a great question. Project data is an effort to build a dynamic PPE supply chain tool using open-source designs and production.

James Butler, Project Data Lead at Helpful.

tonoocala1 karma

why do beer companies and soda companies still use plastic rings? Is this alternative scalable and a good alternative? https://www.nola.com/news/environment/article_09eeefd9-f4b3-524d-ac71-cd8bd6858ed1.html

mapocathy2 karma

Thank you for sharing this question and the link.

How wonderful that they are producing these 6 pack rings! (/s).

Our limited understanding is that manufacturers have been using the old 6 pack rings because, quite simply, they have no financial incentives to change their equipment and manufacturing practices. There are a few noteworthy producers that are now following suit with Carlsberg breweries, which manufactured a biodegradable glue to hold bottles together.

  • Marie Kalliney (Innovation Co-Director, Helpful)

tonoocala2 karma

yeah, I've heard Kevin O'Leary say that on Shark Tank. Corporations count every single penny -.- (if only they knew the return on that penny).

Pollution and other waste forms could be quite costly for our world

mapocathy5 karma

Not posting on behalf of Helpful but my off-duty personal opinion: the world is messed up because too many organisations can benefit from not caring about all the externalities, from excessive packaging to pollution. I hope one day someone will be able to start introducing a new, sustainable, economic model that will factor in such costs that are taxing our health and the planet’s future. One can dream!

tonoocala2 karma

hopefully younger generations are gonna lead the way to change

mapocathy2 karma

So far they seem a lot more aware than me (us?) simps - so yes! I feel hopeful.

adityad32-6 karma

Do you have any non-STEM individuals in your group? Overvaluing STEM and undervaluing the humanities is what leads to a technological dystopia. Do you think you might be contributing to economic inequality by putting STEM on a pedestal?

mapocathy-2 karma

We have volunteers from all different types of backgrounds (writers, graphics, marketing, social media, etc.), not just STEM.  Ultimately, we are trying to help tackle social impact problems by bringing people with all different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives together.  We'd also love to have you if you're interested - please consider volunteering.

  • Seth Manoff (CFO, Helpful)