Travis Foundation

Prompt Joins the Travis Foundation

Noah Slater is a co-organiser of Prompt. The Foundation is providing an new organisational home for Prompt so it may continue its important work.


Prompt is an initiative to start a conversation about mental health in the tech community, and today we are excited to announce that it joins the Travis Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to improving Open Source for everyone.

Prompt was launched by Eamon Leonard at Distill 2013. Eamon’s reasons for starting Prompt were very personal. He recalls:

While attending JSConf 2011 in Portland, I got an early morning phone call telling me that I had lost a close friend to suicide. Because of this, I took an interest in mental health, and joined the board of ReachOut.com (which has a particular focus on young people) to help promote a better understanding of mental health issues.

As someone who was very active in tech communities, I interacted with people of all kinds from all around the world. I started to realise how many in our industry are either directly or indirectly affected by mental health.

I also noticed a lot of companies building products for techies were marketing them as being a way “to make life easier”. I realised they were talking about making work easier, and I asked myself: how can we actually make a difference to the lives (in the broadest possible sense) of the people in our tech communities?

Prompt was born out of a desire to start that conversation in public in a way that combats the taboo and stigma that surrounds it.

Prompt was then launched, funded, and managed by the Engine Yard community team, being Eamon Leonard, Davey Shafik, PJ Hagerty, Brendan Hastings, and myself.

The goal was simple: find speakers who want to talk about mental health, and give them money so they can do it. On top of that, offering support and coaching for speakers, as well as helping organizations get in touch with speakers on these topics.

The first two speakers we recruited were Ed Finkler and Greg Baugues, followed shortly by John Dalton and Paddy Foran. With these four, we covered topics including depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and living with mental illness. For 2015, we added Julia Nguyen, Christopher Murphy, Karolina Szczur, Justine Arreche, Josh Holmes, and Jennifer Akullian to our roster. With these speakers, we now cover OCD, anxiety, work-life balance, imposter syndrome, burnout, and eating disorders.

Here’s the Prompt panel at Distil in 2014:

Prompt Panel from Engine Yard on Vimeo.

Unfortunately, with additional speakers, operational costs increased. It became clear that Prompt had to spin out from Engine Yard if it was to continue. Eamon and Brendan moved on to other things, leaving me, Davey, and PJ to carry things forward. And with the complexities of setting up a not-for-profit organisation, things were put on hold in early 2015.

Then, at the beginning of Summer, I was speaking with Konstantin Haase about the work the Travis Foundation does, and it occurred to me that teaming up would solve all of our problems. So I reached out to Anika Lindtner, who runs the Foundation, to talk about our options.

As you might guess, that conversation went well. And as of today, Prompt is now officially an initiative of the Travis Foundation!

What does that mean? Well, we’re legally a part of a not-for-profit organisation that handles donations, taxes, bank accounts, disbursement of funds, etc. We also have access to the pool of expertise behind the Foundation, as well as the Foundation’s infrastructure, network, connections, and brand. And all of this means we can now start thinking about fund-raising activities.

Prompt was always supposed to be bigger than Engine Yard. It was the start of something we hoped would grow and attract the support of many other companies. This diversified investment is absolutely critical for a continued presence within the community, and to make meaningful progress towards combating the stigma around mental health.

Accordingly, we’d like to invite you to get involved. Whether you want to speak, want to host a speaker, want to sponsor, or want to help find sponsors. We need your help!

Please get in touch via Twitter, or by emailing us.

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