How I launched a coronavirus crisis hotline in 48 hours using Zelos


Thanks to your participation, our Community Helpline solution was a great success during the height of the coronavirus crisis in the European Union.

The Community Helpline add-on is no longer being supported, but is still available by request.

Below you can see how simple (yet so complex) our crisis-call center solution works. You can also visit KOGUKONDAITAB.EE for more information.

crisis hotline structure for covid-19

I didn’t expect to participate in TWO 48-hour hackathons in consecutive weekends. Then the Estonian government declared a state of emergency due to the Coronavirus crisis (aka COVID-19).

 Within hours, the Estonian hackathon professionals at Garage48 invited the local startup scene to participate in #HackTheCrisisa remote hackathon focused on solutions to help the community cope with the quarantine. Over a thousand volunteers joined the Slack group of the hackathon, and over 30 projects were started and finished over the weekend!

Both my co-founder Viktor and I volunteered to jump in and lead a team of volunteers, with a goal of making our remote task dispatch work across Estonia.

We carefully tweaked the Zelos backend to connect with a task triage board on Trello, and set up a call center hotline, creating a workflow to manually accept help requests from around Estonia.

We also posted a call to action on Facebook and Instagram to find people who wanted to help senior citizens, our focus population at risk. In the first 12 hours, over 300 volunteers joined the app, and we’re looking at growing numbers by the hour.

I would like to thank the whole team of volunteers to quickly put it together. From the Zelos team my amazing co-founder Viktor Lillemäe joined to adjust our app in record time. And big round of applause goes to the teammates we found at the hackathon: Kirill Soloviev, Maria Lasprilla, Elise Nikonov, Pavel Fleischer, Norman Vester, Andre-Loit Valli, Siim Aksel Amer, and Vadim Konov (some of who will continue volunteering for the cause). Finally, I want to thank Tanel Petersell, Stanislav Abramenkov and Magnus Lepp from Tele2. All of you rocked this weekend!

We got first prize (and funding) at the Garage48 #HackTheCrisis hackathon, which will let our volunteer team keep this hotline and task dispatch afloat, hopefully until the end of the crisis.

How to build a crisis hotline

Helping our elderly neighbors feels amazing. And I want to share this feeling with everyone around the world.

The platform is scalable to support other countries and regions. If you would like to launch a volunteering hub in your country or region, please let me know. You’d need some good volunteers, support from a local telecom, and some funds to cover software expenses. Here in Estonia, Tele2 provided us with the phone lines, and Accelerate Estonia has agreed to provide the funds. 

Disclaimers for the sake of clarity:

  • Zelos was never intended or built for this kind of crisis. Zelos is a team management software for volunteer teams that have a system for verifying and onboarding members. 
  • Zelos is not pivoting to become a dedicated coronavirus hotline app. We will continue to work as normal as possible, with some team members (like me) dedicating their sparetime to help with the new crisis hotline.
  • Our #HackTheCrisis participation is solely from the role of volunteers and private individuals, not as Zelos employees.

Stay safe people and remember to wash your hands.

With love (from my home office!)