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Sara Boyd: “Sometimes our biggest roadblock is ourselves”

To me, leadership is defined as having the courage to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of its popularity and personal benefit to you. It’s seeing what’s possible and being willing to take risks to get there. It’s embracing humility to learn from others and from mistakes. It’s recognizing your blindspots and joining […]

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To me, leadership is defined as having the courage to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of its popularity and personal benefit to you. It’s seeing what’s possible and being willing to take risks to get there. It’s embracing humility to learn from others and from mistakes. It’s recognizing your blindspots and joining forces with complementary partners. It’s painting a picture of the future for others to see and moving forward with a higher purpose in mind. It doesn’t come in a uniform package or presence. Leadership is evident to me in the stories of the survivors of trauma who courageously raise their voice, advocate, and take action to measurably improve the lives of those who follow.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sara Boyd.

Sara is the CEO of VidaNyx, the premier digital evidence management software for child advocacy centers. VidaNyx, which means “protector of life”, is trusted by more than 1,400 agencies across the US to secure critical forensic interview evidence, advance digital collaboration, and accelerate justice and healing for child survivors of abuse, saving up to 67% of the time previously dedicated to case preparation.

Sara spent the previous twenty years of her career working on social impact in communities, most recently as the CEO of the Omaha Community Foundation. While at the Foundation, she led their growth to more than 1,800 fundholders and 1.2 billion dollars in assets making the Foundation the 15th largest of its kind in the country. Sara also architected the creation of Omaha Gives!, inspiring more than 50 million dollars in giving, the launch of TheLandscapeOmaha.org with 38 impact indicators, and the growth of programs serving more than 1,200 nonprofits.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I spent nearly two decades of my career working on social impact in communities and over the course of that time aggregated an unfortunate amount of experience with outdated and underperforming technology.

I became a fan of the early vision of Giving Tech Labs to inspire the creation of more technology to advance public interest and social impact. I connected with Giving Tech Labs co-founders, Shelly Kurtz and Luis Salazar, and hosted some roundtable discussions with social impact leaders. One of these meetings sparked an idea that became the inspiration for incubating VidaNyx. A few years later while still at the Foundation, I was listening to Peter Diamandis talk about efforts in Silicon Valley to connect the neurons in our brains directly to the cloud. Feeling a heightened sense of cognitive dissonance between the state of leading-edge innovation and the dated technology available in the social sector, I knew I had to make a change. Fortuitously, the timing happened to correspond with Giving Tech Lab’s interest to launch VidaNyx. I knew intersecting my appetite for leading-edge technology with social impact was the next chapter for me in my career.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

In some of the areas we serve that are remote in Alaska, collaboration on forensic interview evidence to activate lifesaving services for these child survivors could necessitate getting onto an airplane to travel between partner service providers where no road infrastructure exists, with all of the probable delays that can entail. With cloud technology, we knew there was a faster way to help these kids during some of the most difficult moments of their lives.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Too soon! You’re implying I have enough distance to find the humor in my mistakes.

Probably expecting the transition between my prior work in social impact into leading social impact through technology to be smooth. It’s been an incredibly rewarding journey, but I’ve learned to give myself more grace for what I don’t yet know, but can quickly learn.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

VidaNyx is a social enterprise that offers cloud-based digital evidence management for forensic interview collaboration to protect survivors of child abuse and support child advocacy centers. Child advocacy centers across the US are using VidaNyx to accelerate justice and healing for survivors by reducing their case processing time by as much as 67% and making forensic interviews immediately available to their partners. Combined with up to 90% cost savings, VidaNyx enables these centers to devote more resources toward serving children and pursuing prevention and community outreach. From a system change point of view, the aggregated data will help advance the speed at which the sector learns about best practices to drive greater outcomes in justice and healing.

The opportunity for immediate, remote collaboration enabled by VidaNyx has also been critical to keep cases moving uninterrupted during the COVID-19 crisis, while also preparing to free up resources and accelerate workflow in anticipation of the spike of reported cases expected to follow with re-openings. With children outside of the protective eyes of many caring adults, mandatory reports of abuse through traditional means during the pandemic are down. However, there has been an increase the severity of cases being reported, in child abuse-related injuries requiring hospitalization, and in children contacting hotlines to report abuse themselves. Experts suspect as phases of re-opening continue, identification and reporting of abuse will rise dramatically.

This is an exceptional point of inflection for how using leading-edge technology can accelerate access to lifesaving services for these kids while protecting the vulnerable truths contained in these child forensic interviews. Innovative grant funding has been a lifeline to make this happen. Right now, over 1,400 agencies use VidaNyx to manage, protect, and collaborate around digital evidence for 40,000 children annually and growing.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Using outdated manual processes, it can take weeks to get critical forensic interview evidence to all of the partners who collaborate to deliver justice and healing for a single child survivor. During this pandemic when abuse is further hidden from protective eyes, one of our child advocacy centers reported using VidaNyx to immediately share the critical evidence with law enforcement, facilitating an arrest within less than 24 hours in an emergency case. This not only expedited justice being served the multiple child survivors involved in this particular case, it also removed the alleged perpetrator from the opportunity to continue to inflict harm.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Everyone can start by getting trained on child abuse prevention. It’s not rocket science and it’s too easy to overlook signs that might otherwise cause us to dig further and report possible abuse. Resources are available at Darkness to Light, d21.org.

Communities and society can rise above little “p” politics within and across institutions, whether nonprofit, governmental, or for-profit, and prioritize a new commitment to sharing data and technology to advance a new depth of collaboration — to transform opportunities for us to prevent, identify, interrupt, and respond to incidents of abuse.

And we can continue to consider new advances in technology that will accelerate learning to further evidence-based outcomes in healing child survivors. Doing so provides a stronger pathway to wellbeing and to break cycles of abuse that, left untreated, can perpetuate across generations or leave survivors vulnerable to other risk factors like behavioral health concerns, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, suicide, and engagement with the criminal justice system.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

To me, leadership is defined as having the courage to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of its popularity and personal benefit to you. It’s seeing what’s possible and being willing to take risks to get there. It’s embracing humility to learn from others and from mistakes. It’s recognizing your blindspots and joining forces with complementary partners. It’s painting a picture of the future for others to see and moving forward with a higher purpose in mind. It doesn’t come in a uniform package or presence. Leadership is evident to me in the stories of the survivors of trauma who courageously raise their voice, advocate, and take action to measurably improve the lives of those who follow.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

That we would experience a global health pandemic unlike any we’ve seen in my lifetime.It just would have been nice to have a little heads up about the dramatic shift in the world and how this public health crisis would thrust us all into a new era of digital innovation, exploration, and adoption.

That roller coasters are equally invigorating and scary, but well worth the ride. I knew this was going to be a wild adventure in pursuit of social impact, but the day-to-day emotional journey is even more dramatic than I would have expected.

Embrace discomfort as a sign of growth and progress — every day. I once had a colleague in my prior work express that “if you don’t feel like throwing up at least once a day, you’re doing it [pursuing new paths to impact] wrong.” Having come from a field where my arc of learning leveled out over time, the steepness of opportunity, change, and growth in this new role has led me to reflect on this prior sentiment and internalize it.

Sometimes our biggest roadblock is ourselves. We have the opportunity to advance humanity considerably through the use of technology. If we choose to use it. If we accept change is necessary since we have yet to solve the world’s problems. If we open ourselves up to working in new ways with one another. Change is hard and there is inertia to perpetuate the way we’ve always done things or to feel threatened by ideas that are not our own. Given the intersection of my career in social impact and technology, it is even more readily apparent to me how important it is for us to get out of our own way and open ourselves up to a dramatically different future where more progress is possible.

The uncertainty you experience is a gift — a clean slate to write a new story of the future. Not having answers and complete clarity on every subject can be frustrating, but it’s also an opportunity to define new rules of engagement that aren’t as limiting as clean answers would have been.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I find it likely if you visited my home and talked to my kids, you might question the “enormity” of my influence.

Sometimes, I think we over-intellectualize things. If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, it would be to collaborate more.

In child abuse treatment and prevention, we all work at different points in a continuum. When left to our traditional devices, we tend to hit limits in impact resulting from our hard-wired responses to artificial institutional constructs, our perceptions about liability, or by our own egos. I would love to inspire a movement that shows when we collaborate and connect the dots on ideas, data, and resources, we are all better off. In my time with VidaNyx, I have been inspired by other leaders seeking to innovate systemic ways to address child abuse, and I am heartened by the openness with which they seek to connect. If we free ourselves up to the notion that this is not a zero sum “game” and we can “win” together, I’m firmly convinced we can realize greater progress.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” ― Nelson Mandela

It’s the notion of failing forward. Having grit has been an important part of my willingness to continue to put my passion to purpose and to be willing to do things differently — to experiment, learn, adapt, and try again. I have more often learned valuable lessons through adversity than by what came easily. I see this life lesson also reflected in the perseverance, courage, and power of the survivors of abuse we seek to impact and it is inspiring every time.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

The first person who comes to mind is Maya Angelou for literally finding and raising her poetic voice after suffering sexual abuse as a child, but unless your tagging powers can bring someone back to life for this breakfast, my close second (sorry Oprah!) would be Oprah Winfrey. I’m sure I could find ways to stretch that breakfast into brunch and then lunch listening intently to her personal story as a survivor of abuse and childhood trauma rising up as a fighter, social justice warrior, advocate, business mogul, and philanthropist.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Best to catch up with me on LinkedIn.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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