By Vixen Labs / November 17, 2023
Leveraging a custom knowledge base and large language models, Vixen Labs partnered with Alpha International to explore how a chatbot could help train more confident volunteers.

Vixen Labs partnered with Alpha International to attend a Generative AI hackathon in October 2023. Over 48 hours, we explored how we could help their new volunteers feel more confident delivering course material and facilitating small group conversations. By the end of the hackathon, we had won a ‘best in category’ award for the intuitive and helpful solution.

A global course, facilitated by global volunteers

Each year, in 140 different countries, 1.5 million people participate in Alpha; a discussion-led course designed to introduce participants to the Christian faith. The course has now been translated into over 100 different languages. Remarkably, every course is facilitated by a team of dedicated volunteers. 

Some of these volunteers have been running Alpha courses for years, while others are just starting – together, Alpha and Vixen Labs wanted to explore the potential of an AI-powered chatbot to help train more confident leaders. Delivering course material while facilitating a group discussion can be daunting. A chatbot assistant could be the solution to help answer questions, find useful resources, and share tips.

A group of five people sitting on a sofa together, all looking a one person who is leading the conversation, the leader has a phone in their hand.

We are already asking the internet for help…

Nowadays, we all consult technology for answers in specific situations; whether by typing a question into Google or asking Siri. More recently, we’re asking ChatGPT. People turn to these interfaces because they provide what is perceived to be non-judgmental answers to challenging questions.

During the hackathon, the Alpha International team and Vixen Labs built a helpful facilitator assistant – based on real needs. Identifying the top challenges faced by new facilitators, the team trained the chatbot to provide answers that would be genuinely helpful. People asking questions such as “How do I get my group talking” or “Half of my group has dropped out, what am I doing wrong?” could get tips and advice in an instant.

Going a step further, we explored how a chatbot could proactively check in with facilitators to offer more tailored support. The chatbot was trained to ask questions about group preparation, how helpful the course notes are, or what kind of questions people in their group are asking.

For the hosts and helpers who don’t feel confident to run a course; we wanted to give them an on-demand tool where they can ask a question… we built bot trained on Alpha content!”

Max Lysakovsky

Senior Project Manager, Alpha International

The technology behind the scenes

To be genuinely helpful, the chatbot must respond with answers from Alpha’s content, so we built upon the work that Vixen Labs had done with Large Language Models to build a knowledge base of approved Alpha training resources. This means that when a user asks a question, the chatbot’s reply is based on relevant resources from the knowledge base.

With a clearly identified knowledge base, the chatbot can leverage an LLM to create a customised response to the facilitator’s question, just like talking to a human assistant.

The Alpha assistant is a web-based chatbot, however, the flexible solution can be deployed anywhere – including apps, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger for Business.

The advances in conversational technology over the last year meant that in a hackathon context we were able to go from nothing to a bot, complete with guardrails, in less than 48 hours.”

James Doc

Head of Technology, Vixen Labs

Where next?

This project was created to demonstrate the potential of the technology – within 48 hours Alpha had a ready-to-go helpful assistant for their volunteer facilitators. It’s amazing how quickly LLMs can be implemented.

We’re looking forward to working with Alpha International to develop a full strategy and roadmap for this project so that it can fully support the many different languages, contexts, and even courses, that Alpha runs.

Get in touch

Curious to explore how generative and conversational technology can support your organisation? 

Whether you are looking to explore a prototype or proof-of-concept, or are you ready to build a production-ready chatbot, get in touch. 

Let’s discuss how together we can support your staff and volunteers, sell more products, serve your customers, and save your business money.



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