Hackathon to Help Refugees

Published Oct-24-16

Three novel solutions to help refugees in their new countries, including a program to assist the forging of relationships with local families.

U.S. Embassy in Ireland, Ireland

The Story:

Hackathon to Help Refugees The global refugee crisis is one of the most pressing social problems of our time. Millions of people have abandoned their homes because of war, conflict and persecution in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries. This is the worst refugee crisis in history. According to the humanitarian agency Care, 24 people every minute (34,000 a day) are forced to search for safety in a foreign land.

Even when they find safe havens in host countries they face uncertain futures and a new set of challenges such as the language barrier, integration with local populations, access to healthcare and finding work.

To develop novel solutions to the refugee crisis involving refugee inclusion, integration and self-reliance, young innovators were invited to take part in the second Creative Minds social entrepreneurship hackathon in October 2016. This 48-hour event was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Ireland and Intel in partnership with the DCU Ryan Academy for entrepreneurs.

Approximately 100 innovators aged 18 to 25 representing 14 countries took part. They were selected via an application process and had a broad range of backgrounds and skills, such as software coding, business development and user experience design.

During the hackathon, participants were supported by more than 20 mentors from Irish companies, non-governmental organizations and agencies. Their creative endeavors resulted in three teams being named as the joint winners. They were:

Health Path: a digital health platform to help refugee’s access health services in their native languages. "Going forward we want to get more healthcare partners, be it in Ireland or internationally," said Valerie O'Brien of Team Health Path. "We want to scale this. We want to help as many immigrants, asylum seekers and migrants as we can."

Isle of Hope: a program to promote inclusion and integration by bringing refugees and local families together to encourage and build friendships and support systems.

Lionra: this peer-to-peer platform enables refugee integration through skills exchange and knowledge sharing.

"Across the globe, more than 21 million people have fled their homes and crossed international borders in search of safety," commented Aleisha Woodward, Director of Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy.

"More than 4.8 million have been forced to flee Syria alone. They have all experienced loss and face uncertain futures, and they look to the rest of the world for support. By tapping into the creativity of young people, this hackathon developed several innovative solutions to promote refugee inclusion, integration, and self-reliance as they build new lives in our communities."

Going Forward

Following the open innovation event, the prize winners worked with the DCU Ryan Academy and Techfugees to bring their prototypes to life, drawing on a prize pot of 15,000 euros (approximately USD $16,500).

In addition to being given a platform to come up with breakthrough solutions, hackathon participants also benefited by meeting entrepreneurs and by learning how to work in diverse teams to tackle challenges.

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