Talking urgency to industry

Follow our CEO, Joséphine Goube, as she returns to Norway to catch up with old allies and present to her toughest crowd yet…

The closing weeks of August saw Techfugees return to Norway, where I spoke at the Offshore Northern Seas conference and exhibition in Stavanger. ONS2018 is a biennial event which brings together key voices in the oil and gas industry to network and makes industry-defining deals.

Bursting the carbon bubble

If you’re thinking that’s an odd fit for an organization like us, you’d be right. With the reality of climate change already a driving force behind migration, those seeking profits from harmful emissions could well be the last people interested in hearing about climate change and climate refugees.

Indeed, it was exhausting to spend two days surrounded by some climate skeptics and cynics. I was apprehensive about how my words would be taken on board, as I sensed attention in the room dip anytime the words ‘climate change’ were uttered on stage.

But the event’s organizers, to their credit, were keen to put the issue of climate refugees on the main stage in a prime slot, just before the winners of their innovation awards were announced. With mixed messages on the topic coming from the government, as per usual, the challenge facing the industry is to balance their bottom line with the facts.

credit ONS/Erik Krafft

And it was the facts that I gave them. Flooded rice paddies in Bangladesh, desert claiming formerly arable farmland in Niger, vineyards in Italy being forced to higher ground. All over the world, the message is the same: people are on the move, driven by forces beyond their control.

With a conservative estimate from the World Bank of 150 million climate refugees by 2050 (the International Organisation for Migration estimates one billion), this is a conversation that needs to happen. The industry needs to innovate and help their customers transition to a more sustainable way of life.

At the end of the keynote, I asked the industry to collaborate to help the transition facing climate refugees. We must prepare to mitigate and manage higher levels of migration, with the financial backing of the industry that’s fueling climate change.

The immediate feedback I got was great, those who were convinced cheered me up, the less convinced came to applaud a speech which opened their minds: we can choose to do nothing or we can choose to find solutions.

Although it remains to be seen how far those in attendance would be ready or willing to collaborate on innovating to help refugees, my case was helped by the unfortunate resignation of climate champion Nicolas Hulot from the French government that very morning.

Hulot’s resignation comes as big protests begin to gather momentum in Paris against a perceived lack of progress on climate change from Macron’s government, as well as the corrupting influence of industry lobbying. I am, thus, hoping that the ones who took my card a week ago will soon get on this call to talk innovation for climate refugees. Meanwhile, I signed this petition along with 50 other French social entrepreneurs and you might want to join it if you read French. 

Reconnecting with our roots

It was also great to meet with the Norwegian Techfugees community, which is one of our most active. The team here were the first to join in 2015, kicking off less than 24 hours after our London launch. Two particularly exciting projects here are Tikk Talk and Diwala, and I managed to catch up with the project leaders for both.

In order of appearance: Nordic Impact Accelerator Office wall; Rodney from Tikk Talk; Diwala team; @ramez presentation

You might remember Tikk Talk from a previous blog, a refugee-founded live translation service helping refugees access essential services. Since we spoke to them in February, they’ve grown to cover over 400 clients, from clinics to refugee centers and hospitals.

This is a particularly useful service in emergency healthcare situations where time is of the essence and communication is essential. With such success helping Norway-based refugees, their next goal is to expand internationally.

Meanwhile, Diwala is a blockchain platform used to register and track the skills of displaced people. It’s particularly rewarding to see blockchain technology being used and tested in the field rather than just the lab. Alongside the Diwala team in Norway, they also have teams developing the technology in refugee camps in Uganda, working closely with UNICEF.

For them, the challenge is to attract promising blockchain talent, offering the chance of a meaningful, personally rewarding job rather than huge Silicon Valley salaries. All the raw elements are there, refugees get blockchain, they see its potential, all that’s missing are the resources to develop it.

With everything going on over the summer, we’ve also decided to extend the deadline for our Global Challenges Competition to 12 September.

So, with another five days to go now to get your entries in, we can’t wait to see what amazing results people can come up with. 

This post was written by the team at Sookio.

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