What’s happened in the last few months has been astounding. From the day I created a simple Facebook group and Twitter feed in September to today, we’ve had two major conferences in London, a day-long global live stream, multiple hackathons in many cities and countries, name-checks at the highest levels (e.g. Syria Donors Conference) and a burgeoning number of Techfugees “Chapters” have mushroomed around the world (in fact, so fast we have barely had time to update the web site!). We’ve engaged with major NGO agencies and caught the attention of the global media.
It would be a shame if all that good will petered out into nothing, when we know in our heart of hearts that technology has an enormous amount to bring to the refugee situation either in terms of empowering them directly or empowering the agencies that try to help them, from the beginning of their journey to their integration into a new country.
One thing that was massively impressed upon me both during and after my trip to Lebanon recently was that Techfugees MUST stay close to the ‘problem space’, and to the people who have visibility into those issues. That might be the big formal NGOs but it can also apply to the many informal groups and of course the refugees themselves. We want anything that comes out of the Techfugees community to be directly related to problems on the ground.
The needs of refugees are not going away any time soon, technology continues to become more advanced and at the same time many refugees are increasingly walking around with what is effectively a connected super computer in their pockets. Meanwhile, many NGOs need to ‘sandbox’ innovation in partnership with the tech community. So there is a LOT we can do from here and to that end, we have now turned Techfugees into a non-profit organisation. We will also be driving for fund-raising in due course.
But Techfugees as a community is exploding. My inbox has reached ridiculous proportions. We have multiple chapters globally. We have multiple agencies that want to tap into our community for everything from simple technical help right up to the biggest of projects. Our small band of volunteers in London are doing their best to support this global community. Yesterday our friends in Belgrade completed a weekend hackathon with NGOs from across the Balkan region. Here’s a picture of the recent Paris hackathon, to name just one. These are only two examples.
I have decided we need someone to spend some dedicated time on all this, and as much as I’d like to take it on, I feel I am ultimately of far more use staying where I am as an Editor at TechCrunch.
Therefore, I have asked Josephine Goube, who joined us from the early days, to come on to Techfugees in a paid capacity so that she can dedicate some real time to helping us coordinate all the incoming, and tag-team with me on some of the bigger stuff.
To be fully transparent: that means using some of the funds we have raised to cover her time. She will juggle Techfugees with her freelancing, but she is massively dedicated to this project, and knows it inside out, as much as anyone.
She brings the wealth of knowledge she gained at one of the very few startups in this space (Migreat.com), she was recently named in Forbes’ 30-under-30 list, she’s a great public speaker, is a prominent member of Girls In Tech, is tapped into the tech community in London, Paris and internationally.
With Josephine on board we can flesh out Techfugees’ ‘model’ so that it becomes sustainable and can maintain its focus: acting as a bridge between the fast moving world of technology and Refugees and NGOs. We want to carry on curating, creating and executing on technologies can actually help refugees on the ground! As well as working with others, we also want to execute on our own projects.
So, I want to welcome Josephine into this role and I also want to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU to both the London team that has stayed with me on this project, and to the many people around the world who have decided to get involved and create a Techfugees movement where they are!
Below I also want to take this opportunity to introduce what we are now calling the ‘Techfugees Global Team’ who plan to support this international network.
For now you can reach Techfugees on firstname.lastname@example.org, and here’s how to reach Josephine directly:
Mike Butcher, Founder, Techfugees
P.S. Techfugees US Roadshow! Our representative Andlib Shah is traveling the U.S. From San Franciso (Apr 7-14) to New York (15-22), and onto Washinton DC (24-27) connecting with tech, NGOs & investors in an effort to bridge the gap between the innovative tech sector and the expertise of NGOs on the ground. Please drop her a line if you wish to speak on Andlib@techfugees.com
Techfugees Global Team:
Mike Butcher – @mikebutcher
Josephine Goube – @josephinegoube
Forbes 30-Under30, Co-Directing Manager Girls In Tech UK, formerly of Migreat.com
Petra Johansson – @PetraJohansson
Founder TwistedTree Ltd (event consulting), Co-founder 2Pears, Event Director The Europas, Tech London Advocate.
Edward Saperia – @edsaperia
Founder of Newspeak House and UK Wikimedian of the Year 2014.
Matthew Gardiner – @matwg
Matthew Gardiner consults to high growth technology businesses, a visiting lecturer at Cass Business School and The University of the Arts London.
Tom Hayton – @tomhayton
An Internationally experienced director, producer, photographer and consultant with clients worldwide.
Josh Russell – @joshr
Founder, Citizen Beta and formally of Comic Relief and the GDS.
Gila Norich – @Gnorich
Former fundraiser and advocate for the rights of African (Eritrean, Sudanese, Nigerian) asylum seekers in Israel and has advocated at the EU, UN, US Dept of State levels.
Lewis Jones – @LMJ_112
Social Media Manager for Techfugees and Head of Social for The Sandpit
Paul Canty – @PaulCanty
Former Managing Director of world-renowned creative agency Preloaded (acquired in 2014).
Tara Mikhael – @TaraMikhael
Formerly of migration startup Migreat.com and The Lebanese Center for Civic Education.
Sophie Newman-Sanders – @Sophie_SNSC
Founder of app developer Synnapps which focuses on healthcare in emerging markets, working between New York, Lahore and Dubai.
Andlib Shah – @Andlibshah
Serial Entrepreneur based between LA, SF and NYC.
Annie Parker – @annie_parker
Co-founder of Muru-D.com and Chair of Code Club Australia.
Logo Designer: Edward Woodcock – @IAmFledge