An Article by Louise Brosset, Community Coordinator at Techfugees
In our blog posts or during international conferences and interviews, we, at Techfugees often talk about our actions, our beliefs, but very little about our internal organisation. However internal organisations, human relations and rituals are key for the whole community to work together.
Explaining what Techfugees is is no easy task for one of its members; But it often starts with “we’re a global volunteer-led community”. And that’s for a good reason. In those words, we try to sum up the richness and diversity behind the hundreds of volunteers involved in our so-called “Chapters”. We are people with different backgrounds (political science, IT, human rights, entrepreneurship, design, humanitarian, researchers) coming together, outside of their working time to think about how technology can be used to empower displaced persons.
Techfugees Chapters Bootcamp
For the 5th anniversary of Techfugees, on October 24-25th Techfugees organized a two-days virtual bootcamp for all the Chapters and their teams, to get to meet each-other, review our methodologies of work, common tools and strategy for 2021 and beyond.
About 60 people gathered from the UK 🇬🇧, Germany 🇩🇪, Serbia 🇷🇸, France 🇫🇷, Denmark 🇩🇰, Ireland 🇮🇪, Jordan 🇯🇴, Lebanon 🇱🇧, Kenya 🇰🇪, Nigeria 🇳🇬, Uganda 🇺🇬, Canada 🇨🇦, United States 🇺🇸 from cities, settlements and refugee camps across the world, despite connectivity challenges, a global pandemic, the lockdowns announced here and there.
From our day-to-day activities, to connectivity, financial inclusion, remote work, health & Covid_19, entrepreneurship, a data hub, funding, volunteer coordination, impact measurement, communication, values, mission (without forgetting our Trivia-Night and Natakallam coupons as a prize 🔮), the Bootcamp gave us the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on what we had learned as a community and identify area where we could do better.
“I am very frustrated not to be part of each session, I didn’t realize how accessible the community was and how ‘beautiful’ it was. It’s stupid, but hey. I took a little slap.” Volunteer, TF France
“I think logistics were very well done overall. Bravo! I felt like the sessions kept to time and the transition between sessions was smooth. The best virtual conference I’ve been to with COVID-19 for sure.” Co-lead, Techfugees Toronto
The power of the collective (Why are communities so important?)
While building and growing the community, we learned from others (among whom Rachel Eilbot Makesense, Guillaume Capelle Singa) that communities do not need tools at first. They need time above everything. This goes in accordance with Techfugees guiding principles, #notechsolutionism. Although we’re in the middle of a global pandemic making physical gathering complex, we’ve gotten used, over the years, to communicate and create social connections digitally. Tech is only a tool, a support for our vibrant community.
What makes Techfugees community special?
In his book ” Where Good Ideas Come From“, Steven Johnson draws parallel to the patterns of good ideas to patterns to what we see in nature. One of them is the coral reef, an open, fertile environment where various species sustain and support each other. Openness and connectivity are valuable ingredients for fueling good innovative ideas.
In short, we think more creatively when we open our minds to many connected environments. Sharing ideas in an open environment are hunches and interconnection allows hunches to come together to nurture great ideas. This is what we do at Techfugees.
Sourcing needs from the ground, getting displaced persons involved in any activity and decision making is dear to our hearts and makes the strength of our action. Technology comes next, but remain essential to us as:
- It scales, so that solutions we help to develop and deploy may always be replicated and have impact on a much wider scale
- It disrupts time and space and so can help access resources and recover faster those assets
- It is able to democratises access of refugees to basic needs and services
- It enables refugees to help themselves (bootstrapping attitude)
Harnessing the power of the many, embarrassing diversity for more creativity, enhancing fruitful international connection and experience sharing to build and grow solutions enabling displaced persons to have a better access to information, education, employment, health and social inclusion. This is what we do at Techfugees.
And when we’re talking about diversity, it isn’t just a shiny trendy word. The Techfugees community does not have a face.
It is John in Kakuma Refugee Camp Kenya bringing value in every discussion despite the shaky internet connection and building tech solutions in virtual hackathons to tackle covid challenges across Africa, it is Philip in Serbia organising international Data conferences in the Balkans, it is Muzna in Lebanon reporting, in a much better english than my own arabic, on Facebook about regular evictions and lack of access to health services in Bekaa Valley, it is Cansu doing her PhD on technology and migration in Toronto… And the list goes on. Despite difficult daily lives ranging from explosions or arbitrary arrests because of one refugee status to forced displacement and resettlements, volunteers are creating bounds and long term connection. For instance, several volunteers who had just met each other online, welcomed others to sleep over in a foreign country to mentor for a hackathon. And the list goes on.
And beyond all these life experiences, we were all there, on-and-offline, throughout the year and for this first ever virtual bootcamp. Thinking together, building together for a better future.
What’s next for us?
The bootcamp was the opportunity to celebrate the growth of our team with the arrival of Techfugees’ Social enterprise new CEO, Raj Burman, and he’s joining right on time. We have great plans for 2021. Alongside the current activities from our community members, and just to mention a few here are some announcements…
1/ The Techfugees community is starting a new phase of growth. We’re opening new Chapters in the Middle East and Africa. If you’re interested to apply, fill out this form!
2/ After an in-depth work on our database of tech4refugees projects, gathering 700+ projects tackling challenges faced by displaced persons through technology, we will be launching our beta version of Basefugees, an aggregation platform gathering the projects supported throughout Techfugees Global community to better support the teams with expertise, visibility, partnership implementation and access to funding.
3/ In March we also launched our latest project, the Techfugees Data Hub to initially map the impact of Covid_19 on displaced communities & source existing tech solutions ready to be implemented. Since September, a new vision has been implemented to broaden the scope of research and collect data on challenges faced by displaced persons from a health, human rights and socio-economic standpoint and what can be done to protect & empower displaced persons’ primary needs across the world and connect them with tech solutions.
4/ Lastly, Techfugees’ Charity team led by Joséphine Goube, is getting ready to scale in Italy with the support of committed partners like Cisco Europe and L’Oreal Foundation to reach out more refugee women and support their inclusion in the tech field, and we will be looking to support with volunteers the program;
Over the years, our Global community grew bigger but even more importantly it grew stronger across the 5 continents. Volunteers, techies, humanitarians, innovators and entrepreneurs will keep joining us for Hackathons, Conferences, Inclusion Programs, Global Challenges or even – breaking news – a Global Summit! 2020 forced us to take a step back, but it didn’t mean we stopped innovating and developing new projects, on the contrary!
🎄 Happy new year 🎄