Hackathon group picture – CRI 

Article written by Joanna Kirk, Techfugees France Chapter Lead

Techfugees France ran it’s 4th Hackathon on 23-24 November in Paris. Around 50 attendees came together in the CRI (Center for research and interdisciplinary, Paris) to hack around education and serious gaming for refugees. 

By putting the learner at the heart of the process, gaming facilitates engagement, memorisation and motivation. It is a universal way to make learning more attractive and therefore more effective. 

Following the study of NGO reports and interviews with several associations supporting inclusion of displaced people in France, Techfugees France identified several major needs related to education which were at the heart of the hackathon. 

A new format 

We decided to change the format of this Hackathon to something we wanted to be as impactful as possible by : 

  • starting with a call for projects and selecting 6 existing projects we were sure the Hackathon would benefit directly – from non-profits to programs ready to be accelerated or incubated. 
  • getting testimonials and advice from existing tech4refugees projects –  Techfugees Global Challenge 2018 winner Antura and the Letters and j’APPrends both designing solutions for displaced people’s literacy through video games; 
  • organising a pre-Hackathon workshop 2 weeks before, to meet the project leaders, listen to their needs, create a community feeling, and bring them support and answers to their needs and questions prior to the hackathon kick-off. 
Mentor debrief 

Two challenges and four teams 

The hackathon kicked off on Saturday morning with a presentation and reminder of the challenges. Teams had already been constituted and were completed with new attendees, meaning everyone got to work early that day. 

Challenge #1 focused on using tech to create and/or promote the dissemination of existing digital content intended for the training of illiterate adults. 

Simple French team presented a free app which gives people who are illiterate in their native language and don’t yet speak French, the opportunity to learn spoken French via sounds and images. 

Simple French

Challenge 2# concentrated on how to maintain and deepen the knowledge and skills acquired during training. 

Frello is an app which operates as an innovative educational tool that helps teachers manage diverse profiles who are learning French such as the displaced. The app offers tailor-made programs for all profiles.

Konexio project for the Hackathon was one of an app to facilitate learning and help learners to practice their digital skills following face-to-face training by Konexio. 

Konexio joined forces with Frello at the beginning of the Hackathon which was very exciting for the teams and attendees.    

Frello and Konexio teams

Abajad is an existing non-profit focusing on sociological and professional inclusion of vulnerable and excluded populations. By developing specific language training and workshops, Abajad aims to become a powerful accelerator for employability. Dounia and her team took part in the Hackathon to bring their solution further with the development of tool to support and engage learners even more. 

Abajad founder Dounia, team and mentor

Techfugees & moi is a project lead by one of Techfugees France #TF4Women fellows and is a gamified task management platform for Techfugees Fellowship participants. 

Techfugees & moi team

Teams were assisted by a fantastic set of mentors over the weekend to help them refine their ideas, navigate roadblocks, practice their pitches, and develop their ideas into something tangible. Many thanks to Bari Mourdjen, Radhika Beaume, Marjolaine Clough, Louis Audeon, Benjamin Athuil,Raphaël Goujet, Naiane Rios, Antoine Taly, Marie Dubost and Prof. Dr. Emmanuel Guardiola for their valuable help!

Hackathon Highlights 

Techfugees Global Challenge 2018 winner Antura and the Letters presented their solution and shared their experience with teams during the pre Hackathon workshop. 

On the first day of the Hackathon, FibreTigre, author of fictional videos, came to share an inspiring speech with attendees on how to educate with video gaming.

Later that day, newly launched J’APPrends co-producers came to talk about how they designed this free game app for adults wanting to learn French who cannot read or write. This was immensely beneficial to several of the projects and several have remained in contact since. 

Camille and Camille from Small Bang and Langues Plurielles introducing J’APPrends

Two official prizes, and…  

Prize #1 with Singa France – Acceleration stage

Frello was the winner of the Singa France prize and has integrated their next acceleration program as of 2020 ! 

Prize #2 with Cisco France and Makesense – Ideation stage

Abajad won the Cisco France and MakeSense prize which will enable the team to benefit from coaching sessions during 6 months on technical (Cisco France) and business development (Makesense).

Two follow-up prizes 

During the hackathon Singa France announced that Simple French is invited to take part in the Singa France incubation program and Techfugees & moi will be able to take part in their pre-incubation program. 

Techfugees France will provide follow-up, connections and advice to all project teams throughout 2020. 

Thank you 

All this would not have been possible without the support of our partners. Special thanks to Cisco France for believing in us, handing out one of the prizes and supporting the Hackathon all the way. Thank you to the CRI Paris for providing the space; Singa France for offering not one but several prizes to our Hackathon projects from acceleration, to incubation, to pre-incubation; Re:Start for their invaluable advice, expertise, support throughout the hackathon and for providing dedicated mentors; SNJV for their expert advice and Maksense for their support and prize. 

A heartfelt big thank you to Hélène Sancerres (Cisco France), Camille Soulier (Singa France), Andreea Beika (Re-Start) et Kelly Gibbs (CRI Paris) for judging the project with such care and expertise. 

Thank you to the above mentors, speakers and Techfugees team. 

Last but not least, thank you to the volunteers who helped make this happen : Lucie, Selim, Paul-Emmanuel, Joana, Pau, Jérémie and to Ariane and Asma for the pictures.

What’s next? 

If you would like to join the team and take part in 2020 Techfugees France activities, please write to france@techfugees.com