The only way we can solve complex problems is to co-design them with people from across sectors and disciplines, this is social innovation. The idea that government and NGOs can or should solve complex social problems alone is diabolical. Solving complex problems requires whole of community effort, when you can create the space for that – magic happens. Welcome to TechFugees Australia a movement creating the space for collaboration across communities, sectors and disciplines to codesign solutions to refugee settlement in Australia.
TechFugees is a global movement founded in 2015 in the UK by Mike Butcher, and brought to Australia in November 2015 by Annie Parker , Nicole Williamson and I with a lot of help from our friends and networks, our first event in Liverpool in November 2015 was a co-design hackathon where refugees collaborated with developers, designers and community resulted in RefugeeTalent (cofounders Nirary and Anna in photo below) and SettleIn (cofounded by Alice) which have grown from strength to strength in 12 months. It was great to have Alice, Nirary and Anna at this event to show participants what is possible.
On Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 November we ran our third hack4refugees in Parramatta with refugee young people. Almost 100 people attended the event at ICE Information and Cultural Exchange to hear five young refugees, Sarah, Arash, Sayed, Sarah and Dor tell their stories and experiences of coming to Australia. Themes emerged around language, employment, education and inclusion. After a design swarm people pitched 14 ideas to the audience and eight teams formed around 8 ideas that solved a problem for refugee young people.
Lets face it, our ability to solve problems in any arena is pretty average,we spend so much money on outsourcing the work we should be doing, we want other people to solve problems for us. That is why business, government and NGOs are being disrupted by startups. Startups validate their business, they talk to their customers, they design something that people are happy with and that people need. Disruption happens when products and services are designed to solve a problem that is well understood and meets the needs of its customers.
We have a lot to learn from startup methodology and practice, it doesn’t accept the status quo and applies resourcefulness, creativity and collaboration required to solve complex problems in a short time.
This is the most inspiring, productive and crazy thing I’ve ever seen, a situation where people who are complete strangers, from different experiences, backgrounds and skills, come together and solve a problem together in less than 24 hours. This is the alchemy of whole of community collaboration and we are privileged and humbled to be able to create the space for this to happen. Most importantly we are growing a community around the participants who want to pursue their dreams and connecting them to those who want to help them.
Storify Day1 The stories of young people and the teams forming to develop ideas.
Storify Day 2 The final hours, the pitches and the winners, which frankly was everyone
For some of our supporters, participants and sponsors its the first time they are up close and personal with this initiative and the feedback we receive is more than encouraging, it gives us the support and resources needed to keep this movement growing and inspiring more people to solve problems together. It works and Nirary Dacho cofounder of RefugeeTalent is testament to that.
The eight solutions included creative, tech startup and social enterprises, all co-designed by refugees. This is social innovation at its best and the way we should be solving all complex social problems.
The pitches can be seen on our website Sydney2016.TechfugeesAustralia
ArtCrew Building inclusive communities through art and space. Through the creation of refugee-designed welcome murals, New Australians celebrates multiculturalism at a time in which refugees within our communities face discrimination, racism, and exclusion. Providing a public arts engagement platform for the youth refugee community fosters a sense of belonging and connectivity to their community and environment. The team have a Facebook page ArtCrew you can join and were the winners of $15,000 (Stripe, SSI, and Parramatta City Council) and incubation from Catalysr to help them realise their startup.
Covered Connecting new Australians to career coaches. Covered is a platform designed to connect newly arrived Australians to career mentors. Job seeking individuals can sign up, fill out some information and have a resume generated at the click of a button. They will be put in touch with an industry professional who will reach out and provide feedback on their resume. The seeker then has the opportunity to set up a ‘mock interview’ and discuss other aspects of the job application process with their mentor. They won second prize with AcademyXi have a Twitter handle @CoveredAU
OneStep Connecting new Australians to established communities for a walk & talk. An app and website that allows users to set preferences (location, date, language, culture, gender, age, interests) and be matched with a walking companion for a one-off walk and talk. The team won $1,000 from the AwesomeFoundation prize and are busy developing their website and are on Twitter @OneStepApp
First Days Siri for spoken language The inspiration for First Days comes from our struggles of resettling in Australia. Our family, friends, and community members found it difficult to sign up for services including Banks, Centrelink, Mobile Phone Plans or even find places we needed to go. Accessing information in today’s age is becoming easy but accessing the right information in your language in real time is still not a reality till now. The team already have presence on Facebook and Twitter and won the People’s Choice Award.
A Fair Go The platform helps small to medium businesses owners or prospective employers find help fulfil their social media and web related needs.
Steps Connecting refugees with establish migrants as mentors STEPS is an online platform for showing refugees how others have succeeded where they want to go.Users can take inspiration and learn practical tips from a catalog of success stories. The platform facilitates connecting users to story-tellers and to relevant services such as those providing resume-writing and job finding.
A shout out to our wonderful sponsors who have generously given their time, talent and opened up their hearts to an important initiative born in the UK just a year ago. Thank you for trusting and believing in us and for coming along on the journey of co-designing solutions with refugees. Thank you to muri-D, SSI and Telstra Foundation for being there from the start and to Awesome Foundation, Stripe, AcademyXi, Grok Ventures, Parramatta City Council, Information and Cultural Exchange, Devpost, Social Change Centre, Career Drive Consulting and MYOB.
Whatever paradigm you are from – business, government or NGO – this is the best way to stay ahead of the digital revolution and embrace a new way of working. If you are wondering how to get involved and solve problems in a refreshingly authentic way, reach out to us and help us to inspire communities to solve problems with the tech community. It is more rewarding, inclusive, cost effective, and inspirational that what you are doing now, I guarantee it just ask the people touched by TechFugees Australia.
Anne-Marie Elias is a speaker and consultant in collaboration, innovation, change and disruption. She is an honorary Associate of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance, UTS.
Anne-Marie is on the Board of VibeWire; Western Sydney Women; the Australian Open Knowledge Foundation; Autism Advisory Board, and the Settlement Services International Foundation.