In the whirlwind month the first Hack the Camp event, its participants have been hard at work developing their initial ideas into smart, sustainable refugee support solutions.
The humanitarian hackathon, coordinated by US Embassy Athens, Impact Hub and the Onassis Cultural Centre, saw another three days of exciting collaboration and dialogue between the competing teams and expert mentors at Impact Hub Athens. The result was an impressive line-up of projects that all addressed the global crisis’ persistent need for everything from communication to sanitation to information.
Hack the Camp winner Native Net zoned in on the need for viable informative resources within camps throughout Greece, and was praised for its close engagement with the communities that would benefit from these tools. The team beat some seriously tough competition, notably its fellow finalists, the refugee job and skill connector Refergon, and Autonomous Water Supply, who invented an innovative hygiene product to support safety in camps.
What really shone through the work of each team was an understanding of the complex web of different structural barriers that humanitarian work increasingly needs to navigate, and their ingenuity in meeting these challenges made for a powerful competition.
At the end of the event, the US Embassy pledged to make its own influential network available to each of these teams, extending the potential for continued development. Onassis Centre representative and judging panelist Efi Tsiotsiou also stressed the need to persevere with these visions and passions, reminding those gathered at Impact Hub of the long and winding road ahead for the evolution of refugee aid and integration.
You can get to know each of these smart aid projects below… we’re sure you’ll be hearing more from all of them again soon.*
Autonomous Water Supply
The project presentations were started with the only physical prototype of the competition: Autonomous Water Supply, a mobile hygiene kit for vulnerable refugees. Comprising bathroom essentials that can be moved with ease, the invention responded to the pervasive threat of abuse in camps by giving residents greater privacy and agency in their washing routines.
This innovative team had also captured the potential revenue stream that would ensure the product remained free to refugees, with plans to market the product as an equally useful tool to outdoor camping sellers.
Winner Native Net presented its centralised information point, which was supported by an app with further information available in Greek, Farsi and Arabic. It stressed the pressing need for refugees to learn Greek, and provided scope for a network that included educational bodies as well as social support information.
This type of informative resource is in high demand in camps throughout Greece, and Native Net’s plans to develop further mapping tools and research is a promising step for the further development of essential refugee info points.
“We’re not just hacking the camp, we’re hacking the job market”, proclaimed Refergon, a project set on evolving the conventional recruitment tools available online and via apps to support refugees in Europe.
This innovative recruitment tool would enable refugees to register skills, experience and preferences for employers looking to support them, and would match them with appropriate career prospects. The team also provided opportunities for unskilled refugees arriving in Europe, connecting them with the appropriate educational and training resources.
The approach detailed by HopeStarter was emblematic of how far online technology can be integrated into humanitarian support.
This project seeks to connect donors with individual recipients of funding, using an online vetting system to keep those donating informed as to the individuals being supported and their progress, with payments being made via Bitcoin. The presentation showed a cohesive approach to connecting Europe’s refugees with meaningful monetary support.
Co-Producing the Camp
The all-architect team of Co-producing the Camp presented a simple but significant challenge to the current approach to humanitarian aid: engage and involve refugee camp residents with the structuring and management of the camps in which they live.
Europe is now in the second phase of its refugee crisis, in which the emergency landing sites are now longer-term places of residence, bringing new requirements for community support. Co-producing the Camp insisted that the viability of its project was not its ingenuity, but rather its tried and tested best practices, with the encouraging testimonial that NGOs, camp managers and camp residents are already proving receptive to this approach.
If there were any need for proof of the evolving nature of smart humanitarian aid, the prodigious EterArt certainly presented a heartening look at the immediate future of global development aid. Comprising mainly high school students, InterArt took a compassionate and pragmatic approach to providing non-verbal communication with vulnerable refugees through fine art and performing art workshops. This scalable model could be applied to other vulnerable social groups, and was awarded a Distinctive participant commendation by the judging panel.
One of the more unique projects was Radio Transit, which produced an online platform to showcase the individual stories of refugees, enable direct communication of these stories.
This uses a mobile recording unit (bike with a recording studio set up on a trailer) to provide activities such as workshops and live broadcast of web radio session by refugees at Greece’s camps. Participating refugees then record their messages in the booth, which gets directly translated by high tech immediate translation, to bring the whole message to the world, with no editing, no mediator, no translator (proprietary tech).
Match & Teach Me
A mobile app that allows users to post their profiles and find online courses for languages and coding. The aim is to help refugee integrate by learning the local language and developing skills in coding which will allow them to have access to meaningful, well-paid work opportunities rather than low-skilled temporary jobs.
*What happens next?
The winner, second and third place finalists of Hack the Camp were awarded $10,000, $6,000 and $4,000 respectively. These teams also receive counselling services lasting four months in Impact Hub Athens, and will have the option of joining the Microsoft BizSpark programme.
Hack The Camp is organized by the Impact Hub Athens, the Roof of the Onassis Foundation and the US Embassy in Athens with the cooperation of two international organizations with extensive experience in organizing hackathons with humanitarian orientation: the Creative Associates of America and the International Alert from Great Britain.