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Building foundations for collaborations: Upskilling to redefine refugee identity and foster communities

We’re empowering displaced learners in Uganda and Kenya to create learning materials that are reflective of their identity and needs.

Photo of Lauren Lichtman
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

We are addressing the multi-pronged problem of providing learners in emergency and crisis contexts with quality learning experiences reflective of their own identity to build a sense of belonging, while ensuring continuity of learning and skills acquisition. We believe the root cause of this problem is a lack of creative engagement with refugee communities, especially with educators who work in them, in designing digital education solutions, from the learning materials themselves to the interfaces with which they are presented. Working in the curriculum space, we see great solutions intended to provide digital learning, enabling learners on the move to continue learning. However, the obstacles to such solutions include limited materials that reflect communities on the move, not to mention: limited infrastructure (including Internet connectivity); limited teacher training on how to blend technology into learning and general IT skills; and limited locally relevant and aligned learning materials accessible through a means that really reflect needs for skills acquisition, community identity, and a sense of ownership. Given that Uganda and Kenya are host to refugee populations from multiple country contexts with different languages and cultures, individual identities can be lost in the resulting amalgamated refugee population in learning environments intended for all. Our idea is to enable refugee and host communities in Uganda and Kenya to develop locally created, engaging learning materials—primarily videos—to build bridges within the community while also overcoming existing gaps in needed skills acquisition. The focus will be on digital literacy skills and educator professional development materials in local languages for use in secondary schools. Building on our existing work making design changes to the Kolibri platform experience reflective of individual identity, this new idea is intended to also benefit educators and secondary level learners.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

This idea targets refugee and host communities learners in Uganda and Kenya, with the first phase focused on Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. The need is great in Kenya: it hosts nearly 475,000 refugee and asylum seekers from 9+ countries, with more than a dozen languages spoken in Kakuma alone—so the need to be represented in a personal learning experience is paramount. We intend to build on our existing work in Kakuma with WIK, UNHCR and Vodafone Foundation, and transfer lessons.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Our idea fosters a learning environment with both a platform and engaging learning materials in which individuals experiencing displacement can feel they are represented. Bonds are formed that help foster togetherness when communities unite to co-create. Through the creation of videos, these bonds would transcend not just the co-creators but would be a public good to help forge greater relations in the community by visually demonstrating collaboration amongst hosts and refugee educators.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

For communities that are displaced or in migration, one critical barrier to achieving a fulfilling and satisfying life is the availability of educational materials that meet the needs of knowledge development in topics that are relevant in terms of language, culture, and vocational development. For individuals to feel that they have the opportunity to grow and flourish in a place that feels far from the comfort of home, it’s important to create access to a variety of resources that allow for growth regardless of location. Our idea allows both educators and learners to not only have resulting educational content that can expand their skills acquisition, but also involves them in the creative, analytical and engaging process of creating the materials.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

These communities will be different following the implementation of our idea because of the known benefits of learning in a mother tongue and feeling represented in their learning environment. In addition to helping to improve learning, it will also help create awareness and empathy across diverse communities. We believe that there will be a positive change because it is based in an evaluation of need driven by the community as well as the outputs of a consultative process of 65 stakeholders with a deep understanding of refugee contexts and circumstances on developing a common vision for education platforms that best serve low-resource, marginalized and displaced communities. There is agreement on the need for content and a platform that represents the language of host countries and countries of origin, and that there is an existing barrier to openly available content in secondary languages.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

To explore how identity can be represented in the Kolibri platform, we worked with “Kolibri Experts”—refugee educators hired by WIK to facilitate the implementation of Kolibri—to create a video welcoming users to the Kolibri platform in Kakuma. During a user feedback session with teachers being trained on the platform, a vibrant conversation ensued about the language in which to say “hello!” in the video. Should it be the languages of Kenya, the language of instruction, or all of the languages represented in Kenya? This demonstrated the value in having content created locally, and how it resonated and incited thoughtful conversation. This was later enforced at a later design sprint on curriculum alignment where these same Experts developed a plan to identify gaps and produce local one-off videos on foundational skills—like science tutorials or basic digital literacy—to serve as ramps into the more challenging or contextually inappropriate material available from around the world.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Given that the communities—both refugee and host—are interwoven, we intend to start at the whole community level in Kakuma. There is a demonstrated willingness by the host community through both our current collaborations in Kakuma town schools, as well as by the Turkana people more generally, to engage in processes that can contribute to mutual resilience. Given the limited class space that make access to quality learning a challenge to refugees in Kakuma, technology can support the increased demand for education. In Dadaab, increased access to locally created digital content in a platform that supports a quality learning experience can help to support learners who feel they do not need to attend school due to the constant call for the camp closure. While there are both positive and negative effects of the presence of refugees on the host community which can lead to tensions, this idea is intended to be both co-created and benefited by the refugee and host populations.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

This idea builds on the experiences of the Kolibri Experts in Kakuma and demonstrates their local interest. Because of the work of organizations such as FilmAid International, there is a vibrant multimedia community and appreciation for the power of media to cause a transformative experience. There is also a strong culture of local entrepreneurism; this encouragement and support can bootstrap initiatives. The diversity of the community that makes the needs for culturally relevant content is also the strength that they have in being able to produce and create content that is most relevant for learning in their context. The diversity of languages and cultural backgrounds will allow for rich multicultural educational content to be created that underscores a peace-building approach. This in turn allows the learning experience to have a common thread, but be tailored to different members of the community depending on their needs.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Implementing this idea relies on the ongoing support of our current close collaborators in Kenya, specifically Windle International Kenya, UNHCR and Vodafone Foundation. It will build on an existing collaboration involving these organizations supported by in which we are iterating on, and understanding the multitude of uses for, our learning platform Kolibri in these contexts. Because this idea targets content development for skills acquisition at the secondary level, Windle International Kenya is a key partner as it implements secondary education programmes on behalf of UNHCR in 12 secondary schools in refugee camps in Kenya. We also aim to engage local organizations that can create engaging digital content such as FilmAid as well as more formal publishers. Vodafone Foundation’s Instant Network Schools programme is already embedded within schools and the community, and can provide the necessary infrastructure to use newly created content on Kolibri.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Pilot: We have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users. The feasibility of an innovation is tested in a small-scale and real world application (i.e. 3-15% of the target population)

Group or Organization Name

Learning Equality

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Learning Equality is focused on bridging the digital divide to foster effective learning for the more than half of the world lacking Internet connectivity. Building on feedback from more than 6 million learners globally that have benefited from our products specifically designed for low-resource and low-connectivity contexts, we are uniquely positioned to understand how to blend technology into various learning environments, as well as the importance of making relevant, quality learning materials more accessible. Recognizing that this is our value add, our approach is to work closely with communities who best know their own needs and contexts, and to build coalitions of like-minded implementing organizations. We have been working with refugee and host community educators since our inception through in-person design thinking sessions, trainings, user testing of our products and virtual feedback to understand their unique learning challenges, and can apply that approach to this new idea.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United States

Organization Headquarters: City / State

San Diego, California


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sidra Dara

I completely agree @Emerimana Daniel Christian. People often underestimate the importance of relations and how they are the ones which build loyalty and ownership amongst the community. This project is really considerate of including those communities and giving them the power of uplifting themselves. This is what we also hope for through LifesavHERs  

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