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Refugee Info Bus - Multilingual Legal Information + Facebook Messaging Service

supporting refugees on the move, into, or through Europe, with up to date and accessible, multilingual legal info, phone charge and Wifi.

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

Imagine you have just arrived in a foreign continent after a long and dangerous journey. You are tired, traumatised and alone. You don’t speak the language and don’t know where to go in order to access vital information and support. You will soon face a life changing (but potentially) life threatening asylum interview, meanwhile you remain at risk of immigration detention, without knowing where or how to access a lawyer or legal support. This is the predicament so many of our service users find themselves in. We have already been providing phone charging and Wifi, as well as basic information to refugees in Northern France since 2016, starting our work in the Jungle “Refugee Camp,” expanding our service to Greece in March 2017. In both Greece and Northern France, people on the move are facing a far more hostile environment than in 2015/2016 - this includes more detention, more difficult asylum processes, less social support and an increase in deportation. We want to support people through these difficult days. In doing so, we have set up a video series and Facebook messaging service, led by refugees who have been granted leave to remain in various European countries. Partnering with various lawyers and associations we create interesting but informative legal info videos and written guides, in conjunction with a confidential facebook messaging support service, available in Arabic, Farsi, Tigrinya, Pashto and English, targeting refugees who have recently arrived in Europe. In Greece - we have been running a similar project. Over the past 18 months it has included 45 videos and has reached over 750k people, we have covered vital topics such as preparing for your interview upon reaching the Greek islands, what to do if you are detained, how to register for asylum and how you can apply for family reunion. Gratified by the success of this project, that we have built on limited funds, we plan to sustain, improve and expand it.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

We are dedicated to supporting refugees on the move, or who have just arrived in Greece and Northern France. Online, we have a strong following of service users on Faecbook who request information from us in Farsi and Arabic, and a growing number of people messaging us in Amharic, Tigrinya, Oromo and Urdu, stretching from Germany, to Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Lebanon, (Facebook doesn’t provide statistics from inside Iran and Syria).

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 mission is to build a bridge between refugees and asylum seekers who have recently arrived in, or who are on the move in Europe, and their right to legal protection (the basic requirement for a future of stability and promise in Europe). By working hand in hand with local lawyers, community and support groups, together we work so that displaced people on the move can access the rights and safety that can be too easy to take for granted.

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

Whilst humanitarian needs such as food and shelter continue to be of concern for many asylum seekers on the move in Europe, responsible information sharing, including counseling and the dissemination of information, is among individuals’ first priorities as they face months and even years in the painful limbo thrust upon them as a result of increasingly restrictive and prohibitive government policies towards refugees in Europe. Our info will be created with an audio-visual format that allows those who speak a number of different languages and possess varying levels of literacy to find out what they need to know to make an informed decision about their future. Currently info is provided in 6 languages. Refugees are able to then message us, in confidence and with dignity, in their own language, and speak to someone who has themselves gone through the process of claiming asylum, and ask questions about their rights and their options, without fear of cost or reprisal.

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

Currently, we are unable to provide as much information or support as we would like online, sometimes laws are implemented and we just do not have the capacity to respond. We regularly see people who have fallen victims to false info spread by fear, rumors or smugglers. This grant would ensure that our service is sustainable + scaled over 3rys. 3 team members with lived experience will be employed full-time as refugee info officers - enabling a stronger presence, more urgently needed info + support (verified by legal professionals), for refugees on the move in Greece and Northern France, and for said info to be communicated by people who speak their mother tongue and have a better understanding of what they are going through.

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

“I met the Refugee Info Bus on Chios and I already had two rejections, I felt hopeless and alone. No NGOs or governments respected us. I knew nothing about the EU-Turkey Deal, or what to say in my interview, I was ready to give up hope as I had been stuck on the island for 4 months. I thought I would never leave my tent or the island. Then, I met the Info Bus team who told me not to give up. They helped me submit documents that helped me pass my admissibility interview. When I watched the information videos that they had created, I knew that I would have passed my interview straight away if I had been given that information before.” - Mohammed, from Damascus, who we supported in Chios in 2017. He has now resettled in Holland, his wife and kids have joined them, they have had a new baby and are opening a restaurant. His families resilience, and the hope and joy that his family are now able to experience, inspire us everyday. This should be the norm, not the exception.

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

Our work has focussed on people on the move in Northern France and Greece. This usually means families from Afghanistan and Syria in Greece, and young men from Kurdistan Iraq, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea in Northern France. Large portions of the population we are working with are either sleeping rough or in precarious living situations, many are in a state of flight or in waiting and many suffer serious mental heath problems - both from the conflict, danger and persecution they are fleeing and confounded by the trauma of uncertainty, oftentimes financial ruin, police violence, poor living conditions, as well as separation from family that they experience upon arrival in Europe. In Greece, there are a far greater number of families, with young children, largely from Syria and Afghanistan - the majority of which are registered for asylum in Greece, while many do plan to leave. They are usually housed in official camps or flats - which are becoming increasingly overcrowded.

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

Many of our team members have worked with us from when they were still stuck in camps in Greece and have since travelled elsewhere in Europe and been granted asylum in Europe. By working with their communities, they have been able to facilitate meaningful two-way communication, enabling us to understand the needs of our service users better. By always actively listening to what our service users wish to get of their chests - their hopes, their fears, their struggles, we have been able to relieve the stress of people on the move, whilst carrying out research on what we need to do in order to improve our work. By knowing what you are entitled to, and by having the tools to negotiate the ever-changing goalposts of the European asylum system, our service users are far more empowered and strengthened on their path to asylum in a country that will grant them their rights, stability. We believe that making legal processes understandable to everyone is a vital step towards a more just world

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

We already work in cooperation with a variety or organisations and solidarity groups in France. These stakeholders include L’Auberge Des Migrants, Safe Passage, Refugee Community Kitchen and the Refugee Youth Service. In Greece, we currently work in partnership with the IRC, Solidarity Now, Help Refugees, Khora, Koosh, the Greek Refugee Council and Refugee Support Aegean, the Afghan Community Association and the Kurdish Community Association of Athens. We look forward to strengthening these relationships in the coming years and are open to collaborating with many groups who share our values.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

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

  • Early Adoption: We have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have proof of user uptake (i.e. 16% to 49% of the target population or 1,000 to 50,000 users).

Group or Organization Name

Refugee Info Bus

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

The Refugee Info Bus was founded in March 2016, by a group of friends who had been living and volunteering in the Calais “Jungle” migrant camp in Northern France (where people tried to reach the UK or claim asylum in France for several months). Within a year, we facilitated over 10,000 Wi-Fi logins and delivered more than 1,000 workshops to 3,000 individuals on the UK and French asylum systems as well as “know your rights” workshops, following and during evictions. In March 2017, we expanded our operations to Greece. By providing legal information, we support refugees navigate the complex and ever-changing asylum process at what is one of Europe’s major points of entry. Operating in camps across the mainland and islands, we conduct this work using handouts, and audio and video materials. Our team of legal case-workers and online mediators are refugees themselves and have personal experience of entering, and traveling through Europe, as an undocumented asylum seeker.

Website URL:

https://www.refugeeinfobus.com/

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

We are a UK registered Charity, however we do not have any offices there. We operate out of Calais, Northern France, and Athens, Greece.

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Our PO Box address is registered in the Scottish City of Edinburgh

In preparation for expert feedback: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in these categories? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea. (600 characters)

1. We would love tips on balancing the risk of political or legal repression (in light of the series of arrests and charges made against humanitarians in Europe) - whilst ensuring our information doesn’t become in line with exactly what a particular government desires. 2. What measures can we take to make our online service more secure, when being accessed in countries with repressive regimes? 3. How should we professionalise, expand and susustain a service, but without losing our mobility, ability to react quickly, passion and activist spirit that comes with smaller grassroots projects?

Did you use the resources offered during the Improve Phase (mentorship, expert feedback, community research)? (2000 characters)

Mentor:  Mahmoud & us have many mutual friends & contacts - an excellent fit for mentor.  He emphasized how important it is to focus work on Greek Islands, which are at breaking point.  He has expertise in programming + data security & strongly recommended need for option to message on signal (super necessary when people are messaging from regimes with intrusive surveillance such as Iran & Syria) - we will implement these recommendations! 

Community:  Ran 6 focus groups & feedback sessions in Athens + UK+ northern France, + active member of re:viewed, an online community feedback mechanism - https://www.re-viewed.org.  Videos v. useful + effective, website needs more content & to be more user-friendly/easier to navigate, needs to have more people working on content creation + more regular updates (capacity issue).  Male bias in use of Tigrinya language was noted, arabic language videos were very clear & considerate of multiple dialects.  More info on Balkan route needed. Suggested use of Facebook live streaming with lawyers + specialists in education + refugee rights.  Facebook should be updated with the same frequency as Al Jazeera + DW. While our info is good, we really need to scale it, so many people do not have access to necessary support & info - increasing urgency of need due to new changes following recent Greek elections, & Turkish invasion of Northern Syria.

Expert: Itika, provided very valuable feedback on website, which we are incorporating - using color coding, audio inserts of each title (super innovative), & simplifying the content.   She also highlighted necessity to standardize processes by building training & toolkits - we have implemented this into business plan for the next 1- 3 years, also we are standardizing our work process into 3-month cycles - to protect against burn-out.

In what ways would potential BridgeBuilder funds allow you to pursue your idea that other funding opportunities have not? (1000 characters)

As a young organization born out of the ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015- 2016, our income comes from donations from supporters, as well as a few small trusts and foundations.  While each year, our support increases, we don’t yet have the funding to scale up our project at the needed pace. 

Often larger EU funding comes tied with the implementation of emergency humanitarian response of the EU’s policies of deterrence and containment in overcrowded, unsanitary camps on the Greek islands.

What is so unique about OpenIdeo is that it provides such a large seed of funding, for us to creatively expand our project, that acts on the needs and wishes of people with whom we have worked with over the past 3 years, (as opposed responding to restrictive funding criteria for a project that a particular funding body wants to implement).

What aspects or proportion of the overall idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (1000 characters)

Our annual income is roughly $80-100k and is made up of donations from small grant-making organizations, crowdfunding or individual one-off events.  3 years on from our grassroots beginning, a grant from BridgeBuilder would enable us to hire 3 full-time refugee legal information officers, over a 2yr period.  Currently, we pay our close-knit team with stipends, or they are paid on a project by project basis.  We have seen over the past 3 yrs, with many organizations, how refugee volunteers often get too much put on their shoulders, without fair reimbursement, which is exploitative but can also lead to extreme emotional burn-out.   By being able to employ our dedicated team members on a full-time basis, they will have the financial security, and with it the energy and commitment to expand and steer the project fully, with a longer-term vision in mind.  This will be instrumental as we start the urgently needed expansion and scaling up of our project.

What are the key steps or activities for your idea for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (1000 characters)

To reach the 2022 impact goal: 

1st Quarter (Q1): Recruitment, Training, Skillsharing, legal workshops and prep work.

Q2:  Info Officers will work in 3-month cycles 1/3rd fieldwork of 2/3rd desk work (remote working model).   Fieldwork on Lesbos, Chios & Samos, & then Calais and Dunkirk.   Assess and address Wifi + charge needs in locations we visit.   Desk work: answering questions online, info sheets and video creation + online distribution.

Break

Q3:  Based on reflections of Q2 - repeat pattern - adjusting the duration of time and locations of fieldwork according to need and capacity.   

Break

Q4: standardization of 3-month process of face to face workshops, interviews, and fieldwork followed by online desk-based info sharing, will allow for smooth scalability. 

Feedback of info officers will direct other info bus team in fundraising and recruitment to enable said scaling.  

What will community-level impact look like over the timeframe of your idea? How will you determine whether or not you have achieved that impact? And what outstanding questions do you still have? (1000 characters)

Impact: By the end of 2022 we aim to reach 45k refugees with one-to-one legal info support online and on our bus - including interview prep, assistance with family reunion process and any other questions or queries people on the move in Europe may have.   We hope to reach a minimum of 1.75 mill views of our online videos and posts.

Measurement:  We will measure the views of our videos, the demographics and rough locations of people who like, share and comment on our legal information series.  We will also track and keep record of service users with whom we engage with and provide meaningful advice, information and follow up on their progress.

Question:  How do we make sure our model is adaptable in line with what is likely to be changing policy and movement of people in Europe?  How do we adjust our model to maintain quality, sustainability to align with the need for our service, beyond 2022.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (1000 characters)

The project will be run by a close-knit team of three full-time refugee information officers (team leads) all will have had experience, or be provided with the appropriate training in videography, social media, journalism, and safeguarding.   We intend to hire some of our current team members for the positions.  One team lead will be Farsi and Dari speaking (supporting service users fleeing Iran and Afghanistan), another, Arabic speaking (supporting service users feeling Syria, Yemen and Iraq), while our other team leader is likely to be Oromo and Amharic speaking (supporting many of our service users from Ethiopia).  All this will be done in collaboration with our network of partner lawyers, who will fact check our info.  We intend to scale capacity to employ full time sorani + full time tigrinya speaking info officer as project develops.

Lastly, how did you apply new learnings to your idea? (1000 characters)

MENTOR: encouraged us to implement more mechanisms for secure communication, introducing the importance of working in pairs when answering questions, he reiterated the urgency for this project being rolled out on the Greek islands.

USERS: Most common themes include that the work is incredibly informative, accessible and helpful - legal info explained “as a friend, from their heart, to support us, not to lecture us,” we were told we ought to target people before they travel to Europe, and there needs to be more info videos and content, shared more regularly, throughout the day, like a news site.  

EXPERT: challenged a slight negative bias in our language, against European host communities.  While this is easy to fall into when we see the challenges of people trying to reach safety in Europe, our work with lawyers, community centers and volunteers is a beautiful example of hope, and bridge building, that we mustn't lose sight of. 

67 comments

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Spam
Photo of Sevde Şengün
Team

Hello Sarah Story I really appreciate all your effort in this phase. You did a great job, sometimes as coach, I had a hard time keeping up with you :) I a bit agree with Itika's reactions to the marginalization. Not only in Europe the general opinion in Turkey is "being under threat" shape too. I believe that the lack of bilateral empathy here will be solved through your works, at least this could be one of the goals when solving the language barrier.
plus I have contacts with active refugee helper NGOs and immigrants in Turkey, as well as local.
Also I have some contacts in Greece. Currently I live in Berlin where I have close friends who have experienced the process of Turkey-Greece-Germany itself. Most of them are lawyers. So if there is anything I can help with in the process ( at least as an information), please don't hesitate to contact me, you already know my mail :) I wish you the best for the final evaluation!

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

Hello Sevde,

Thank you so much for your advice! Yes, maybe I got a little carried away haha! You and Itika are both very right, it is definitely important and pragmatic to always be careful to use language that makes host communities feel included in solutions and not under threat.

That would be so great to link up with many of your contacts in Turkey, one of our team members, Sara, is based in Istanbul. We have recently been receiving a lot of messages from Syrian people in Turkey, and it would be great to have more contacts and organizations to be able to direct people to, for assistance with their queries and problems.

It will be so great to stay in contact and especially potentially meet you and your friends. My partners and his family are Syrian and also currently living in Germany. So, we are actually also in Germany a lot! Also, especially since Germany is the intended final destination of so many people in Greece (because of family and community ties), we are always keen to meet with more lawyers in Germany!

So yes, thank you so so much for your support and it would be so good to meet sometime in person sometime in the future!

All the best,

Sarah

Spam
Photo of Sevde Şengün
Team

I'd love to meet you too :)

In fact, I have been doing research and some activities about refugees in Istanbul since April, cause also Im team lead of OpenIDEO Istanbul Chapter. As part of this challenge, we have developed a lot of insight and contact with a number of organizations.
I know that Turkey is not in your steps now, but as a country where there are officially 4 million refugees, I think that the steps to be taken there may have more massive effects. At least spreading your project may be important. As a contact, I wanted to say that interacting with the locals could also be beneficial in order to develop mutual empathy and for building integration bridge.As a result, they can be more effective in helping or make their lives easier in the phase. I'd also like to learn about Sara's affiliated organizations, Istanbul Chapter will want to learn about it. I'll mail you for further

Best

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

that would be really really great! :)

I am looking forward to connecting with you further, you are very right, there is definitely a huge need for something similar in Turkey, but of course with a lot of local knowledge and expertise, I am really looking forward to swapping and sharing ideas together! All the best, Sarah

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

Hello Sevde ┼×engün , a few of our team will be in Berlin this week - on Thursday/Friday and Saturday. It would be so great to meet up with you and some of your friends and colleagues that you mentioned previously!

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

Hello Sevde ┼×engün , a few of our team will be in Berlin this week - on Thursday/Friday and Saturday. It would be so great to meet up with you and some of your friends and colleagues that you mentioned previously!

Spam
Photo of Sevde Şengün
Team

Hello Sarah Story , I'd love too meet your team here too, I sent you an email already :)

Spam
Photo of Rachael Lee
Team

Hi Sarah Story ,

Just wanted to stop by and say that I really really love this idea and I hope it comes to fruition!

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

Hello Rachael,

Thank you so so much for your support!

Spam
Photo of Sevde Şengün
Team

Hello again Sarah Story ,

You shared info about service users and detailed 3 years goals and plans, plus you mentioned your annual income and where the funding from the challenge would go in future, thats all great but Im here for asking one more info;
Could you outline, in an estimate, the budget for each of the items and potentially the total budget for activities?

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

Hello Sevde,

Yes of course, we would be very happy to assist with this info!

In 2017, our first year of operating, our budget was £30,200. In 2018, this increased to £82,200. This year we will spend a similar amount, with a team and budget that are ‘fit for purpose’ and efficient. We adjust spending carefully based on income every few months. If we are fortunate enough to receive this funding, it would primarily be used to fund the salaries of the three staff we have mentioned, over 2 years. I’ve put together a table that shows our current annual budget, and how we would use $100,000 from OPENIDEO each year, over 2 years. Of course, other suggestions are very very welcome!

The table is in USD, converted from GBP at a rate of £1 = $1.29 based on current exchange rates.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1mIll6SDhp_ogPaChLRjk2kIpG-jFCSaQe_5CLBphJCE/edit?usp=sharing

We are optimistic that as our fundraising capacity, work quality, as well as our reputation and reliability as a service improves, our income will increase incrementally by 20% in 2020, and in the years following, in line with our careful scaling over the past three years.

Support from OPENIDEO would take info bus to the ‘next level’. A prestigious OPENIDEO partnership, together with the impactful and demonstrative work of our information officers, will open up other funding opportunities for us with similarly well-regarded funding bodies, as well as increased support from the public.

Hence, we are confident that we would be able to sustain not only the info officers' salaries, but we would also be empowered to scale up our current systems and services in both Northern France and Greece.

We would be really, really grateful to receive your feedback and guidance on this budget!

Kindest Regards,

Sarah

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

Hello Sevde ┼×engün ,

I just wanted to check you got this email and our budget. If you would like any more information, or for us to expand further, we would be delighted to do so!

Kindest Regards,

Sarah

Spam
Photo of Annie G
Team

People in displacement often have incredibly complex support needs, but none more complex than having to navigate European asylum systems, destitution and state violence.
The work Refugee info Bus in the field empowers refugees to make informed choices, tackle myths and dangerous rumours and regain some autonomy over their status. In terms of advocacy, the organisation centres the voices of the people they support and provides a platform for them to use in reaching out to the world. This is something few organisations in the sector prioritise, meaning refugees are often spoken of rather than given the chance to speak for themselves.
The work done by the Refugee Info Bus is precious and has life transforming potential for so many.

Spam
Photo of Abby Meadows
Team

Refugee Info Bus' service provides people with a space to connect with people they may not have regular contact with, and an opportunity to learn or have information confirmed about what options are available to them as they try to navigate the very difficult environment of European asylum. This work is challenging and Refugee Info Bus are an important service in giving people assistance not just for daily survival but also for formulating a longer term plan for themselves. Knowledge is power and I hope the informative website, Facebook messaging service and on the ground dissemination of information are useful and hopeful tools for people. Additionally connecting people through the technology side of the service is also such an important tool as it gives people a space to emotionally connect with themselves and with family or friends through their phones.

Spam
Photo of Gabriela Rivas
Team

Sarah Story you know I was thinking that besides all the great services you are providing you can also have phones you lend to others if they don't have phones. And they could use my app on one of the borrowed phones in your cool helpful bus! :)

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

that sounds like a great idea Gabriela! :)

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

This funding allows scalability that current small individual donations and trusts/foundations do not, but without the restrictions and lack of flexibility and innovation that come with larger institutional donors. It would also permit employment and certainty for staff and for planning.

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

We have also done some further thinking on cybersecurity, and intend to build on the personal data security work we did in 2018 in response to GDPR requirements. Because the Refugee Legal Information Officers will have access to information about refugees, asylum seekers and those who may be considering fleeing their country, we need to make their hardware and software secure. We will ensure all access is password protected, with two-factor authentication (2FA) and use of virtual private networks (VPNs). These can both be setup for our current systems at low or no cost. These processes should be fairly straight forward after basic training. We’ll also ensure protocols for secure locking of laptops and phones when traveling.

Spam
Photo of Emma Shorter
Team

Amazing organisation

Spam
Photo of Iyad Aljomaa
Team

This org great, and the info so useful and important proud of you all the best.

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

Thank you!

Spam
Photo of Marta Welander
Team

I strongly endorse this organisation and admire their relentless work to support people in displacement across Europe with much needed information and a really innovative Facebook messaging service. Fantastic work!

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

Thank you Marta, we really hope this will open more opportunities for more future collaborations, with Refugee Rights Europe - https://refugee-rights.eu/

Spam
Photo of Bakora Bakora
Team

This is a very good information that you really need and very useful And thanks for your efforts.

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

thank you so so much Bakora!

Spam
Photo of Abdullah Ali
Team

This org great, and the info so useful and important proud of you all the best.

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

Thank you so much Abdullah for your support!

Spam
Photo of Midea Almajdel
Team

this is a very good informatioin we really need that you the best

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

Thank you so much Midea for your kind words! We hope that it can be useful!

Spam
Photo of Abdullah Ali
Team

This org great, and the info so useful and important proud of you all the best.

Spam
Photo of Abdalnasr Aljomaa
Team

This org great, and the info so useful and important proud of you all the best.

Spam
Photo of Itika Gupta
Team

Hi Sarah Story first of all congratulations on all the amazing work your organisation has been doing at ground zero, to help refugees find an anchor in new countries. This idea addresses a very important and immediate need very thoughtfully.
My name is Itika, and I'm here to share some Expert Feedback and suggestions on the points you're seeking support with.

Before I answer the specific questions you needed support with, I just wanted to drop in a general suggestion. Its lovely to see how supportive and protective your organisation is towards the refugees that you support. And I realise all of it comes from deep empathy that you guys have towards the asylum seekers because of having seen the harsh conditions they go through. But the moment we build a narrative around "Us versus them" we've created a new boundary and not a bridge.
During one of my research I had learnt that one of the reasons a few European regions were so against refugee intake was because they felt threatened and used. eg. They didn't like the access refugees got to public utilities got without contributions while the residents paid their taxes to have access to the same utilities, they felt threatened that their jobs may be at risk with increased population. etc. All these threats stem from incorrect assumptions.Thus involving the host country residents in the life and condition of refugees, and addressing their assumptions with empathy is very important. I'd love to see you reflect on your mission statement of "assist refugees in having access to the rights that people with European passports take for granted". To truly make Refugee info bus scalable we need to work in tandem with Europeans towards collective humanitarianism. It won't fix things overnight, but this is a much needed step for true systemic change.

Now let's jump to your specific questions. I'll try and answer them with the best of my knowledge:
- Regarding support towards balancing the content of your work: I think one of the biggest issues you're facing is keeping your content up to date with the ever changing the laws and process for the refugees in the EU. Making, editing and changing videos is not sustainable in the long term. Instead, if you just use your platform's first page to use a simple grid of placeholder tiles that:
- are color coded for each step
- describe the basic 15 steps of getting asylum(including information and human rights about that step) in each tile
- have an option of an audio inserted in multiple languages, that helps people hear what's written in the tile
This way you can still reach millions with simple content, while having room to constantly update the content.

- Making the online service secure in repressed countries: I went through your submission and your website, but I'm a little unclear of the kind of online security threats you are talking about. If you could give me an example I may be able to help you better on this point.

- Professionalizing the service: Standardising processes by building trainings and toolkits is the easiest way to scale up. I see you guys like mediator between the refugees worried and anxious for help, and the government trying to find their way around what services can they offer. You're not only making the life of refugees better but you're also making the job of governments easier, because you better prepare asylum seekers with the process. It is almost like https://vfsglobal.com , only kinder and more legally aware to advice. So focusing on ways to design standard processes and protocols of support that legal experts and non-experts can use alike, will be the first step to becoming more professional.

Hope this helps. Good luck with the challenge.
Feel free to reach out to me incase you have any more questions.

Spam
Photo of Sarah Story
Team

Hello Itika,

Thank you for such a thoughtful, thorough response. You have certainly provided some very important and enlightening viewpoints, that are very important for us to reflect on.

Your point about how important it is to stop using an “Us versus them” narrative, is particularly relevant. You are very right. Of course, it is a tragedy that some people have a right to safety and security, while others don’t. However, it is important to always be mindful of how vital host communities currently are in solutions to these problems (the host communities that we work with include lawyers, people who provide housing, food, and education and we should never forget that). alongside this, we should be more pragmatic about our use of language.

Furthermore your point about videos and how difficult these will be to update is also important, we will strive to mix written and audio content (especially in relation to policy updates that are likely to change quickly) to complement the videos (which do provide a vital service - and can be created tactically to remain relevant over a longer period of time).

Furthermore, working on color coding is something that is very useful - we are currently creating a new arrival guide for Northern France - and we will apply your advice on color coding to these!

In terms of making the online service secure in repressed countries, Mahmoud, our mentor made this point also. As Facebook messenger is incredibly easy to hack, if somebody was messaging about wanting to get information on fleeing the country, but they were potentially in Syria or Iran, it would be easy for the regime to find out their details and that they wanted to leave, perhaps for being a political opponent, or for their sexuality. This could put them in danger. I think we now have a plan for this and we intend to use an option for people to message us via signal (which is much more secure), rather than just via Facebook messenger.

Your point about creating more standardized processes is a really helpful reminder - and something we must always go back to, re-assess, and improve on. By strengthening and systematizing the basics, expansion will be far more straightforward.

Kindest Regards,

Sarah

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Thank you for reaching out to me, Sarah Story 

Our ideas have a lot in common and I suspect that there are ways we can collaborate to extend the reach of our resources. I sent you an email with a few proposed times to connect. If those times do not work for you, let me know and we can keep trying to find a time for our conversation, which I hope to lead into a fruitful collaboration for both of us.
Michele

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Here is some of our feedback from our most recent video, so far we have asked for feedback on our videos in Tigrinya. Tigrinya is the language spoken by most people from Eritrea. Here is HRW’s profile on the country - https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/eritrea. Many of our service users in Northern France and the UK are from Eritrea - far less in Greece (since most Eritrean people arrive to Europe via Libya and Italy). So far we have run a small focus group in the UK with former service users in Calais, as well as Eritrean exiles in the UK, in order to evaluate our videos and the utility of the idea. Here is some of the feedback that we have receieved:

“I wish I had seen this video when I was going through the asylum system - I have not received refugee status and I have been the UK without a travel document for over 5 years.”

I really appreciate the things you are doing so far. Moreover, the information you give for asylum seekers in their own language, the wifi services are very useful. I could not imagine contacting families back home without your help and understanding the asylum system in the UK and France. Thank you and keep up the good work!”

“Thank you so much refugee info bus. You are a bridge between asylum seekers and their parents back home by offering free Wifi. I remember one of my friend spoke to his mum after nearly 4 years in Calais because you offered free Wifi. The information you give by various languages is also vital for asylum seekers and refugees. Million thanks to refugee info bus!”

“I just want to say the asylum substantive interview - Tigrinya is extremely helpful and amazingly prepared. I cannot imagine how much energy you’ve invested in preparing such a detailed recording.

Just as feedback:

Listening to the audio, I felt it only speaks to male gender. I totally understand the entrenched gender bias in the language itself but I also think it could have been avoided. For example, if the speaker uses collective references (plural pronouns, such as you instead of he), it would speak to every asylum seeker. Listening to it got me to ask myself how would a single mother listening to the audio react? I think some women would react to negatively… I don’t want my feedback to sound very negative. It’s an great presentation of a complex issue. Congratulations”

“You should create more videos for people in France and Calais - as well as lists of services and organisations that can help.”

"You should create WhatsApp groups to share these videos in the groups, not just on Facebook.”

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Refugee Info Bus - Multilingual Legal Information + Facebook Messaging Service Amazing work Sarah Story! It's frustrating seeing human being living in forests. I appreciate your work, after watching the video, I'm left feeling that the urgent need to have a roof over their head, eat, shower and sleep is crucial. There is no way one will pass the very grueling asylum interview when they are in this kind of condition. Some kind of transitional housing needs to be built, it doesn't have to be fancy - something basic to get them out of the forests. Can't the bus also offer an additional service like transportation to shelters that house refugees and asylum seekers? How are the neighboring communities reacting this? Thanks again for the great work!

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Photo of Sarah Story
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Thank you Abel for such valuable feedback. You are absolutely correct. Transitional housing must be built!

The housing situation in the various areas where we work are diverse and always changing. Neighbouring communities reactions also vary significantly. On the Greek islands, there are wonderful citizens who have gone out of their way to assist people arriving by boat. Some have housed people, some have fed people. Many local fishermen have rescued people drowning at sea. Many older generations still remember famine and war, and Greek refugees even fled to Syria during WWII and in response have spent thousands on feeding and clothing refugees and migrants who arrive on the Greek islands. There are lots of local young people and civil society groups who have set up education centres, safe spaces for women and have shown real solidarity with people arriving by sea.

That being said, the ongoing refugee crisis remains a huge thorn in the Greek government’s side. The country has been welcoming huge influxes of refugees since the outbreak of the crisis in 2015, and it is still struggling to cope with the thousands of asylum seekers at camps across the country. Many live in dire conditions at camps like Moria on Lesvos, as well as on Chios and Samos, where the population stands at 27,164. Under the EU-Turkey deal, they are forbidden from leaving the islands until they have passed a certain set of criteria, many are stuck for one or two years there. Overall, it is estimated that Greece's population of asylum seekers will surpass the 90,000 marks by the end of 2019 at current rates. There is housing, and there are emergency camps provided for most residents. However, there is simply too many people and either not the resources or no political will to house everyone.

With the systems and infrastructure in place, Greece's outgoing Migration Policy Minister Dimitris Vitsas said last month that the country only has the capacity to process 20,000 asylum applications every year, whereas the number of applications received in 2018 was 67,000. While many Greek citizens have been overwhelmingly generous, Greece has been suffering from a huge recession since the 2009 financial crash. Many Greeks have been forced to emigrate in order to find work. This has fuelled significant resentment towards refugees, by large segments of the population. The recent election of right-wing “New Democracy” party in Greece has already had worrying implications. In just a week, the procedure that enables asylum seekers and migrants to get access to healthcare, education and Greek social services, has been revoked. Furthermore, over the last couple of days, a series of refugee and migrant squats have been evicted, exacerbating an already critical homelessness crisis in Greece amongst refugees and Greeks alike. There is also a significant number “Golden Dawn” supporters in Greece, with a number of violent attacks reported.

In Greece, we have in the past and do drive people to accommodation when they are provided with it. We also help people push for housing and a camp by emailing camp authorities and helping service users by signposting them to social workers and housing associations, creating videos and information sheets on how to register for a house, social security or how to register as being vulnerable. This is something that we could potentially scale-up. We have, and occasionally and still do, support people with emergency accommodation, however, we do this as individuals and not as an organisation. We want to stay focussed as information service, not as a housing charity - although we do have good relationships with people and groups that do try to provide housing.

In France, we support people in applying for emergency shelter and we encourage people to claim asylum in France so that they can access social security options that are available. However, this struggle can often seem like walking through treacle. At 7 am yesterday, hundreds of police officers arrived at a temporary, warm transitional accommodation, inside a Gym, in the French town of Dunkirk where around 1,000 people were living, including over 250 children, many unaccompanied. They evicted everyone, sending residents on buses to accommodation centres across France.

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We now see a repeated cycle of evictions, the movement of people to inadequate French accommodation centers, and then their return again to Calais and Dunkirk, where this temporary accommodation will be closed down, and any temporary settlements that they do make will be evicted again. What was done yesterday, is an ineffective sticking plaster on this situation. We deplore this policy of rejection and exclusion, which does nothing to provide a dignified and sustainable solution for the vulnerable communities we support. In Northern France, there is an excellent collective of French and UK citizens who go out of the way in order to try and feed, clothe and if possible, house refugees in Northern France. At the moment there are around 30 French citizens in Calais acting as emergency hosts. However, Calais and Dunkirk are towns that have become victim to increased unemployment as a result of de-industrialization in Northern France.. Resentment towards migrants and refugees is very strong - the far-Right party, the National Front, won over 50 percent of the vote in the most recent French elections. Violent attacks by citizens and the police are, therefore, also frequent. In Calais, every week, refugees are evicted from their tents and any form of structure, stronger than a tent, is destroyed as a matter of government policy.

I hope that helps answer your question. It is a complicated, painful and unjust situation. I am happy to discuss this more too!

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Sarah Story thank you for sharing! This is very helpful, it puts the situation in context. Kudos to you guys and all other people trying to help in such dire circumstances, I appreciate the fact that even when it seems nearly impossible, you still fight on and want to make a difference!! Let's continue the conversation, maybe there might be opportunities for potential mutual partnerships in the future!

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Yes, that would be great Abel! My email is sarah@refugeeinfobus.com. Let's keep in touch! All the best, Sarah.

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Photo of Kevin Fonseca
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Very interesting idea and project! Enthusiastic for see it come true Refugee Info Bus - Multilingual Legal Information + Facebook Messaging Service 

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Thank you Kevin for such lovely, positive feedback!

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Photo of Sarah Story
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Hello everyone at Openideo,

We are really honored to have been shortlisted for the Bridge Builder challenge. We are also very delighted to have the opportunity to receive expert advice. Below, we have laid out fairly broad questions, with a little bit of background information as to why we feel these questions are important, as well as to help further guide the experts who are giving their time to advise us:

1. We would really appreciate advice on the scaling of our idea and planning for the future. While we have been operational as a small NGO since 2016, we have remained low budget, any larger budget work we have developed on a project by project-based system. With this in mind, over the past 4 years, we have witnessed larger NGO’s come and go into Greece and France, often falling upon financial difficulties due to a funding cycle ending (many groups received funds as part of a European Union emergency response grant, following the implementation of the very controversial EU-Turkey deal - many NGO’s, including MSF, refused these funds as they felt it made them complicit in a deal that revoked so many peoples right to claim asylum). We would really appreciate advice on financial planning, from an experienced project manager who has led an organization or group transition from having a smaller budget to a larger one. Alongside this, we would also like advice on how to manage, plan and prepare in advance for when that larger budget and spending needs continued investment, with our project idea in mind. We do not want to build an indispensable and expanded service, and then have to pull out because of funding problems.


2. We are painfully aware that volunteers, workers and NGOs supporting people on the move, especially in Europe, are facing a heavy handed legal and political backlash. We know of NGO’s being shut down and humanitarian workers being arrested on trumped up charges. We would really appreciate advice from someone with experience in crisis management on how to improve our precuations and preperations. We would like more ideas to bounce back and forth, as well as insights, on how to balance a risk of political or legal actions being made against us - whilst ensuring our information doesn’t become so basic and stale, and in line with exactly what a particular government desires - which could then lead our information to be censored, tokenistic, undesirable and ultimately, not useful for our service users.

3. As so much of our work is online - we would also appreciate advice on Facebook and Google analytics and how to ensure our service is reaching and being engaged with by service users, as best as it can be. Furthermore, we would love advice from a data security expert, especially in relation to countries such as Iran, Syria, and Turkey. While our service targets refugees on the move in Europe, or who have just arrived, we do receive and anticipate to receive more, messages from service users in Iran, Syria, and Turkey, where people could be putting themselves at personal risk, by messaging us using Facebook. What measures could we take, other than those we already have implemented, to make our service more secure?

4. Finally, we would love advice on how to professionalize, to provide an expanded and sustainable service, but without losing our mobility, ability to react quickly, passion and activist spirit that often comes with small scale, grassroots work.

Thank you so much for your time and we are really looking forward to your responses, as well as chipping away, and honing in on our idea over the next couple of weeks!

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Photo of Sevde Şengün
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Congratulations Sarah Story ! You are on making it to the Improve Phase as part of the 40 Shortlisted Proposals!
Now the real improvement work begins so please prepare yourself to get constructive feedback from the mentors who will comment on your idea and experts who will question about your idea.
They will test the Desirability of your idea - if that is what people desire, they will test the Viability of your idea - if it is financially viable and they will test the Feasibility of your idea - if it is technically and organizationally possible to be executed in the real world.

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Dear Sevde,

Thank you so much. We are looking forward to this much-needed feedback and we are very ready to start working on, and improving our idea.

Kindest Regards,

Sarah

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Photo of Aída Herrera Peña
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Great job! Hopefully you’ll keep doing very well Sarah.

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Photo of Sarah Story
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thank you for such lovely feedback!

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Photo of Francisco Santarém
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Hello Sarah!

It's amazing how the idea is quite simple and yet so useful and impactful.
I could easily see you guys partnering up with big organizations to have even better support services for refugees.

Keep up with the great work!

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Thank you so much for this feedback! We would love that!

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Photo of Dokuz8 Haber
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Hello Sarah,

That's a great idea! Do you plan to enlarge the project to the other areas as well?

Warmest Regards!

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Photo of Sarah Story
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Thank you for this! We plan at the moment to keep it for people on the move into Greece, and into Europe. At present this is our area of expertise! I think it would be so useful to expand it also to have info for people leaving Syria or other areas where conflict is breaking out. However, that will require more investment and bringing more people onboard to our team! We would be very interested in supporting partners or working with partners in other areas where this model would be useful.

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Photo of Anna Fontanini
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Hello Sarah Story ,

I really like your idea! As you can see it is very similar in concept to one of the ideas I've published, about LGBT asylum seekers and refugees in Mexico: empower people on the move to make their own choices.
Maybe we could collaborate?
Feel free to have look!
Anna

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Photo of Sarah Story
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Hello Anna,

Yes .- we would love to collaborate - I am sure we can show many ways we have tried and failed, some of our successes and some of our pitfalls, perhaps as well as some of our technology and processes which we develop. Drop me an email at sarah@refugeeinfobus.com, and it would be great to link up.

Kindest Regards,

Sarah

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Photo of Basmeh  Zeitooneh
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This is a wonderful idea and initiative! Good luck Sarah!

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Photo of Sarah Story
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thanks so much! We are also huge fans of what you do in Lebanon!

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Photo of George
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Is your organization willing to collaborate with other social organizations using new technology in order to make the most positive impact possible around the world with our combined innovations?

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Photo of Sarah Story
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Absolutely! We love collaborating!

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Photo of George
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Lovely! We're always excited to meet more collaborators Sarah! Please send me your email address for additional information? Thank you!

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Photo of Sarah Story
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sure - drop us an email to mail@refugeeinfobus.com and we will be sure to get back to you super soon!

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Photo of Sevde Şengün
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Hello Sarah Story great to have you share your idea for the challenge! Excited to learn about the work you are doing for Asylum Seekers! The challenge's idea phase will be closing on 17th August, before its expired could you clarify what are the results of the project so far in your Majority Adoption phase? You already have add very detailed docs and good audiovisuals , which explain how the service work, thats great! You can also create a possible user and share with us ,
i.e. "journey map of refugees who to involve your project" which is very important to integrate into this platform as you progress in the challenge!

I would suggest also to have a look at our challenge evaluation criteria again for checking: https://ideo.to/NQ6TlJ

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Thank you so much for such valuable, constructive feedback Sevde!

I am going to go away now and produce a clear report and visuals of the results and impact of our projects, that we have been able to measure.

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Photo of Sarah Story
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Hello Sevde,

So upon reflection of your feedback, I have created a report that details our impact here: https://bit.ly/2MYIQ6e - here you can better understand our impact so far. I have also changed the stage at which our project is at to Early Adoption, from Majority Adaptation as we believe that while our project(s) have been significant, the size of team and the scale with which we work is comparatively small. With further investment and a larger team, our impact, we know, would be significant when we scale it up! I will work away on a journey map now!

Thank you so much and kindest regards,

Sarah

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Hello again Sevde,

We have added another "journey map of refugees who to involve your project" now - thank you and all the best! - Sarah

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Photo of Timothy Hansen
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Hooray! This looks really sensible, practical and much needed.

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Thanks Timothy, we are really excited and hopeful about how the project could be improved and expand - with more investment and collaborations.

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Photo of Muhannad Al Jomaa
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It is a wonderful organization and I think the information they provide is very strong and useful and the refugees need it a lot and it is nice to see this energy, vitality and attention

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Photo of Sarah Story
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thank you for such lovely, positive feedback!