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Basefugees: a community platform for people on the move & tech4refugees resources

A community platform sourcing and curating resources available to refugees worldwide

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

Refugees are not by essence and definition "poor" people. Instead, History (Dust Bowl, Palestinian exodus, EU’s refugee crisis) & data show that it’s a common feature for people who find themselves forced to move, to end up leaving it all behind (house, job, car, friends & family) and so refugees end up poorer than they were initially upon arrival to a safe place. Yet, it is a major challenge to transfer, recover or rebuild this economic, social, cultural, etc capital in a totally new place. Worse, for refugees, the sudden socioeconomic downgrade from belonging to a community & owning citizenship rights, to being a lone individual labeled “refugee” & locked into the “beneficiary” status makes the whole recovery process harder; when it does not lead to a direct fall into a poverty trap. Our idea to address this challenge is techfugees' brainchild and the results of 4 years experience of work with innovators building tech-enabled solutions for & with refugees. Concretely, BASEFUGEES is a web-based platform facilitating interactions between refugees with specific needs (opening a bank account, finding a job, learning a language, etc) and a curated community of entrepreneurs, humanitarians & techies with resources on offer to satisfy those needs (a lot of them have applied to the Ghb x Ideo Challenge). Central to BASEFUGEES is a search function designed around refugees’ needs and filtering available offers of resources by location, language, nationality, etc. Next is a list of resources on offer marked by a timestamp, scores from admins & users’ comments as a way to build in trust. Basefugees helps us move our existing offline community online and scale our method, networks, and impact to more refugees. On the long term, Basefugees aims to be that open sourced mobile-friendly and multilingual one-stop-shop of solutions for any refugee worldwide.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

In terms of users, we are focused on targeting English speaking digitally savvy refugees and displaced people that have arrived in major cities of countries hosting refugees in Europe, Middle-East and Africa and where a bubbling technology community is present for now; they are the people the most likely to be early adopters of our platform and able to provide feedback to help us build a better and expanded platform.

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)

A safe and personalized online bridge connecting refugees with a welcoming community of local people and essential resources. This bridge enables refugees to overcome their precarious economic situation from the moment they arrive until they are have fully rebuilt enough capital to fully thrive like anyone else in their new community. The resources offered must align with our 8 guiding principles and solve a need that is above the basic needs according to Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

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

Basefugees solves the essential human need for connection that is access to *community support* and *trust* - two elements often missing or put to the test on the perilous refugee journey to a new place. Basefugees does so by 1/ connecting online refugees to a safe community and resources only tailored and specific to them (the search function returns a list of resources & people that the user can directly contact or directly use). 2/ by offering rich & trustworthy information about the resource available (each resource on offer has a timestamp, a score & allows for user comments) 3/ by curating members (people offering resources on the platform need to be vetted first to be able to use the platform) 4/ as a user leaves more constructive comments and interacts more, they are invited to participate actively in the building of BASEFUGEES and have a voice at our offline events (hackathon, workathon and summit).

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

Today, refugees rely mostly on word of mouth, social media & close friend direct recommendations to find information about resources available. It's inefficient because it is limited in scale and is heavily biased and subjective from one person to another. Tomorrow, thanks to Basefugees, refugees will be able to make better-informed decisions for themselves, enjoy more constructive interactions with local neighbors and rebuild local capital faster. That's because, Basefugees provides them with a personalized list of reliable local people & resources available to them & the ability to connect with them for free. Importantly, through user comments, they can gather more opinions & feedback about available resources, outside of their close friend circles. We will track the number & quality of interactions between users & resources posted, and gamify the posting of feedback so we get more user-generated content and feedback.

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

93% of refugees that arrived at the shores of Greece in 2015 used their mobile phone to make the journey to Europe (BetterPlace Lab, 2016) and 87% of refugees and displaced people are found living in areas with 2G/3G access (UN Innovation Lab, 2014). These are the facts that started the Techfugees community, an online community made of tech entrepreneurs, techies and humanitarians - some refugees and some non-refugees - which has generated: -A collection of anecdotal evidence on how mobile phone act as lifelines for refugees -A long database of refugee tech projects, their successes and failures, All this data and evidence demonstrates the growing influence and successful use of online information & resources by refugees to go about their daily life, with a clear limitation in the accuracy & trustability of tools and the total absence of organized & updated global directory. That’s is that growing use and demand from refugees themselves to us that Basefugees is looking to address.

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

3 different types of users: 1/ Refugees: have a lot of needs not satisfied because of a lack of resources. They don’t know who to ask & where to find the information & how to trust the information. 2/ Innovators: they are tech-savvy, want to volunteer their skills for good & are looking for meaning in their lives. They don’t know what resources refugee needs but they have time & resources to offer. 3/ Techfugees Admins: they have experience working with refugees &/or technologists. They want to enable safe & efficient interactions between users & resources. They have data over what refugee users are searching on Basefugees & follow a due-diligence process for reviewing innovator's resources. The dynamic flow: a refugee user enters a query about a need, gets a list of resources matching, refugee user clicks & gets redirected to the resource or contacts innovator. Next time user logs on Basefugees, a fun slider pops up ask a rate on how satisfied he is with resource.

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

Techfugees has been able to gather and become a reference for a global online community of 46,000 refugees and non-refugees dedicated to build and use online tools to support displaced people. Along with a core team made of only 3 people and a distributed team of 36 volunteers worldwide, we organized more than 30+ hackathons events on the five continents and 2 global summits hosting 500+ people from 52+ nationalities, helping us keep our database of innovators growing, with growing participation of refugees in the category (25% of innovators who submitted an application to our global competition were refugees themselves) Basefugees, its brainchild, will be able to leverage these 4 years of community work and scale it to be able to source more refugee needs and match them directly with more local resources.

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

First, a volunteer from the core team created a concept note of it. Then, initial design sketches of Basefugees were built in 2016 with General Assembly students in London (see attached). As it became clearer there was a demand for it, a motivated distributed team of Techfugees volunteers came spontaneously together in 2018 to start the building of Basefugees with the support of their respective organizations (Amaris consulting and Joonik) joined by a few new talented engineers from our partners at Gaza Sky Geeks. This enabled us to launch a first alpha version of Basefugees in May 2019. Today, we are backed financially by Google For Startups and the FAIRE Foundation led Nick Nopporn Suppipat, a refugee himself and now investor in refugee solutions. We are looking for design studios, tech companies and foundations with expertise in building marketplaces and platform to help our development.

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

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

Techfugees

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

Founded in 2015 by Mike Butcher (TechCrunch), Techfugees is an international non-profit organization coordinating the commitment of the tech community to contribute with resources to meet the needs of displaced people. Led by Joséphine Goube, with 7+ years experience developing platforms for migrants through Migreat and advocating for a human-centered approach to migration system designs at the EU commission, Techfugees operates in five priority areas where tech can have a significant impact: access to rights and information, education, health, employment, and social inclusion. Within almost 4 years, Techfugees has grown into a community of nearly 46,000 innovators supporting via social media and taking part in hundreds of dedicated events around the world, including more than 30 hackathons and one annual Global Summit.

Website URL:

www.techfugees.com

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United Kingdom & France

Organization Headquarters: City / State

London & Paris

33 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of Destin Ndebo Rugereza
Team

Hello Joséphine Goube, I am so excited to go through this lovely project and have realized it goes hand in hand with ours on many ereas of coverage. We are looking forward to collaborate with you for complementarity, Hope it's possible!

Spam
Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

Hi Destin! Awesome to hear that we are working on similar ideas! Is this the idea: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/2019-bridgebuilder-challenge/review/refugee-relief-information-and-innovation-inclusion-project ?
If so I will go have a look at it right now and add my comments!

Spam
Photo of Destin Ndebo Rugereza
Team

Hey Joséphine, yes that is the project. I think we have where we can start from

Spam
Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

I posted my suggestion. hope it is useful! Happy to connect you with the people behind those projects when you need some advice or tips from them!

Spam
Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

I am so glad you spoke to Fritjof! They are the guys who have been able to develop the model in 50 cities in Germany... a great collaboration ahead? :) All the best Destin! And Speak soon when we come to launch in Kampala our next community

Spam
Photo of Destin Ndebo Rugereza
Team

Hey Joséphine, we had a very fruitful skype meeting with Froth of and the web is now shaking for we hope for a very strong partnership with integreat. This comes to thank you for the contact and we encourage members to have one on one meeting with prospective partners we met here and it will be beneficial I can ensure. Once more thank you. Still looking forward having you in Uganda coming 2020.

Spam
Photo of Destin Ndebo Rugereza
Team

I meant Fritjof

Spam
Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

:) Awesome. That was fast! Looking forward to discussing more with you in the coming months. My twitter is @josephinegoube. Let's keep each other up to date.

Spam
Photo of Destin Ndebo Rugereza
Team

Great hearing from you dear Joséphine, yep, you're right Twitter will be awesome.

Spam
Photo of Alejandra Aguilera
Team

Hello Josephine, we might look at human rights together too, with my project my [inte] gration https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/2019-bridgebuilder-challenge/review/my-inte-gration-co-op

Spam
Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

Hi Alejandra. Thanks for your message! Your project is on a topic I am passionate about!! There has been numerous attempts to create data reporting systems for human trafficking. To name only the few I know best: https://twitter.com/STOPTHETRAFFIK (From IBM technology) and https://globalinitiative.net - I would love to see how your work evolves and how you go about implementing it. Please let's keep in touch. My twitter @josephinegoube

Spam
Photo of Alice Bosley
Team

Dear Josephine,Thank you for sharing this idea! It's really interesting. I'd love to learn more about how you plan to attract your early users to this platform, and how you plan to build trust with them (ie, if someone comes on and is looking for a service that isn't available on the platform, how will you response?). Best of luck!!

Looking forward to learning more. Thank you!

Spam
Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

Thank you Alice!
For now, we have a community of refugees and non-refugees eager to test the platform because they believe in the idea and concept. I don't know if that counts as early users, but they will definitely be the first users and the ones who will feedback us on how good is the UX flow and how clear things are to find your way around.
Then, I guess after our first circle community has tested it, we will go a pilot in places where we have a community of innovators with offers and there are refugees getting settled. So far, our strongest spot to deliver the product at users we don't yet know is in Berlin and in Paris. It will be about going to centers where refugees live in one city first, showing them how to use the platform and get their feedback after a week or two of use.
Because we believe that asking refugees to use it and give us feedback is a work we ask them, we are thinking about a reward scheme for them. We are interested in rewarding with money the refugee users who will be keen to contribute to the platform, to information & data and to getting more refugees using it via community events they can organise themselves. In a way, those refugees that come to us interested in being our "Basefugees' ambassadors" would act like salespeople in order to get the platform in the hands of the people it is aimed at helping.

As for, if someone comes on the platform and is looking for a resource that is not available, there are 3 ways we are thinking of dealing with this
1/ First, it gets picked up by our search engine and suggests automatically another way of typing the query with similar keywords that give a reply.
2/ Second, if nothing happens, it is sent to the attention of a moderator to look into this at first and help the user. If there is a resource available, moderator messages the user. If there is not, the moderator sends a message to the user to say that we don't have yet a resource available for this need and we will contact him when we have.
3/ if a lot of similar requests get sent to the moderator, Moderator escalate this as a need for which we need to find "resources" to be added on the platform. Moderator post a request on our social media community channels to request if any resource exist right now dealing with such and investigate if anything can be done.

Let me know if you have more questions OR if you have suggestions!!

Spam
Photo of Lema Zekrya
Team

A mobile-friendly one stop platform for refugees to consult sounds like a great idea. But could you clarify what the "list of resources on offer" would look like? Would there be links to hosting government's/local government own sites/initiatives (for example) or would it focus on the tech/digital solutions to refugee needs?

Spam
Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

Hi Lema, great question!
We have thought to offer tech/digital solutions to refugee needs, from our community of innovators, at first. That’s because of our connections to them, and because they are all online and might see a direct interest in being present & active on our platform.
We have not planned yet to add the local gov / gov resources/sites/offers yet ; and we should think of it - because they are the ones with budgets and authority to provide such resources. Yet, how would you see the way to engage with them? I would think that because they are big and visible, they would not see interest initially in our platform. On top of it, I can only think of the hassle of asking those administrations to respond to needs on the platform and to update the content of their products...
Overall, I see two ways to approach government services to demonstrate they have an interest in being on our platform:
1/ Serve more refugees / and so get more funding by the state - though I am not sure it is a really strong argument
2/ Help them digitalize. Support their presence online and help their digital team connect to our entrepreneurs, so they can rethink the way they work (operations, delivery of new digital services) because they are inspired by new ideas on our platform.
Let me know what you think. I really think that is is a blind spot that our idea does not address yet!

Spam
Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

Hi Lema,
After some thoughts into this in the past week, I called a few innovators and got in touch with one person digitalizing municipal services.
The 1/ hypothesis is confirmed from them 3 so it is a good news and what's more the one person working for a big city said that they could see a way to fund our work on the platform to be linking to their services.
This would answer some questions we had over how to get sustainable funding to provide certain quality of service on the platform as we scale!

Spam
Photo of Ben Hounsell
Team

Given that the vast majority of refugees will be accessing BASEFUGEES through the mobile devices, how thoroughly has the platform been tested on smartphones (rather than laptops)?

Spam
Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

Hello Ben,
the platform has been built so far to be mobile friendly but we have not yet tested it with refugees and old mobile phones. We are waiting for this process of applying to Ideo to get people to challenge our idea and come up with constructive questions and suggestions. We are also hoping to get the support of IDEO Challenge to go ahead with finalizing the project and testing on the ground straight after.

Spam
Photo of Fritjof Knier
Team

Very excited to see this idea hopefully brought to life very soon!!

A few question from my side and the Integreat-Team:

1) Reading your proposal it seems that Techfugee Admins have central role in evaluating information and offers. While this might prove to be heavily time consuming it may also lead to somewhat of a bias in the evaluation. Have you thought about alternatives or support for the Techfugee’s Admins?

2) Knowing that you were limited in space but could you elaborate on your 8 guiding principles concerning the resources offered on Basefugees?

3) Data security will not only be a major objective for the innovators as we all have become more and more sensitive in recent times it is quite crucial for refugees. How are you addressing this issue at Basefugees where some extent of personal data is crucial and mandatory?

Spam
Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

Thanks Fritjof and the intergreat team!! I would love to hear suggestions from you after my answers as it seems you have been thinking about this yourselves building your own app.

For your 1/ we must assume that we are not perfect in our evaluations, and so make this clear to any user. How? making our process transparent and clear: the evaluation grid and criterias. If there are any serious bias that the community thinks is getting in the way of serving refugees, I am assuming that someone will speak out. For this, we'd have to create a set of processes similar to and inspired by the process on Wikipedia for content that's controversial or highlighted by users as not being objective/bias. Someone on our core team has been a long-time contributor on Wikipedia and led Wikimania in London, and could lead on this definitely.

2: Techfugees has developed Guiding Principles based on years of experience running hackathons and supporting their winners' post-hack in 25 countries. Based on ethical principles and values, the resulting Guiding Principles are not imposed on the community as a prescription but are here to guide our collective action and aim at providing innovators with useful guidance to start a #tech4refugees’ project. The list is here detailed: https://techfugees.com/techfugees-guiding-principles/ we will make sure to assess every resource posted on Basefugees against those principles and provide a "mark" assessing how compliant they are to it, like scoring agencies on the stock market.

3: Data security is one major concern that we have had from day 1. I explained in a previous comment that we will follow a privacy-by-design approach where we only collect data needed for the platform to work and provide a good user experience for everyone. There is no 'data-driven business model' behind our idea as our users are not like any other users: they have been persecuted for what/who they are. We can't run on this model if we want to empower them in a new country.

Hope that helps!

Spam
Photo of Kate Pincott
Team

part 2...


6) For posts: How will TF moderators keep up with a high volume of posts and submitted innovator content? Perhaps if a resource is submitted to TF having already been pre-approved by more than one innovator then it would get some for of priority?

7) For search results: when there are no relevant results what call to action could you leave instead so that the refugee is less stuck and not still in the same situation after using your product? Perhaps you automate this action into a post on their profile? Could they share this question with someone to answer? Perhaps the web app suggest similar resources based on similar words to try instead?

8) General - you say your resources will be object not overly personalised to one person/ situation or belief - how will you achieve this?

9) General - How will the TF moderation team de-dupe the repeated problems to avoid duplication of work by the Innovators? You could have 50 innovators all working on the job hunting and no one suggesting content for learning language. Perhaps the Innovator assigns themselves to problem space they are actively working on so others know who is working on what at any given time?

10) What incentive could you give to the local points of contact or resource creators to keep going when they have become so valuable to their community? Perhaps you could have an annual award to recognise the best local resource contributors?

11) How do you define and vet an ‘innovator’ - can this be a member of the public with a lot of knowledge in the space? What criteria will you use? What qualifications or qualities should they have to be an authority on the subject? Perhaps a cleverly designed survey to pre-screen innovator applications could save you a lot of time and help prioritise which innovators to manually vet first?

12) For search queries: how will you add keywords to each resource across languages so that it gives relevant results. e.g. job and work are very related but ‘commission’ or ‘gig’ are less obvious. Will this be manually done at first? How could you automate this process?

13) What incentive do the refugees have to rate the web app resources? Does the url open a new tab and take them away from the web app? Could it remember where they have clicked and ask them to rate it when they return? Perhaps using a fun slider scale of happy to sad to rate the experience would feel more intuitive than having to think about a number and less spammy than stars.

Spam
Photo of Kate Pincott
Team

Very cool. Nice work.

Part 1
My assumptions... there are two ways to solve a refugee need:

A) Through Search: A refugee will search for their ‘need’ in a search box e.g. I need a job, and this forms a list of search queries that
the innovators can read and suggest solutions for. e.g. a website that helps refugees find work. The innovator will then submit this website for approval by the tech refugee admin to make sure it is a legit company. The refugee will try out this website to find work and then rate the resource.

B) Through a Post: A refugee can’t find an answer to their query e.g. I need a bank account. So they will write a post visible on their account. A TR moderator will reply to this post in the comments linking to a relevant resource or page of resources on the web app. The refugee can rate this resource. If there isn’t a suitable resource to suggest the TR moderator will mark this as an ‘opportunity’. All opportunities will be listed somewhere so that the Innovators can see them and submit a suggestion to solve that ‘need’. The TF moderator will approve the proposals put forward for the opportunity. If it is relevant, a resource page will be created and it will be added to the search results as well as shared back with the refugee who posted about it in a comment on their post by the TF moderator.

1) If I am mistaken in my assumption B) how will refugees flag to the community that there is no solution to their need?

2) For search - How will you keep this list of suggested resources up to date?
when one query has many resources there is less incentive to work on them, how to incentivise them to get updated and checked? Could they have an expiry date when they need to be reviewed again or to see if better alternatives are on the market now?

3) For search: When there are a high volume of similar search queries, how will the app aggregate these themes in a timely manner and automate the content creation so that they don’t rely on a moderator to pick it up and provide content. Perhaps when something is queried ‘x’ number of times a new resource page is created automatically and a group of local reps are notified and asked if they can contribute information to this page to complete it as soon as possible.
5) For posts: How will the webapp identify when one need is a higher priority than another. Perhaps some needs are happening right now and need to be addressed in a short amount of time. Could the app have some sort of escalation process so the uploader marks as it as a live emergency and then the moderators also confirm it as a high priority and so this query would get answered by innovators and moderated first.

Spam
Photo of Ahmad Sufian Bayram
Team

How will Basefugees work to be inclusive for all refugees, especially with limited access to the internet (or fast internet) for refugees in some locations?

What is the reviewing processes that would eliminate fake news, and misleading information at the same time scalable?

Spam
Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

Hi Ahmad, thanks for the question! If I understand it well, it is about broadband access right?
To start with, Basefugees will only work where we have a community (today 18 cities in the world: https://techfugees.com/chapters/ that are well equipped in terms of wifi or free wifi with some exceptions). We need to collect data on user satisfaction with the product before we try to get it in the hands of the most remote refugees. Next, if the model is proven, we aim to expand it to capital cities where tech meets refugees that is Mexico, Bogota, Kampala, etc. If we can prove the model from these 18 cities we work from and where we have a local volunteer team, we are more confident that we can reach out to more remote places and by that time (inch Allah!) broadband access will be more stable.
Yet, we have made the decision from day 1 in having our platform be web-based (so it does not require a bank account and an account with an email in an android or apple store) to be used, and we are making pages the leanest to load (without a map for exemple) or videos. That's because people in those places where internet broadband is limited have been on our mind day 1 as a potential target at some point in time.

Eventually, if we are successful faster than we thought, we might have to think of a two-way development where
- one version that is very basic with the least graphics (like the low-fi Gmail version that pop-ups as an option when you are in a low bandwidth internet area).
- and another with actual designs for people with better broadband access.
if users are complaining about not being able to use the platform.

But again, we have decided our target population to be in the 18 places we are working from right now and it should not be a major issue for now.

As for your second question, I am afraid I don't have a solution for it today. The only thing that we have come so far to agree on is there will not be "news" on the platform but offers of connections to resources and resources (products or services) with a page dedicated to the resource, like you'd buy on ebay.
For everything published, it will be sent to review by our team (today 1 person with the help of other people on our team) to add a clear visual tag on the offer that the resource has been reviewed by our team and is legit (or else it will be removed). This process will validate the offer is not fake and give a date to the validation.

Also, the information entered for any resources will be available & presented to all users
- in the same format and
- open to public comments from users
- with a button "flagging" content that seems not legit enacted by users
- with a date of the latest update of the "resource" on offer.
This way we want to avoid a resource being presented differently to different users.

What do you think? Do you have suggestions for us to improve this process and make it more scalable?

Spam
Photo of Petra Johansson
Team

My biggest question/concern is around security. Even mega corporations struggle to do security by themselves, and it's a 24h job. It's not just the cost of building it, but maintaining it and keeping it secure. Your project will be an obvious target. I guess you've thought of this but perhaps it will be possible to build BF on an enterprise solution (such as Oracle) so that the infrastructure and security are (largely) taken care of and costs kept down.

Spam
Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

Hi petra, it has been on our mind, day 1. As you rightly put, building an online platform that is dedicated to refugees getting help is an obvious target for anyone with bad intentions. The way we have been thinking about it is this:
Today we don't have the strongest expertise internally and enough capital today to cover the costs of this need for the platform to be the most secure. And it is likely we will never have enough capital. So, as you mentioned we thought we should partner with someone who has those two assets. And so we did start conversations indeed. We have been discussing this with Cisco for now and are reviewing all entry points from where data could leak, or that could be vulnerable to hacks.
Yet, this does not solve the problem for us because we believe that
1/ however secure a web platform is, we know from experience that the most common failures to protect data are coming from human mistakes and not tech-related. So we are not only putting major stress on tech infrastructure but also on staff. For this we have been following a lot of guidelines similar gathered by the Engine Room (UK based company) here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Fa2QHusD5iJ8Woi8s7-SMFItAufKv4U5UR-PZ1szMNU/edit# and our main document of reference comes from OCHA (this one being the latest released - which is the an edited version of previous years: https://centre.humdata.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/OCHA-DR-Guidelines-working-draft-032019.pdf)
2/ and most importantly, because we are dealing with refugees that have been dealing with persecuptions because of who they are (rohingas, LGBT, etc) it seems to us important that for any data we collect there is a clear purpose and better experience for the user, else we don't collect that data. Full spot. That is, in other words, if the benefits of collecting that data is really bigger than the risks of having it leak, then it makes sense to collect. If not, no point.

Lastly, to be clear, and to make sure we are specific here when talking about data collected via Basefugees.
A - There are two different things we collect & track: one is information that a user gives as his general profile characteristics (language spoken, nationality, location, age, skills, interests) which are non-compulsory and another is tracking of interactions and searches made on the platform. Today we don't connect that two information together, though it is possible.
B - no user will be identified by their refugee status or asked about their papers/status through the platform. The platform offers resources tailored to refugees. If someone is not a refugee, we assume they have no interest in being on this platform. This will make it difficult if not impossible to tell how many refugees are on the platform served, and if you have any idea of how we can measure this differently, without having to connect data, I am open to ideas. For now, we will only measure the traffic of users making researches and connecting with resources to mention how many people we have helped that we assume are refugees.

Spam
Photo of Suad Aldarra
Team

I would love to see this app soon! For now I have several questions:
1. Refugees tend to trust the information on social media more than officials. Even though most of the answers come from anonymous accounts. They feel more comfortable that they can speak in their own language and dialect as well. What makes your platform “trustworthy” for them? How would you convince them to switch the old search methods and use your app?

2. In Geography of focus, you mentioned a big region of the world. Do you have a plan to start with a specific country maybe? Also, wouldn’t focusing on English speaking refugees only makes it harder for the rest to use this platform?

3. Could you explain further the scoring mechanism you are using in the search function? Is it a manual number from admins or an automated number resulting from an algorithm?

Spam
Photo of David McDougall
Team

The service is currently designed primarily to respond to refugee needs when they ask or search for advice on a specific question. This makes it a purely transactional experience for the refugee. Having a model based on recurring engagement and developing longer term human partnerships could increase stickiness and make it easier to reach out to refugees proactively. Have you given any thought on assigning each refugee a 'caseworker' who can help them more generally, or a way to have deeper engagement beyond transactional one-off requests?

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Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

Thank you David for your question. To be fully honest, we have not thought that our platform could lead to purely transactional experience but, to your point, we have been wanting to make the platform sticky, and we assumed it would be sticky with 1/ the community: at first, the users of the platform will only people of our curated community. We assumed that our users will know people in common and have no interest in being a purely transactional person and; by 2/ gamify-ing it a little (for ex: with badges & free access to our events if a user becomes a superuser) we can make users more engaged and understanding that this is a community, not a purely transactional website.
However, now that you mention this, I am thinking that we should definitely give it more thoughts. I don't know about having a caseworker - immediately, I think: how much time does it require and what skills? which user type? can we trust that person? what's the cost? Could it be someone who has gone through the platform and advising another? - but that's a suggestion we need to think through.

Other questions: When you say caseworker, do you imagine it to be something similar to the salespersons that is assigned to a new commercial platform user, armed with automated emails and reminders, and that's reliable to convert this person into an engaged user? Would it be a different kind of person? Would it be a chatbot? How is that not coming in the way of getting refugees what they want first, adding layers to a platform we wanted to be easy and simple to use?
Definitely making a note of your suggestion, and question! From experience and interviews, it is clear that "refugees" expressed feeling lost, looking for guidance from a trustworthy source, and wanting to *talk* to someone. So it might be that we need, like government services, a caseworker (!) yet, we want to make sure we don't end up transforming into another slow and bureaucratic administration ;) Open to suggestions from you !!

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Photo of Alice Piterova
Team

How are you going to iterate your platform to make sure it address the needs and UX of all your key stakeholders?

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Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

Thanks Alice! So far we have worked with:
1/ designer students from General Assembly in London to perform the initial users' journeys, interview with stakeholders and mockups of designs,
2/ we shared them to an independent UX designer who collected our feedback, reviewed the work of GA to understand initial thoughts, did more interviews with more stakeholders and re-adjusted the design to fit the operational timeline of our engineers and organization.
3/ now, a pro bono UX designer from a Colombian company (JOONIX) is adjusting designs as we go building it with devs.
As such, so far we have been very design-led, using human-centered methods.
We envision the next step to be more data-driven, collecting data on users and their interactions on the platform. For ex: information about how many times someone visits the platform, which page or search they make, which is the most common ask, and the most common pattern of engagement - are essential information about what our users want or interactions they are used to. It will still require the work of a designer to collect & process that the data from the platform into new designs suggestions or improved designs.
As I said in my response to Ben above, we will use the first community of people we know to provide direct feedback (via email or form), as we do for every event we host but this time about their experience of a platform and not an event. It should make feedback faster and easier to get.
Yet, our community does not represent the overall community of 68 million refugees (because we will be first restricted to one language and refugees who are literate and online) or people serving refugees / having resources available to refugees. So feedback from them, while it being important and essential, is not enough and we will need to continue the design work of asking stakeholders outside of our first users to tell us more about ways our platform can support their work/needs.
I hope this answers your question! Do you have any specific suggestions for us? Your question being very specific, I’d love to know if you have ideas to suggest on top!
It would be awesome to get IDEO to advise on the best way to iterate too!

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Photo of Ben Siegel
Team

1) What do you mean by a personalized bridge? How is the platform personalized / tailored for each individual refugee?

2) Is there a specific set of resources or aid you are looking the platform to help facilitate at launch?

3) What is your strategy for Onboarding new entrepreneurs/service providers and, outreach and engagement refugees with refugees outside of your current network?

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Photo of Joséphine Goube
Team

Hi Ben, thanks for your questions!!!
1/ By “personalised”, we mean that we will take into account the specifics data points entered by any user (Location, Language(s) spoken, nationality, sex, etc) into the resulting list of resources available and to prioritise it.
For ex: a user that enters he is living in Berlin, speaking kurdish, and is looking for a job, will get in priority results for resources in Berlin, from innovators and projects that expressed to be available in or understand Kurdish language.
Yet, if a user does not want to enter the data, he is allowed to. At this stage, we can’t assume that our filtering and prioritisation by data points from the user is the best way to connect users. We will have to test and collect data to see how the best matches between users and resources happen.
2/ As mentioned we are looking to provide resources that are essential to accelerate the recovery or rebuilding of capital upon arrival - above the basic needs. As such, we are looking to start with resources like training, language skills and platforms offering job opportunities - as a first priority.
Training opportunities because a lot is available but yet to be found on one main platform and to be known by refugees. Language because it is key to every aspect of daily life and essential to the two other offers. Finally, job opportunities platforms because they offer access to revenue and can accelerate integration and access to other resources (bank account, credit, housing, etc).
Let us be precise here: our platform will not be a directory of unique job offers, it will be a link to platforms that are dedicated to offering job opportunities to refugees.
As you understand, we have not prioritized Housing and shelter. That’s for a lot of reasons: it is very regulated and different in each country, heavy in admin and we know that a lot of people in our community are doing such platforms and we would prefer to refer to them - also we have seen the diaspora taking over helping refugee people of their community and hosting them as a process that guarantees they are not alone, and they are “welcomed”. Also, we have not prioritized access to resources like food, water, etc - because it is largely handled by NGOs and big NGOs so far, know by refugees as far as our research and interview shows and because we wanted to be outside of the basic needs resources.

3/ We have an annual global gathering for entrepreneurs providing services & resources to refugees online and competition. It brings approx 600+ each year. As well as a database of more than 500+ projects providing services & resources to refugees. At first, we will market the platform to them and test it with them. It will make it easier to get feedback, understand the value we bring, and we will be confident that we know the people and the resources provided on the platform. This approach is a low hanging fruit test, as a way to start. The second stage, we will need to scale to people outside of our network. As we see it today, it will either require a marketing & sales team as well as due diligence over the resources provided. However, to get such a team, we require a business model to fund the team, and so will need to be about charging people who are posting resources. Or word of mouth grows that it works well for refugees, and so more people with resources apply to be part of the community of provider of resources, and we get funding from foundations or grants to continue providing the service for free. Ideally, Basefugees will develop similarly to Craigslist in its initial days - with one major difference: a curation on who is allowed to post and due diligence made on offers.
As for the engagement of refugees, we have been using our community partners (NGOs, community groups) and diaspora social media networks so far to spread the word. All of it online and at events for now. It has worked well as long as you work with the leaders of these communities and engage in their language. For example, one out of four participants to our global summit is a “refugee”.
Overall, we see the work of engaging refugees to be less of “marketing”, and more on delivering a good service via the platform so word of mouth can be our best way to reach out more. By this, I mean to stress that it is not an easy task at all. Even if we might have had it easy, we might have been very lucky to find the right people at first. Refugees are vulnerable populations that have had to go through a journey which tested who they can trust and what information. We know engagement with “refugees” will require a lot of care, investment in language translations and working with “leaders” and “influencers” of these (for now) online communities, and maybe later “offline”.