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Digital light projections for participatory learning and psycho-social support in protracted emergencies

Cyrcus Collective uses interactive content to provide inspiring education & recreation to children and youth in practically any space

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What problem does your innovation solve?

In protracted crises children and youth, especially girls, are impacted by broken social networks, trauma, a lack of personal learning, intellectual development and creative stimuli. Cognitive and social problems include withdrawal, aggression and interpersonal difficulties. Affected people often lose perspective and joy in life, at risk of becoming a lost generation. Projects often face implementation challenges regarding logistical provisions, staff security, resource and space constraints.

Explain your innovation.

Concept: Visual projections can create digital immersive experiences that facilitate to connect with oneself and others. Participants of diverse backgrounds can learn, play, marvel and explore through motion sensitive interactions, augmented reality, contextual thought-provoking installations. This experiential learning and recreational intervention encourages being curious for more learning and resourceful – in a good, safe state of mind. Facilitators support to process experiences, for stress relief, learning and social cohesion and are crucial to embed impact of this activity into broader programme objectives. Problem solving: By using light projections, set-up requires a minimum in resources, especially staff (reduced risk/logistics), and the activity can be adapted to nearly any space. Within minutes contents can be adapted to the participants and/or chosen by them. This intervention is replicable based on pre-designed and ready-to-set-up resources: ▪ Operationalization concept, incl. an implementation guide/support, step-by-step guidance on working with various contents ▪ Digital visual library, including digital content (open source and own content, animated and sensor reactive content, etc.) ▪ Hardware, including sound and motion sensors, projectors, set-up props for space design Intervention phases on site (see image): 1. Community participation and engagement 2. Technical set-up 3. Participant engagement and tool 4. Documentation and evaluation

Who benefits?

Children and Youth comprise half of 60 M refugees worldwide, many unaccompanied. Cognitive stimuli are important for finding perspectives. Cyrcus offers recreational/learning activities to overcome boredom and prevent risk taking. The tool provides interactive games, creative programmes and participatory experiential learning opportunities, e.g. creating curiosity in STEM through visualizations. In camp or community settings, most locations can serve to host 2-3 spaces for 10-20 participants at the same time while ensuring facilitation and guidance. Duration of use can be adjusted. Projection areas can create “women and girls save spaces”, providing tailored content (e.g. interactive fashion) and gender-relevant information (e.g. health), as well as a save space for children to explore while mothers can engage with each other, which is often limited in e.g. camp areas. Cyrcus brings people of all cultures and ages together to build community and foster social cohesion

How is your innovation unique?

▪ First mover advantage in emergency context through a combination of cutting-edge technology and progressive educational and interactive concepts combined with psycho-social care and well-being ▪ Advocacy element: Multi-media documentation and visually stunning footage can create visibility for the activity and the wider project context it adds-on to. Option for social media plug in ▪ Limitless educational content and activity creation and highly adaptive to user needs: locally appropriate, relatively simple approaches, use of content library for immediate adaptation ▪ Scalability: Use of digital content allows for replicating the tool while adapting content easily ▪ Cooperation with (local) artists, educators, entrepreneurs Main technologies used are digital animation linked with real-time audio/motion sensors, 3D projection Mapping, virtual and augmented reality. Inspirational concepts: arts and light therapy, participatory performances, emergency circus, immersive design

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

•How to we continuously enhance our content, based on user feedback and needs, and ensure managing increased technical complexity? How can we expand our content offer, without diluting our core values and objectives? •How to best engage with local stakeholders (artists, educators, entrepreneurs, builders) and how to ensure all parties benefit? How to integrate a modest income source for them? •Planned 2nd pilot in August: How will children react, compared to youth (1st pilot)? •How to develop a viable social business model to avoid donor dependency while ensuring an inclusive approach? •How to best create a partnership with an established organization providing seed funding to co-pilot with them on site?

Tell us more about you.

• Steph (AUT): Management & business development • Anna (GER) : Intervention design & psycho-social support • Raj (IND) : Projection Mapping & creative content • Waseem (AUS) : Facilitation & educational content • Udo (GER) : Video documentation • Kuma (MYS) : Content editing Networks include tech community, artists and educators in IDN, MEX, COL, KOR, TUR, LBN, JOR, AUS, USA as well as global development/emergency response contacts in TUR, LBN, JOR, IQR and others

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

This intervention is best suited for a protracted crises, where children and youth need access to more than basic survival items, need to continue education and their life. Especially girls & women face challenges as they are often more confined to surroundings. Cyrcus aims at uplifting people, once the rough routines settle in, social cohesion issues increase and psychological distress remains. Different emergencies can also be considered, depending on the people's needs and living situation

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Primarily, we see a good fit with running these intervention with people living in the countries around Syria. Creative, low-resource and flexible approaches can massively benefit children/youth in camps as well as communities. The project can be set up stationary or rotating, moving e.g. from camp to camp. Due to its highly adaptive nature, Cyrcus can engage in any country. Digital content and educational approaches can be adapted to suit local preferences.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

Steph's work contacts at GIZ (also Iraq), Oxfam, UNDP , Anna's at ZFD. GIZ expressed early interest in potential cooperation. Through close friends, artists, performance scene of Beirut (LBN), Amman (JOR) and Istanbul (TUR) in the region. We reached out to some primary contacts, seeking for feedback, as well as asking whether they would consider collaborating with us for a mutual benefit. Interest exists, where project objectives/beneficiaries overlap. We continue exchange as we develop.

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

● Steph: Policy/PM in development/emergencies (8 ys). Ethnographer, MBA. Ideo Design Thinking Course 2017 ● Anna: Community Psychologist & Nurse (12 ys), youth education on peace building ● Raj: Community engagement and commercial projection mapping ● Waseem: Engineer, Teacher for Technology Lab ● Udo: Camera man (10 ys) ● Kuma: Digital content editing, facilitator We respect and apply principles and standards incl. SPHERE, INEE, CHS, IASC/MHPSS).

Innovation Maturity

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: I have tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.

Organization Status

  • We are not registered but plan to in the future.

Organization Location

Based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

Our idea got more focused on experiential learning and recreation. Overall approaches were confirmed during pilot, we continue iterating, refined so far: - Technology and set up: Improve tech approach and refine content for more real immersive experiences. - User engagement: smaller groups, more interaction and group games. Use space separation/different rooms for station to deliver simultaneously - Enhance documentation and evaluation (MERL) - Business models, partnerships, outreach

Who will implement this Idea?

Our team consists of 6 people in Cambodia, dedicating ca. 20 hs per week. With increased resources required to develop further and implement faster and possibly at larger scale, parts of us can move to full-time next year. We plan on collaborating with people from our network and growing the team as need arises. For implementation, we will need to develop partners and share responsibilities and tasks on a mutual interest basis. We aim at working closely with partners particularly in the community engagement phase and set-up as well as for training (if relevant).

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

(1) Especially children and youth are impacted by broken social networks, inter-ethnic conflict, limited movement access to services or leisure activities, particularly for girls. Boredom, hopelessness lead to social behavior like withdrawal, aggression. Especially for children and youth it is crucial to receive stimuli to develop social and cognitive skills (see User Map). (2) Overall development funds decrease, especially for ongoing crises lose media/policy attention over time, and IDPs/refugees are often stuck, with basic support/shelter, yet limited additional input/support to enhance living situations. Disrupted education or training can often not be continued. Limited livelihoods opportunities harm motivation for self-improvement and future perspectives, creating "lost generations.

How is your organization considering sustainable growth in order to continue making an impact over time?

Starting up through seed grant, to further develop and mature (see 3 ys plan). Then combine grants and commercial income resources (social enterprise). The latter could include - service provider contracts for running the intervention, - segmented pricing (where applicable) to include wealthier population, - license out own developed content (freemium), - provide trainings and advisory for organizations to multiply the Cyrcus against fee (where applicable) and access to online collaboration platform. With traction on social media various social media apply related revenue-models

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact that you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question/hurdle you need to address to get there?

IMPACT: By 2021, we aim to develop own content, network and partnerships, scale up trainings, Cyrcus community and reach, integrate new approaches/technology to reach at least 100,000 children and youth, especially girls, directly. QUESTION: How do we develop and adapt to enhance and scale up content/technology/ approaches, network/partnerships and overall reach, trainings, Cyrcus community and visibility to ensure sparking curiosity for education and building resilience for at least 100k ppl?

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) outcomes for this project?

MERL is essential. Multi-media documentation of each intervention. Qualitatively evaluate reflection round (focus groups, 1-on-1 conversations with participants) regarding participants' perspectives, life situation, psychological well-being and educational benefits of the intervention. For learning impact, we will utilize exit tickets and related tools. Quantitatively, document demographics, use "tap on tablet" survey and online community output for overall data collection.

What is the timeline for your project Idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Y1: Pilot in MENA region, iterations to mature. Use simple OS content. Develop as team. Small scale interventions. Start develop own content, training material. Grow networks/visibility. Refine social business model. Focus on 1 region Y2: Add own to OS content. Medium scale. Add staff. Guide 1st trainees multiplying Cyrcus with our support. Build community. Test new income sources. Build partnerships, networks. Y3: Integrate new ideas/tech. Medium & selected large scale. Expand to more regio

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • We didn't have an operating budget

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed Idea live?

  • No paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country that you intend to implement your Idea in?

  • We are seeking registration in order to implement in additional countries.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this Idea together?

  • Less than 6 months

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Business Development / Partnerships Support
  • Business Model Support
  • Program/Service Design


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dave Hughes

Hi Steph, this is a great idea! My name is David Hughes and I am the Project Director for the Bendigo Inventor Awards.

Now in our 7th year, the Bendigo Inventor awards have as our focus inventions that address needs in the Emergency Services and Disaster Management space, and we offer a AUD$10,000 prize for the winning entry. The Bendigo Inventor Awards has also created an environment for inventors to obtain support for their ideas by bringing together a coalition of partners with the knowledge, skills and networks to accelerate the progression of ideas from concept through to commercialisation. Major Program Partners include Engineers Australia who are providing technical feedback, KPMG who are offering advice on commercial viability and the path to commercialisation and Red Cross, who are providing their perspective on the relevance of many inventions to disaster relief efforts. Our judging panel also contains representatives from Emergency Management Victoria, who are able to provide similar feedback on the applicability of inventions to the emergency services.

I believe your idea would be a fantastic entry into the awards. Applying is easy and can be done through our website Simply select the category that your invention applies to – ‘Concept’ or ‘Product and Prototype’, and answer some questions about your invention. All judges are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so your idea is protected. Entries close 5pm Friday 29th September 2017 AEST.

I very much look forward to seeing your invention go on to great success, and hope we are able to assist you in enabling that to happen. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to get in touch on the phone number above, or via my email at

David Hughes
Project Director
Bendigo Inventor Awards

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