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Removing Barriers to Education for Refugee Children through Enterprise Software

RISE has developed a software solution that allows refugee aid agencies to identify and fill educational gaps through e-coordination.

Photo of Sergio Medina
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What problem does your innovation solve?

Globally, there are now 65.6 million forcibly displaced refugees and migrants and 33 million of them are school-aged children. Only 25% of refugee girls attend primary school, and as a whole, only 50% of all refugee children attend primary school. Educational participation drops considerably beyond the primary level. The problem: in refugee camps and settlements, there is no centralized or organized method to identify and remove barriers to education. Our software can solve this challenge.

Explain your innovation.

Our enterprise software brings a digital workflow into the hands of humanitarian aid responders. What makes ciel innovative is that it is the first cloud-based enterprise software platform designed specifically to accelerate humanitarian aid for refugees, and it is the first enterprise solution that is mobile-first, offline-capable, device-agnostics, and fully-optimized to function in infrastructure-poor settings. Here's how it works: an aid agency is outfitted with a ciel-build specific to their needs, in this example, our education module for an agency working in a refugee camp with 100,000 school-aged children. The agency workers access ciel by downloading it onto their phones, and the managers access the Action-Center through ciel’s web dashboard. When an aid worker meets with a child, they assess that child's educational needs and identify any barriers preventing regular school attendance. The worker logs the information electronically, pushes it to the cloud, and creates an "open ticket" to remove the barriers. Once the barrier is removed, the child can attend school, and the worker then continues to support the child to sustain their attendance. Ciel’s legal module is operational in Lesvos, Greece and it was deployed in Berlin, Germany in our first pilot studies. Our early market validation is promising, and our data architecture is designed to scale. Ciel can support the education module, which we need to build into our current scalable data ecosystem.

Who benefits?

The core set of beneficiaries are refugee children, aid workers, and aid agencies. Our goal is to address girl's education as a priority because their school participation is the lowest of any cohort, and they experience the most barriers as a group. Fully implemented, all refugee children will benefit from our education coordination software. Aid workers benefit from increased operational efficiency, and aid agencies benefit from having unprecedented access to data. Through ciel's web dashboard, an agency can produce analytics that illustrate the dynamics of their operation, as well as identify the resources needed to mount an exacting humanitarian intervention, in this case, education for children in emergencies. RISE believes that for refugee children to reach full educational access, agencies must simultaneously meet basic emergency needs such as food, shelter, and protection to promote attendance. As such, we treat education as one of the pillars of emergency aid.

How is your innovation unique?

RISE does not deliver aid directly to refugees. Instead, our contribution comes from building context-specific tech tools for the agencies providing direct aid to refugees; helping them be more efficient and effective. As one of the few refugee+tech organizations, RISE is bridging social work, enterprise technology, human-centered design, and business. Because we speak these various sector languages, we are uniquely positioned to draw on the best they have to offer and drive radical collaboration. We are not aware of any other entities addressing this problem in the same way. However, our sector research has yielded many potential collaborators and partners who have aligned goals. Since we are addressing interagency coordination, partnership is at the core of our strategy. RISE is improving upon structures in-place in the field, tapping into existing networks in which we are embedded, and in doing so, we are driving innovation through systems intra and entrepreneurship.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

The most current questions we have are: How do we drive product adoption? Are agency headquarter needs and field operation needs in alignment? What can we do to prepare for high staff turnover in the field? Does the technology exist to support all that we want to achieve? Questions like these will continue to apply to each deployment of ciel. More questions that keep us up at night are: (a) can we build ciel at a rate that is at pace with the scale of the refugee crisis; (b) should we explore a for-profit hybrid business model and how would it impact our software pricing plan; and (c) as a small yet mighty social enterprise, how do we compete for talent with design, business, and tech giants?

Tell us more about you.

RISE is a social enterprise helping refugee and immigrant children live safe and healthy lives. We partner with INGOs, universities, and governments. Founder and CEO, Sergio Medina has the organizational and product vision. COO, Michael Lauran, makes the impossible possible and CSO, Sitar Mody, builds strategies on how to methodically move us to where we need to be. Sergio is of Mexican descent, and RISE's second pilot was in Lesvos, Greece serving refugees migrating through Turkey.

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

  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement
  • Extreme drought
  • Other (please specify in next question)

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

The world is experiencing a refugee crisis of epic proportions. There hasn't been a forced displacement of this magnitude since WWII. RISE aims to deploy ciel using the cloud to transcend location and borders. RISE's first pilot was in a refugee camp, and the second pilot was in an urban setting. This was designed to demonstrate our flexible operability in all settings. In this case, we define ‘emergency setting’ as: anywhere in the world where there are refugee children.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Our objective is to deploy ciel globally; beginning with targeted pilots. Our third pilot is to deploy to East Africa to test our child protection and education module. RISE received approval from UNHCR to station in Nairobi, Kenya and deploy to Rwanda and Uganda to test the transnational child protection modules we're developing. Once this third pilot is completed, we will move into a scaled development phase to build the full set of features that encompass the most potential usecases.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

Sergio has worked in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Greece, and Germany, and all across the U.S. RISE has partnerships with the UN, HIAS, GWU, Migration Hub Network, Impact Hub, and Berlin-based design agency The Kids. RISE has lasting relationships with UNHCR, UNICEF, IRC, ICMC, USCCB, and LIRS. RISE has strong relationships with Stanford, Google, Salesforce, and LinkedIn. Altogether, RISE has a substantial global network of multi-disciplinary individuals and institutions.

Sector Expertise

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

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

Team RISE has decades of expertise, encompassing nonprofit, business, and social enterprise. Sitar is a leader in strategy development, and she designed RISE’s deployment to Berlin. Michael has considerable experience in South Asia using education as an engagement tool with displaced children. And Sergio has an 18-year global career in international child protection. Sitar, Michael, and Sergio have been applying their collective expertise to further RISE’s mission together since 2014.

Innovation Maturity

  • Roll-out/Ready to Scale: I have completed a pilot and am ready or in the process of expanding.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

RISE is a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation with federal 501(c)(3) status. We are headquartered in San Francisco.

Website

Website: http://www.rise-int.org/ Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/RefugeeandImmigrantServices Twitter Feed: https://twitter.com/RISEIntSF Crowdrise Page: https://goo.gl/wsPSdL

How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

Our focus group told us the concept was too complex. The OpenIDEO community guided us to look at how the education module fits in with the big vision for Ciel. And RISE leadership reflected and worked through an evolution of the product to stage for maximum impact. The end-result of this feedback is a very clear and resounding mandate to simplify how the education module will function, in a way independent from the entire vision and ultimate product roadmap of Ciel.

Who will implement this Idea?

RISE will be the implementing agency of this Idea. At present, RISE is has 2.5 full time employees, 4 Board of Directors, and a team of 5 Advisors. We are currently in the process of recruiting a Technical Co-Founder and were we to be funded to implement this idea, we would leverage our current team and add staff as needed. All members of Team RISE are based in San Francisco. Our plan is to remain headquartered in San Francisco and deploy to locations globally for testing and implementation.

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?

Our end-users face vicarious trauma, lack of resources, and time-limited deployments. End-users are on the frontlines of the refugee crisis and deal with significant burnout, and despite their most valiant efforts, battle a feeling that the crisis is beyond their individual impact. UNHCR and other entities are faced with funding shortages, a gap in recruiting long-term staff to sustain operations, as well as an ever-increasing global crisis. UNHCR and other stakeholders must respond to new waves of forced migration, winterization, and loss of life. In the face of such a large global challenge, RISE is committed to easing the difficulty that end-users and stakeholder agencies experience by building products that make their job easier, more efficient, and more effective.

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

RISE has received Special Accreditation from the UN General Assembly. Additionally, RISE has established, and is developing, partnerships with international NGOs, international governmental organizations, foundations, universities, and tech companies. We are intent on converting these opportunities into funded arrangements where we partner to scale our innovation. RISE is committed to multi-sector collaboration, with funding, talent, and in-kind resources, to drive investments to positively impact the refugee response effort.

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 2022, RISE aims to increase the educational participation of refugee children from 50% to 75% for both girls and boys; once achieved, 6,000,000 more refugee child will attend school on a regular basis. Question: Given the complexity of emergencies, how do we build a product that is effective in the maximum number of settings and how do we balance product adoption in the long-term, with the emergent needs and the competing demands inherent in an emergency setting in the short-term?

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

Predetermined analytics are automatically calculated and reported based on input from the end-users in the field. Core metrics such as # of Children Served, Rate of Attendance, Rate of Absence, Educational Achievement, and Primary Language Acquisition will be collected. Two metrics critical to measuring the outcomes of this project are: Number of Children Attending School because of Barriers Removed; and second, Rate of Educational Participation for Refugee Children.

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

Were we to be funded for this project, RISE could begin building the full-set of features immediately, and could build a functional prototype within 3 months, at which point the product could be launched at the 3 month mark. For expansion through years 1-3, the key steps for RISE would be to partner with aid organizations that are providing educational services in refugee contexts, partners such as IRC, Mercy Corps, and Save the Children.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Under $50,000 USD

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 a registered entity, but not in the country in which we plan to implement our Idea.

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

  • More than 2 years

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

  • Business Model Support

20 comments

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Spam
Photo of geoffrey mosigisi
Team

Hi, Sergio Medina and your team,
What kind of programs you have put in place for refugee children considering that you will meet different categories of children, age, tribes and special needs.I want you to know that I have read your idea, and even I visited your website I did not see any program. Thanks .

Spam
Photo of geoffrey mosigisi
Team

Congratulations!

Spam
Photo of Sergio Medina
Team

Geoffrey, thanks for the thumbs up. We're so excited to take our Education in Emergencies Innovation to the next level. And what a great community we are all building to support one another in this work. Cheers, Team RISE

Spam
Photo of Gilda Given Silayo
Team

Congratulations

Spam
Photo of Sergio Medina
Team

Gilda, thank you so much! We are humbled and excited to drive some impact. Best, Team RISE

Spam
Photo of Sandra
Team

this software seems like a great idea to me. Actually I think that a writing service https://canadianessayreviews.com/ maybe also very useful to them. They could learn from professional writers and gain necessary skills.

Spam
Photo of Sergio Medina
Team

Hi Sandra, thanks for your note. I will certainly look into it!

Regards,
Sergio

Spam
Photo of Rebecca Petras
Team

Greetings,
Your initiative is a very interesting one and is crucial for providing quality education for numbers of children especially minority groups who are not receiving education in their native languages.

I am the Deputy Director in Translators without Borders (TWB); a U.S. non-profit organization that aims to close the language gaps that hinder critical humanitarian efforts worldwide. We recognize that the effectiveness of any aid program depends on delivering information in the language of the affected population. By maintaining a global network of professional translators, we help non-profit organizations overcome communication barriers, increasing access to critical information and services while fostering a climate of understanding, respect and dignity in times of great need. We invite you to learn more about our work through this link. Translators without Borders is a non-profit organization supported entirely through our volunteers, grant funders and generous donors and sponsors.

TWB’s current translation capabilities exceed more than 190 language pairs with over 20000 translators. So far we have translated over 45 million words as part of humanitarian crisis response, and health and education services. We have also provided basic translator training to over 250 trainees in our translator training centre.

Since 2010, Translators without Borders (TWB) has played a crucial role within the humanitarian and development sectors leading on localization and translation of complex and lifesaving information into more than 190 languages, especially for populations in crisis. TWB has contributed to building the capacity of local translators in different parts of the world including in Kenya, Guinea and Greece.

Translators without Borders is expanding its program to support Mother Tongue Education programs. We want to work in collaboration with education providers to overcome the language barriers to mother-tongue education. TWB has the expertise and to:

Translate and adapte educational materials in local language, including training translators in local languages
Support Ministries and education providers to develop materials to support teachers in teaching in mother-tongue languages

We believe that our expertise around language and localization when coupled with your expertise and efforts in Education will expand the outreach to marginalized populations unable to benefit from quality education opportunities. It would be our pleasure to connect with you and learn more from you on your ongoing projects and discuss possible ways of cooperation together.

Spam
Photo of Dave Hughes
Team

Hi Sergio, 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 www.bendigoinventorawards.com.au/apply. 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 dhughes@bebendigo.com.au.

Regards,
David Hughes
Project Director
Bendigo Inventor Awards

Spam
Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Sergio and Team!

We’re excited to share feedback and questions from our experts with you. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your Idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your Idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

Based on your knowledge and experience, is this a new approach or bold way of answering the challenge question?

One Expert shared, “Yes, using an enterprise software system to identify and then address barriers to education is bold. Streamlining data about refugee students can be immensely helpful to aid agencies and host ministries of education, as well as school administrators and teachers. However, the focus on education seems to be a rather small part of the overall CIEL system, and even then it seems to focus only on access issues. That is important, but is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to delivering education in emergencies, would like to better understand the focus on educational outcomes.”

A question that came up was how does this tool integrate with existing curriculums and school programs?

Is your idea human-centered?

One expert shared, “While it seems that the primary beneficiaries, the practitioners are considered in the design process, it's not clear how much on-the-ground or even headquarters level responders have been engaged in the design of the system. Clearly, everyone wants to be more efficient in responding to refugee education, but I'd like to know more about what agencies or practitioners have been involved in the design of this product.”

One expert wanted to better understand how you integrated feedback from students?

Expert’s thoughts on your business model:

One expert shared, “The team behind this seems to have the experience and connections in both the aid and technology sectors to develop a model for sustainability going forward, though it does not appear that they have this yet. Would love to see further development in their strategy and direction in the next phase.”

Final thoughts and questions:

One expert stated, “I am excited about this idea because, relief coordination can always be improved, and having a robust, cloud-based system can offer a powerful and flexible tool in the hands of those on-the-ground, while offering a simpler and faster way for backstopping entities to engage in real-time with the data coming in from their counterparts in the field.”

Another expert expressed some concern about the viability of this concept on it’s own, but was curious if you had considered pairing it with an existing system?

Questions came up around data management. For example, understanding how you address issues that may arise around capturing identifiable student information? What protections are in place for the collected data? And how can refugees be assured of these protections? Who manages the data and controls its use, sharing, and upkeep? What sort of multilingual capacity will the system have? How has your data been used to help in the early pilot sites - what are the insights you are learning and how is that helping in these situations. How are users trained to use the system?

Another expert asked, “What relief organizations/partners have tested it and which ones are on board to see this develop further? Who is developing the platform? What does the education module contain - just data about access? In addition to these, their list of unanswered questions is very good...glad to see they're on track toward answering them!”

Join us for Storytelling Office Hours next Tuesday, July 25, 2017 from 8:30AM - 9:30AM PST! RSVP here: https://openideo.typeform.com/to/T9IonO. Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an Idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - August 6 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your Idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Have questions? Email us at hello@openideo.com

Looking forward to reading more and thank you for the important work you are doing!

Spam
Photo of Sergio Medina
Team

Hello Team OpenIDEO,

Thank you for all of the great feedback and for these insightful questions! We received 11 questions and comments in total and we’ve responded to them one-by-one below.

1. “Based on your knowledge and experience, is this a new approach or bold way of answering the challenge question?”

There are two primary ways Ciel constitutes a new approach, first, we are using technology to address a problem that has not been addressed previously using technology. We are using technology to identify and help remove standard barriers to education in refugee camps - no other group is using technology to solve this problem so that refugee children can attend school. RISE is introducing a digital rapid needs assessment tool in a space that desperately needs reliable, and visible records for refugee service delivery. The ability to identify and log needs is fundamental when working with large groups of vulnerable people. Simply digitizing these needs in a cloud-based system that allows for efficient real-time data aggregation is completely new and can have tremendous impact.

The other way our idea (and organizational model for that matter) is new, is that we are domain experts who are actually building technology tools for other experts working in the field. All of our technology is built in-house and is designed and iterated by people who have first-hand experience working in the field with vulnerable migrant populations. We understand how the global response to the refugee crisis operates and that gives us unique insight into how to improve and add value.

Our idea is also bold because it addresses a large global issue. RISE is a small organization but we are unafraid to tackle big intractable challenges. We are nimble and use simple solutions to address global problems. Fully supported, Ciel can operate anywhere in the world, without electricity or consistent internet connection - it can work on smart phones, desktops or tablets and it can put the true power of cloud computing in the hands and back-pockets of aid workers and agencies worldwide.

RISE believes that sophisticated enterprise solutions have been out-of-reach for refugee serving aid organizations because they are cost-prohibitive. Our strategy is to democratize enterprise software for these aid organizations by committing to a nonprofit business structure and by leveraging the enormous amount of wealth and resources that exist in the technology and business sectors to have real impact in the lives of refugees globally.

Spam
Photo of Sergio Medina
Team

2. “Yes, using an enterprise software system to identify and then address barriers to education is bold. Streamlining data about refugee students can be immensely helpful to aid agencies and host ministries of education, as well as school administrators and teachers. However, the focus on education seems to be a rather small part of the overall CIEL system, and even then it seems to focus only on access issues. That is important, but is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to delivering education in emergencies, would like to better understand the focus on educational outcomes.”

Though having a positive impact on educational outcomes is important, you are correct that RISE is focused on access. One example of why we prioritize access is that 75% of refugee girls alone don’t even have consistent access to education - that amounts to 12.3M girls globally. So access is a barrier to a significant number of refugee children receiving education. If we don’t identify who isn’t receiving education and why, remove those barriers and get those children into educational settings, then measurements of educational outcomes and other metrics related to educational achievement become too distant of a goal.

Having said that, through this OpenIDEO challenge we have learned that there are other opportunities related to education where we feel we can have impact. When Ciel has an opportunity to mature, we hope to include other data metrics that capture educational achievement, “first language” distribution and we can address teaching and school supply allocation.

Though it may seem that education is only a small part of Ciel’s focus, it is a critically important factor in refugee health and wellness and therefore has more weight as part of our design. In fact, when refugee camps are established, one of the first interventions that is deployed is some form of schooling because education is a fundamental part of refugee child development, and also allows parents time away from child rearing to navigate the multitude of processes connected with receiving aid in camps. School attendance can also be used as an opportunity to identify and treat issues like malnutrition, gaps in aid delivery and mental health disorders, and it all starts with access.

When complete, Ciel will include eight modules, with education being an important one of them. The other modules will focus on health, mental health, aid, shelter, protection, legal protection, and family reunification/tracing. Put together, these eight sectors are the primary sectors found in the global response of the refugee crisis, and are reflective of the area domains of UNHCR implementing partners.

Educational coordination is the focus of this OpenIDEO challenge and it is a fundamental component of the UNHCR Child Protection Framework. RISE is focusing on access to education as part of our core mission to further child protection - Ciel is just the start!

3. “A question that came up was how does this tool integrate with existing curriculums and school programs?”

At this time, Ciel is not designed to integrate with curriculum platforms. We believe that there are amazing domain-experts in the curriculum development space (such as Ubongo who is also shortlisted in this OpenIDEO challenge, and we admire their work).

We see an opportunity to integrate with school program methodologies and platforms fairly seamlessly, either through workflow pairing and matching our product to complement their work, and/or by building APIs where applicable.

To the extent that we are able, we plan to integrate, pair, and complement our product with existing efforts to approach education in emergencies collaboratively.

Spam
Photo of Sergio Medina
Team

4. “Is your idea human-centered?”

Human-centered design is one of the core principles of our organizational philosophy. Human-centered design, conceived of as deep empathy, iteration, rapid prototype development, collaboration, solution deployment, and continuous improvement through testing is how Ciel has come to life.

Ciel’s end-user is the humanitarian aid worker on the front lines of the refugee crisis. Founder Sergio Medina has spent his career working in refugee child protection, both domestically and in the field globally where education was a permanent and continuous mainstay. Early in Founder Michael Lauran’s career, he spent years delivering direct services, such as education, as part of his work with homeless and unaccompanied migrant children in Bombay and Kathmandu. In addition to our current efforts for insight, these collective first-hand experiences guide RISE from the viewpoint of our end-user on a distinctly personal level.

5. “While it seems that the primary beneficiaries, the practitioners are considered in the design process, it's not clear how much on-the-ground or even headquarters level responders have been engaged in the design of the system. Clearly, everyone wants to be more efficient in responding to refugee education, but I'd like to know more about what agencies or practitioners have been involved in the design of this product.”

In addition to the founding team’s extensive field experience as front-line humanitarian aid workers, we have spent the last year learning from our first client, HIAS, both in the field with their staff in Greece, as well as with their program administrators in Washington D.C.

It is also worth mentioning how much Sergio’s experience in the field as a front-line humanitarian aid worker, employed by and collaborating with a multitude of implementing partners (International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, Danish Refugee Council, UNHCR, UNICEF, World Food Program, Jesuit Relief Services, Catholic Relief Services, and more), has influenced the build of the product. As a result, Ciel is built in a way that complements current on-premises systems such as ProGres, CPIMS, and Primero - all of which Sergio has used in his field work.

In the development of Ciel’s legal protection module with HIAS, after 4-6 months working with D.C.-based staff and administrators (and remotely with Greek field workers), RISE deployed to Lesvos in December of 2016 to meet with the field team to collaborate on the ultimate fit of the software solution. In the build of our protection module with our second client, GWU Elliott School of International Affairs, RISE staff deployed to Berlin to co-design and co-create the software outright. Lastly, one of our core advisors from UNHCR has been involved in the design of the product.

The most important thing we learned while working with our clients in Lesvos and Berlin is that a field deployment must be part of our plan whenever addressing new projects or adapting current initiatives. We have built into our strategy a required deployment to the field to meet with end-users and stakeholders, gain feedback, and use that feedback directly to adapt the system to be reflective of their actual field workflow.

6. “One expert wanted to better understand how you integrated feedback from students?”

Once we build Ciel’s education module and deploy a prototype in a refugee-context, we will be able to use the collection of student feedback as a strategy towards an agile software development of the product. Our end-user is the humanitarian aid worker, and student feedback will be helpful in gauging how efficiencies are experienced by the end-beneficiaries. We plan to incorporate refugee experience into all of Ciel’s module designs to make sure we understand how the product impacts them.

7. “The team behind this seems to have the experience and connections in both the aid and technology sectors to develop a model for sustainability going forward, though it does not appear that they have this yet. Would love to see further development in their strategy and direction in the next phase.”

Our current business model is a blend of at-cost software sales, foundation support, corporate support, as well as substantial partnerships for tech expertise and product integration. We want to leverage people, products, and resources through efforts like skills-based volunteering, promotional product integration, pro-bono consulting services and individual giving, in addition to government grants.

We are now strategically focused on three main areas for growth: fundraising, our technological build, and organizational development. We are proud of the many partnerships we have been able to establish and we are working to leverage them to develop a sustainable model for growth.

Spam
Photo of Sergio Medina
Team

8. “I am excited about this idea because, relief coordination can always be improved, and having a robust, cloud-based system can offer a powerful and flexible tool in the hands of those on-the-ground, while offering a simpler and faster way for backstopping entities to engage in real-time with the data coming in from their counterparts in the field.”

Thank you for this great summary! We are excited by the potential of technologies like Ciel and believe they will add real value in a technology-poor sector.

We achieve simplicity through user-research, user-experience, and user-interface to build only the features that aid workers and aid agencies need. We achieve efficiency by establishing a baseline and then leverage the power of communication and coordination to accelerate the delivery of aid.

Providing a real-time 30,000 ft. view of the operation helps to identify bottlenecks and barriers to service delivery in a completely new way, and allows decision makers to direct resources to accelerate essential services like education.

9. ”Another expert expressed some concern about the viability of this concept on it’s own, but was curious if you had considered pairing it with an existing system?”

When we were conducting our initial landscape analysis, and through Sergio’s use of the various systems currently being used in the field, we decided that to be successful, it would be necessary to build a complementary and not duplicative system.

To achieve this, we designed a product that addressed an issue others were not attempting to solve. We also decided that Ciel would need to include Application Program Interfaces (APIs). We plan to build APIs for currently deployed on-premises systems, ProGres, CPIMS, SGBVIMS, and Primero.

UNHCR Innovation Lab and UNHCR Regional Hub in Nairobi are very supportive of our product, and they are particularly excited about the potential of Ciel exporting data into ProGres. UNHCR and the builders of ProGres have been trying their best to move ProGres into the cloud, however because of a number of understandable constraints, they have yet been unable to do so. We want to leverage the tech talent and resources of Silicon Valley, not only to build Ciel, but to support the further development of the refugee+tech sector worldwide. We believe more sophisticated technology in this sector can have broader positive impacts for ProGres and the various systems being used on the ground.

Spam
Photo of Sergio Medina
Team

10. “Questions came up around data management. For example, understanding how you address issues that may arise around capturing identifiable student information? What protections are in place for the collected data? And how can refugees be assured of these protections? Who manages the data and controls its use, sharing, and upkeep? What sort of multilingual capacity will the system have? How has your data been used to help in the early pilot sites - what are the insights you are learning and how is that helping in these situations. How are users trained to use the system?”

Data protection, privacy, and confidentiality are some of the most critical challenges we face as an organization. Child and refugee protection is at the core of our mission and protecting identifying information about refugees is critical.

RISE has developed and adopted a robust data protection policy, one that includes 2-step authentication, password-protection, multi-factor validation, data-encryption, and secure storage. Only those individuals and entities authorized through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or contract will be allowed access to refugee student information. Those no longer affiliated or subject to the agreement will have their access removed.

Information will be securely stored in the cloud on servers that comply with respective region’s data policies. For example, data collected in Europe will comply with the EU Data Security Protocol. In East Africa, data collected will be handled in accordance to the African Union protocols. Wherever there is an absence of a policy, RISE will comply with the most secure protocol available.

Consent in an emergency setting is a tricky issue. Where applicable, RISE has built consent features into Ciel whereby a parent or guardian must provide consent to have a minor’s information stored, which is currently a protocol that is being used in the field. RISE is committed to further developing protocols around consent, particularly in the context of emergencies as well as in protracted emergency situations.

RISE will handle data management in collaboration with partnering international NGOs (INGOs), international governmental organizations (IGOs), and other implementing partners. In our arrangement with HIAS, the refugee owns their data and HIAS has been granted consent by the refugee to access their information electronically - RISE is in an administrative role. Data management is a shared responsibility between HIAS and RISE. Both HIAS and RISE control the data, with HIAS being the ultimate decision maker of how the data can be used based on the consent that the refugee provided initially. Only HIAS can share the data, and any reporting that is done by RISE on analytics is anonymized and isn’t provided to any outside entities.

Ciel currently operates in English and Arabic. As Ciel will operate in all UN contexts, it is our intent to build Ciel to also operate in Spanish and French, and we remain open to building it in other languages (such as Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Buganda) if that would result in greater impact.

There are two examples of how data collected using Ciel has been used during our pilots. In Greece, our system has been able to extrapolate the distribution of countries of origin and language capacity. The data revealed a particularly high proportion of refugees from Afghanistan in Lesvos, and as a result, HIAS recruited more Farsi interpreters to meet client needs for legal protection and asylum processing. In Berlin, our data revealed that the primary protective factor that helps a refugee integrate was German-language capacity. The data told us that refugees who spoke some German were obtaining housing and employment faster, which is intuitive, but now the data can back it up. The next step is to link refugees in Berlin with language training closer to their arrival to positively impact their successful integration.

RISE provides on-the-ground training, remote Skype training; distributes user manuals, and we are intent on creating a formal partnership with a tech company such as ZenDesk to provide 365 / 24/7 remote desk support to aid workers worldwide. In the meantime, RISE staff are providing full support and training to HIAS aid workers and administrators.

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11. “What relief organizations/partners have tested it and which ones are on board to see this develop further? Who is developing the platform? What does the education module contain - just data about access? In addition to these, their list of unanswered questions is very good...glad to see they're on track toward answering them!”

HIAS and GWU have tested Ciel and are using it. HIAS has invested in the initial software build for their team in Lesvos and are interested in expanding the platform to their other 9 sites globally. Danish Refugee Council has expressed interest in deploying Ciel to their 40 locations worldwide. Other aid agencies such as the Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Moabilt Hilft, Humanitarian Support Agency, UNHCR, and UNICEF have expressed an interest as well. Samuel Hall and Human Rights Watch have expressed interest in using a version of Ciel to conduct research and human rights documentation surveys. RISE is developing the platform internally with our own technical staff.

Ciel’s education module is an electronic record keeping system and will contain biographical information about students, their family, as well as information about the student’s educational achievement. It will define the student’s age, their grade, their location, and their school attendance. In several conversations, our approach to addressing access issues education has, at times, been underestimated. However, what we hear from our colleagues in the field is that access is, in fact, the most important obstacle to overcome. We are resolute that though simple, this solution can begin to solve the problem.

The core innovation of Ciel’s education module is its ability to cross-reference attendance data with the list of school-aged children in that location. With these two data points, one can extrapolate who isn’t attending. With this data, aid workers, educators, and protection officers can meet with children and conduct mobile assessments to determine their unmet needs and identify the barriers that are keeping them from being able to attend school. In identifying the barriers, aid agencies can conduct interventions to remove these barriers and, over time, can see how their interventions are impacting school attendance.

As an illustrated example, when Sergio was in Burundi with UNHCR he conducted the assessment of a 15 year old unaccompanied child with an infant. She was not attending school because she was caring for her child. In addition, she and her infant were struggling nutritionally because her Refugee Status Determination (RSD) had been delayed for 9 months and she had not been issued a ration card for food. The girl was nursing; she and her infant were hungry, and she was the lone child-care provider for her baby. The family that was hosting her was struggling to care for them and they were sharing their own rations with the mother and child. The UNHCR Protection Team and IRC was able to expedite the girl’s RSD, and get her a ration card and supplemental nutritional support for her child. They coordinated child care from a local woman leader and kept the girl with the same caring family. After 4 months of coordinated effort, the girl was able to attend school for the first time in 3 years post-flight from her native Democratic Republic of Congo. Ciel can solve challenges like this much more rapidly by digitally identifying and coordinating the removal of barriers for young girls like her, and for millions of other refugee children worldwide.

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Hi, Sergio! It was great meeting you yesterday! I really enjoyed our conversations. At the same time, I got inspired so much by you. You help me so I'm willing to help you in any way I can contribute. Let's stay in touch, keep hustling and cooperate with each other!

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Hi Sergio, thank you for joining the Challenge!

Would love to learn a little more how your company decided to enter the refugee space initially? I'd also love to learn about what the current partnerships you mentioned look like. How do you engage different partners currently?

Looking forward to learning more!

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Hi @Ashley Tillman - thank you for hosting this Challenge, and I welcome your question!

As an organization, we initially entered to this sector to build upon and leverage my 15+ year career and domain expertise in the refugee and immigrant child protection space. Our vision and mission were further amplified based on my work in multiple refugee camps globally, and particularly in Burundi in 2013 where our concept and model came to life.

In two of our current partnerships (with HIAS and GWU Elliott School) we provide design/ops consulting services and software builds. With HIAS, we outfitted their headquarters staff and Greece field team with a software build to digitize their workflows and provide data analytics/visualizations to increase the efficiency of their Lesvos operation. With our GWU partnership - we designed, built, and deployed our software to digitally assess refugee integration in Berlin.

We are currently engaging many of the largest INGOs and IGOs in the refugee aid space (DRC, UNHCR, and many more) and these relationships are very much a continuation and amplification of my having worked with, for, and alongside multiple sector partner organizations over the past 18 years. Our outreach efforts and product/market fit have resulted in considerable demand for our services and technology, both with current partners for expansion, and many more INGOs and governments who see the value of using enterprise software to help address challenges they experience in the field.

Looking forward to sharing more as the Challenge progresses!
ÔÇ¿Thanks!
Sergio

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Hi Sergio, great to have you in the Challenge! The Ideas Phase closes June 25 at 11:30PM PST. Make sure your idea is published so others can see it! Only published ideas are eligible. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top.

We're looking forward to seeing your contribution in this challenge!