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'Stand Up' training program and app removes barriers to girls attending school in refugee communities

Stand Up is a training program & app enabling young refugee adults to help families when there is an issue keeping a girl away from school

Photo of T4R/HOST International
19 12

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What problem does your innovation solve?

Girls are not attending school because of cultural and social barriers. During prolonged displacement, whether education is a hole in the wall, or a high-tech hub, the barriers remain the same. It's a structural problem. Gender inequality and cultural expectations - girls being encouraged to marry early, to stay home from school to do chores and help family members, or being kept from school because a male in the family is given priority - these are the problems we are addressing.

Explain your innovation.

Stand Up is an app and education program to get ‘Community Champions’ to ‘stand up and step in’ when there is an issue keeping a girl away from school. Champions will receive incentives that will help them in their own search for a meaningful livelihood. Girls are kept home from school to: care for sick family members; translate at appointments; help with household chores, such as cooking, cleaning & childcare. The solution? Offering families an alternative. Our idea is the Stand Up app to request a Community Champion (young refugee adults – especially young men) to step in. The Champion can be requested to help with the jobs that need doing so that girls can keep going to school. We will target young refugee adults who need learning/vocational opportunities and train them to step in as Community Champions. This qualification will give them recognition and celebrate the importance of their work. As they respond to app requests they will earn credits, showing employers their capabilities and winning points for rewards via a sponsored gift program. We will co-design a training course with students and use prominent male community members as Program Ambassadors to mobilise participation and support. The course would include cooking, including healthy food; cleaning, including using non-chemical cleaning products; clean water and sanitation; financial management (household related); and care-taking. Monash University will partner in program design and pre and post evaluation.

Who benefits?

Girls will benefit from increased access to education. This benefits society as educated women contribute to the size, quality, and productivity of the workforce, and, in turn, the economy. They can get better paying jobs, allowing them to provide daily necessities, health care, and education to better support their families. 'Community Champions' benefit by getting recognition for work that usually goes unrecognised - thereby elevating the status of important work that needs to be done, yet limits girls from attending school. The word ‘economy’ comes from the Greek for 'household management'; household work should be recognised and celebrated as the foundation of a healthy economy. Girls and boys can contribute to this equally. Shifting towards this mindset benefits all societies that are being held back socially and economically by rigid thinking. This idea can be scaled up and across any place where gender stereotypes and societal barriers hold girls back from education.

How is your innovation unique?

Most innovations in this area focus on developing new ways of providing education in emergency settings. We believe that many models for this already exist - from hole in the wall schools to community based learning centres, to high tech hubs. But girls are not accessing any of these educational opportunities in the numbers they should. So we are coming at the problem from a different angle - what is stopping girls from attending any form of education - and making those societal and structural problems our focus. As IDEO said recently in HBR: “...culture change can’t be achieved through top-down mandate. It lives in the collective hearts and habits of people and their shared perception of how things are “done around here”. At IDEO, we believe that the most significant change often comes through social movements... that mobilise the masses to institutionalize new societal norms." We're with you on that. That's why we're choosing to focus on shifting gender stereotypes.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

We're working on finding the right tech development partner who is committed to co-creation and co-design. We are working on broadening the refugee communities and organisations we engage with in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to find out how the solution could work in different cultural contexts. We will have to adapt all aspects of the program to address different gender/cultural norms within different communities - how do we ensure that the program can be sufficiently adapted at scale?

Tell us more about you.

T4R (Fugee School) and HOST International joined forces because of a common passion to provide education to displaced people. T4R will focus on in-country mobilization of the project, while HOST Intl will support them with human resources for project design, development, marketing and scaling. Core team is: Nawa Haile, former refugee & student; Deborah Priya Henry & Jessica Chapman, Co-Founders T4R, and Melita Smilovic Project Manager HOST International

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

  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

The primary implementation setting of Stand Up is regions where refugee and asylum seeker communities experience prolonged displacement, and where girls are underrepresented in available education opportunities.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

T4R (Teach for Refugees, which is part of the Fugee School) works in Malaysia and Indonesia with the plan to expand to other countries in the Asia Pacific region. HOST International works in the Asia Pacific region, currently focusing on Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, where there are significant numbers of displaced people and children lacking access to education. Our initial focus would be Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) and Indonesia (Jakarta) scaling out to other Asia Pacific nations.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

In Malaysia, T4R is supported by the UNHCR Malaysia, Open Universities for Refugees, Taylor's University, Monash University, Brickfields Asia College Make it Right Movement, and the Education department at Nottingham University Malaysia Campus. T4R is a formal partner of Liberty to Learn in Malaysia. HOST International works closely with UNHCR, NGOs and grassroots community organisations in Malaysia and Indonesia, to support and build capacity for their service delivery to refugees.

Sector Expertise

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

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

Members of the T4R team have between 10 and 23 years experience. The T4R co-founder established the Fugee School, a school for refugees in Malaysia. Nawa Haile, the T4R Girl Access Program Manager, was a refugee from Somalia; her experience is a lifetime. The HOST International team has over 20 years’ experience between them, working with refugees and asylum seekers in the Asia Pacific, focusing on settlement, education and training.

Innovation Maturity

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

Organization Status

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

Organization Location

Malaysia and Australia.


Fugee School - T4R was created by the Founder and Managing Director of the Fugee School, Deborah Henry and Jessica Chapman, who after working together for two years at the school recognized a need for a broader platform for designing and implementing refugee education across Malaysia and the region. The Fugee School is the inspiration behind T4R and is an important partner in the organization's work. HOST International -

How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

Feedback has led to: -Engaging private business sponsorship to provide fun/interactive training for Champions and desirable incentives/rewards, which also supports program sustainability -Champions being selected by a community selection board -Some communities need one male/one female Champion to respond to requests for cultural/religious reasons -Using values aligned advertising in the app for revenue (e.g. UNHCR programs) -Addressing trust/privacy using community participation processes

Who will implement this Idea?

The Fugee School students, parents, teachers and communities will make their idea a reality, supported by the school Managing Director. HOST Intl will provide project management and overall program support. Our partner academic institutions and Education Director will focus on developing program training using co-creation methods with target communities. Our technical development partner will focus on app development using co-design methods with target communities. Partners are located within the Asia Pacific region, providing a mix of full-time and part-time staff dedicated to the project.

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?

Individual challenges: see video. Lack of legal access to formal education, employment and affordable healthcare is the biggest systems-level challenge faced by end users. This is because Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are not signatories to the UNHCR Refugee Convention, which directly limits people’s ability to earn a living while they wait for settlement in a third country. Because refugees are separated from family and their communities, they don’t have their usual social and economic supports to help them cope with everyday problems and the uncertainty about their futures. Despite this, refugee communities use their strengths to find solutions to the problems they face. Stand Up puts these communities at the centre and leverages their efforts with partnerships, training and an app.

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

HOST and Fugee will grow a sustainable partnership by combining the local expertise of Fugee with the organisational capacity and resources of HOST. Stand Up will bring in additional partners to increase capability and strengthen sustainability of the partnership. Social & cultural sustainability will come through the refugee community-led board and involvement of youth at the school. Stand Up is community led and backed by organisations with long term commitment and resources. Start-up funding will support rapid conversion to a real world product and embed the project for sustained operations

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?

By 2021, we aim to increase the number of girls in protracted displacement settings in 3 South-east Asian countries attending school by 50%, while increasing work experience and livelihood options for young refugee adults participating in the Stand Up program. How do we convert our concept into a real world technology solution to support a consistent quality rollout across cultural contexts, with robust metrics on improved girls' school attendance and young refugee adult livelihood outcomes.

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

We will develop an evaluation framework with our partner academic institutions. We will use qualitative and quantitative data from the program app (e.g. #of Champions and requests; #of families helped; #and type of user feedback; Champions ratings). We will use community feedback forums/focus groups for qualitative data e.g, shift in gender norms/attitudes; and work with schools/learning centres to measure girls' attendance. We will use all findings to inform our Continuous Improvement plan.

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

Year 1: Develop and trial pilot program with Fugee School community; establish key partnerships; establish evaluation and continuous improvement framework; refine pilot based on feedback and evaluation. Year 2: Expand refined project to x 2 other refugee communities in Malaysia; monitor and evaluate program roll-out in additional locations to inform 2nd country roll-out in year 3. Year 3: Pilot in 2nd country (Indonesia); consolidate program in existing locations and expand to 3rd country.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $50,000 and $100,000 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?

  • Under 5 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 Model Support
  • Program/Service Design
  • Product Design
  • Other Technical Expertise

Attachments (1)


Students at the Fugee School have been working on a prototype of the Stand Up app, incorporating feedback from students, young people, families, teachers, and the broader community.


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