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The Global Expert Network (GEN) to Support Refugee Leaders & Mentors

A knowledge exchange platform to equip refugee community leaders with new skills from external experts and mentors

Photo of Christopher Rannefors
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Refugee camps by their nature are isolated, yet the people inside often struggle with the same challenges others have already faced. The issue that these isolated camps have is a lack of access to education, to resources, and to others. Our idea is to build a network of mentors who can help members of refugee camps not only improve their own lives, but through education, improve the lives of others in the camp. By meeting refugees where they are and leveraging the technology currently available in refugee camps - namely SMS and telephone calls - we can match up external mentors and internal leaders/teachers to help equip the latter with the skills that are valuable to them and to their communities. By connecting the expert in a 1:1 relationship with a refugee community leader, the leader can then culturally remediate the teachings into a format by which the community can follow. Through an open network, anyone can sign up to be a mentor and contribute his/her skills and knowledge to any members of various camps who desire that knowledge. The key partner for this concept would be a company like Udemy which has a network of over 14,000+ instructors, speaking over 50 languages.


Take for example a refugee named Moussa with a limited business background wants to start a small company with others in the camp; but he lacks resources and support. Once a week Moussa can have a 1:1 digital session with a Professional Accountant in the UK who will teach ways in which Moussa can best illustrate bookkeeping concepts to his team and other community entrepreneurs.


The first thing to do would be to work with a partner on the ground who will connect us to a select group of community mentors within refugee camps. The partner will survey the group to identify skills refugees are interested in learning. From there, we would work with a company like Udemy who could potentially match those leaders with experts in the chosen fields. Before developing specific technology, we can connect the mentor/mentee through SMS, opening up the channel of conversation. We’d want to work with the on-the-ground partner to define metrics to quickly identify challenges and successes. For example, the frequency of communication, number of mentors who go on to teach others at the refugee camps, total refugee reach of mentors, and actions taken as a result of learning can all be relevant metrics.


We would like to get feedback from end users (refugees), organizations that work on the ground in refugee camps, outside experts to gauge interest in being involved, and telecommunications professionals to understand technical limitations and opportunities. We are also hoping to hear feedback from the OpenIDEO community.

SKILL SHARE (optional)

Our expertise is with developing and managing large scale online communities of students and instructors. We are deeply familiar with the current online educational market and different educational tactics and styles. One of the biggest issues is communication; both culturally and technically. How do we communicate the right skills to the right audiences and how do we make the conversation technologically and culturally feasible.


Our team is primarily made up of Udemy employees who are passionate about education and would like to independently explore this opportunity. We are submitting this application as individuals committed to education rather than as employees of Udemy.


Join the conversation:

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Congrats on this post being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Guy Viner

Super cool, congrats team!

Photo of Guy Viner

Hey Chris - Thanks for bringing this diverse team to the platform in support of this idea.

Team - I think it might be helpful to chat with some refugees currently in the challenge. Vestine, Hassan, Fartun, and Daniel currently live in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, and can help you gain insights from others at the camp to test some assumptions in your idea. You can find their profiles in the 'community champions' section of this page:

Photo of Guy Viner

Also wanted to say that I love the visual nature of your concept (esp. the illustrations). They do a lot to bring your idea to life. Great job!!

Can't wait to see Gabriela's mockup / wireframe for what this concept could look like if it had a digital component ;)

Photo of Pablo Stanley

Thank you, Guy!
We're really excited about this project :)

Photo of Shane Zhao

Great to have your team on-board Chris! It'd be great if you might reach and and collaborate with these two likminded idea teams that have conducting on the ground research with refugees currently living in Kampala and Uganda.

Mooc Learning Center in Kakuma Refugee Camp: Daniel Christian is also one of our Amplify Community Champions who is based out of the Kakuma Refugee Camp.

U-Spark Hub: I'm glad to see that Keiko has already commented on this idea. It'd be great to reach out and pick her brain how how your similar initiatives might complement each other!

Photo of Keiko Odashiro

Great idea! It will be an excellent way to build support and mentorship for refugees.

Photo of Pablo Stanley

Thank you, Keiko.

Photo of Joanna Spoth

Love this idea, Christopher! Can't wait to see how it evolves.