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Coding Bootcamp meets Refugee Camp

Southern New Hampshire University will bring coding bootcamps to its refugee campuses, providing pathways to apprenticeships & employment.

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The refugee crisis – with 65.3 million displaced worldwide – is a dramatic acceleration of a decades-long trend. The average duration for protracted displacement is now 26 years, leaving generations without higher education or employment opportunities. 6.7 million refugees remain confined to camps and informal settlements; others try to survive under the radar in cities. The millions of displaced E Africans - a majority of whom are youth - face uncertain futures and risk of becoming a “lost” generation. Without education employment credentials, disenfranchised youth are vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment, and also remain ill-prepared for leadership roles. To solve this problem, SNHU is committed to providing U.S. accredited Bachelor's degrees to refugee students in Rwanda. Additionally, the university is committed to not only educating students, but ensuring they have pathways to employment. In this context, SNHU plans to bring Actualize coding bootcamp to the campus. Students will be trained in web development skills for 12 weeks using the campus resources. Following, students will engage in a 6 week apprenticeship with Actualize and build a portfolio. Following, students will be supported in finding digital work and trained to teach other refugees how to code, increasing the number of beneficiaries with skills. Given the discrimination faced by refugees, this work will be tracked and disseminated to governments as a policy and advocacy brief.


The primary beneficiaries will be Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) students at Kiziba refugee camp. However, students will also be trained as leaders and teachers, enabling for the web development skills created in the bootcamps to be spread to other camps that SNHU plans to expand to in Kenya. However, SNHU students need not be the only beneficiaries. The university plans to track and document student progress in the programs, creating a policy brief to advocate for refugee workers.


Southern New Hampshire Univ is a non-profit institution serving over 85,000 students across three different methods of degree completion. SNHU exists to transform lives, and has been meeting that mission in Rwanda since 2013; it is particularly proud of its participation in Kiziba refugee camp.


  • Kenya
  • Rwanda


  • Yes, for more than one year.


  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year


We held a workshop with students to prototype and redesign our idea and the user experience map. Main feedback from potential beneficiaries centred around concerns about the proposed coursework schedule, as university students felt they could not take a 12 week-intensive course on top of their regular coursework and responsibilities. Students brainstormed solutions in their prototyping group and suggested that the program be extended to 22 weeks or run during an independent summer session. Students also suggested that the pre-course work should be a blended learning module, due to challenges with internet. Another suggestion was to hold classes in the afternoon in order to better support female students. Students also requested that more support be offered to students to pursue additional internships and employment connections after the apprenticeship phase. We received positive feedback about the idea's focus on gaining practical skills, and students were excited to become instructors and mentors for refugees in other camps. Students were also enthusiastic about being able to work remotely for overseas companies, since refugees face discrimination for employment in East Africa.


Our solution is unique because it works within an existing program bringing higher education to refugee students in East Africa. Students in our blended learning program earn a US BA degree from SNHU while living in a refugee camp, and develop strong technology skills and computer literacy. This means students have strong foundational tech skills that are critical for computer coding. An impact evaluation showed that students enrolled in the SNHU/Kepler university program greatly outperformed other Rwandan university students in comparative control groups in computer literacy, with an average difference of 25.0 pp (2.22 SD). This is a unique advantage of our program, since technological literacy for many youth in East Africa is a significant initial barrier to computer coding training. An additional advantage is our existing campus in Kiziba refugee camp, equipped with laptops, internet, and other resources which will greatly reduce the required resources for the project. Additionally our partnership with Actualize is key for our success; their US-designed courses train complete beginners to become fully-trained and employable computer programmers in 12 weeks.


Although there is a great need for computer programming proficiencies - both in global marketplaces as well as within East Africa - it is difficult for many youth to obtain the training or skills necessary for developing competencies in computer coding. Many students - including national university-level students - are not equipped with sufficient skills in technology or computer literacy that makes it possible to build upon or utilise the resources available for learning computer coding. In addition, even for self-taught computer programmers, it can be difficult to find the necessary connections to employers; they need support to find initial opportunities to gain experience and employment.


We are curious about how students who complete the computer training bootcamp may be able to use these skills in unintended ways and in unexpected areas. We know that our students are creative and resourceful, and that placing such skills in their hands will result in innovative externalities and spinoff solutions, such as development of new programs or mobile apps. We also want to learn more about the local market demand for computer coding skills in East Africa, particularly given the rapidly developing demand for technology-competent in both public and private sector institutions, in particular new tech start-up industries, to better prepare students for local labour markets.


This idea is new for our organisation, but builds upon our existing work in Kiziba refugee camp, and also fundamentally aligns with our mission and values to expand opportunities for higher education, technology skills, and employment opportunities to refugees in East Africa. Although our program has a strong focus on computer literacy, we have not been able to offer more specific training or courses in advanced computer training such as coding. By partnering with specialists to bring both their pedagogical and curriculum expertise to the program, our students will development a highly employable skill that will be needed to set them apart in the East African marketplace, especially given the disadvantages that they aleady face as refugees in the region. This idea also aligns with a previous track record of identifying and adapting skill-specific interventions to support students in developing in-demand skill sets for the local job market. Additionally, our existing program emphasises employment experience, with mandatory internships and employment counselling for all students. Therefore the apprenticeship component of our idea will build upon and expand our existing expertise.


The partnership team for this idea will be led by the SNHU global engagement team, including the Vice President for Global Engagement and the Director of Refugee Programs. We will work with our university program implementing partners, as well as Actualize team members to deliver the course on-the-ground in refugee camps. Actualize will lead on course content and apprenticeships, with support from the SNHU team as well as trained student leaders from our Kigali and refugee campuses.

Introduction & Rationale

Actualize is a web development bootcamp and apprenticeship with cohorts in Chicago, NYC, and San Francisco. Actualize trains graduates to develop the mindset and skills to transition to full-time software engineering, empowering them to launch rewarding lives and careers.

The Actualize team are educators before all else, and their commitment to educational best practices and pedagogy enables our students to become job-ready web developers. Following the bootcamp, graduates work as part-time developers with The Difference Engine building projects for our clients, gaining real-world experience and creating portfolios that will be impressive to prospective employers.

Southern New Hampshire University is a non profit university program that first partnered with on-the-ground NGO Kepler in 2013. Our first campus, in Kigali, was designed to develop a low cost, high quality model for higher education that can be scaled across Africa over the next decade with the goal of delivering the skills that emerging economies need for a price that any promising student can afford.

SNHU currently offers U.S. accredited associate and bachelor degrees in partnership with Kepler. The first group of SNHU students in Rwanda graduated with bachelor’s degrees in June 2016. The program expanded within Rwanda in August 2015 through a pilot project at the Kiziba refugee camp in Western Rwanda.

A large focus of the degree work in Rwanda in partnership with Kepler is not only centered on earning a U.S. credential, but also a program that builds professional competencies, job readiness, and skills which prepare students for success as an employee or entrepreneur. The Rwandan government, with its Vision 2020 program, is focusing on development of a knowledge-based economy, with particular emphasis on supporting technology growth and entrepreneurship. A partnership between Actualize and SNHU, made possible by IDEO, would offer students an invaluable opportunity to gain web development skills that would increase their employment competitiveness in the emerging tech market and the ability to start their own web based enterprise. The partnership is also an opportunity for Actualize to expand the diversity of its student base and explore curriculum application and student learning in an unique environment.

Proposed Time Commitment for Initial Bootcamp--After receiving feedback from our beneficiaries, we have revised the proposed schedule as follows:

Option 1)

22 weeks of instruction

10-12 hours a week (2-4 hours of course time daily), 3-5 days per week

2 hours a week of Office Hours support (before/after classes)

(2-4 days of academic break & potential Rwandan holidays)


6 hours a week of class time (3 hours of course time 2 times a week)

(Additional time for students trained as leaders and teaching in expansion camps).

Option 2)

Optional summer break course which would include:

12 weeks of instruction

20 hours a week (4 hours of course time daily), Monday through Friday (10:30-12:30, 1:30-3:30)

4 hours a week of Office Hours support (before/after classes)

(2 days of academic break & potential Rwandan holidays)


6 hours a week of class time (3 hours of course time 2 times a week)

(Additional time for students trained as leaders and teaching in expansion camps).

Proposed Program Details

The proposed partnership between Actualize and SNHU would offer a coding bootcamp and full six week apprenticeship to students at the Kiziba refugee camp campus. The bootcamp classes would take place at the Kiziba campus with 50 students. Courses will use current student laptops, the internet provided on campus, and the televisions in classrooms.

The course would require a total of 48 hours of class time, with mandatory and optional office hours offered. The apprenticeship would consist of students working in small groups to apply their skills in computer programming to support local NGOs. This would require about 15 hours of work per week from students. Actualize will be fully responsible for locating apprenticeship partners and facilitating student work. Students would decide after the bootcamp whether to enroll in the apprenticeship, and their enrollment would require instructor approval.

Within the context of the SNHU program, the bootcamp and apprenticeship would be defined as “modules” and be subject to all current Kiziba module policies. Students who complete the module would earn credit for all of their technology module requirements.

Mark Richardson, an Actualize instructor, would be fully responsible for all instruction and assessment using Actualize curriculum. SNHU Kiziba students would sign a contract regarding the Intellectual Property of Actualize, which stipulates that all materials and documents provided in connection with the program are the sole property of Actualize and may not used or distributed outside of the program. Actualize will provide PDFs of current course materials, which SNHU may modify, rebrand, and use in any future courses offered by SNHU but usable only in East Africa. SNHU will sign a Intellectual Property agreement, specifying those terms. Mark Richardson will informally train staff working as co-teachers with him during the bootcamp and apprenticeship.

Once students have been accepted to the program they will meet with a Kiziba academic staff member to review the course requirements and policies and be given access to the three-weeks of pre-course work. All pre-course work must be completed before the start of classes in order for students to participate.

Following the class, the most promising students will be trained as teachers. They will be taken to SNHU's expansion to camps in Kenya, to ensure future students are also trained in coding while also helping to scale the program. Overall, students gain both economic and psychological empowerment through participation in the program. 

Additions to the proposal based on expert and beneficiary feedback & Prototyping

Further Definition, Development, and Explanation of Pathways to Employment

    Both beneficiaries and expert feedback suggest the Coding Bootcamp should further explain pathways and relationships to employment. On one hand, this means we are not clearly communicating the track record of success Actualize has with apprenticeships and employment, which is the reason we chose to partner with them on this project. On the other, it means we also need to consider the work we've done with pathways to employment in our Kigali program and build upon these relationships and systems for this program. To improve this, we met with a focus group of students to show our prototyped poster and explain that the reason we are working with Actualize is because they include up to a 4-month apprenticeship with employers to build the skills and a portfolio needed to lead to employment. After, they continue to utilize their employer relationships to post and offer jobs to graduates. Currently, Actualize graduates with apprenticeship portfolios in hand have a 90% employment rate. We then asked students how we could better communicate the employment pathways of the program. They suggested we should: 1) have graduates on hand to talk to the students, 2) better define the apprenticeships portion of the poster, 3) advertise employment rates, 4) better describe that jobs are digital and can be both within and outside of East Africa, 5) list the employers that Actualize graduates have worked with in the past, and 6) meet with ministries to demonstrate there is partnership and government support. Due to this feedback, we are now aware of how to better communicate the employment pathways available to Actualize graduates. 

    Additionally, SNHU's campus in partnership with Kepler in Kigali has a 96% employment rate of graduates. This has been created through building relationships, placing students in internships before graduation, and building modular learning that responds to the needs and feedback of employers. The coding bootcamp meets refugee camp allows for our employment pathways to be expanded to the digital realm. Using similar systems to the campus in Kigali, refugee employment pathways for coding will include: 1) contacting employers and discussing the skills that students have and advocating for internships, 2) actively posting and connecting students to jobs, 3) working with government ministries to get government assistance and buy-in in the employment process, 4) using the website to showcase student skills and create a platform where students and employers can connect digitally, 5) working in collaboration with Actualize to ensure refugee graduates of Actualize maintain the same employment rates as American graduates, 6) creating a digital employment advisory board, where employers give feedback on the skills of graduates, and what they'd like to see improved. Similar to the Kigali campus, modular learning units will be created to address employer needs and share feedback with the students, and 7) continuing to build upon employment relationships that are already developed through the Kigali campus to advertise student coding skills, as well as continue to grow the employment network for students. 

Creating Partnerships to Strengthen the Coding Bootcamp Meets Refugee Camp Plan

    Comments to the project and expert feedback suggested that meeting with government entities would be a strong way to improve the program and ensure its success. Therefore, during our improvement and prototyping phase, we also arranged to meet with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Youth and ICT. They examined our proposal on the platform and offered feedback for improvement, which included some of the employment suggestions above as well as creative thinking around scheduling (reflected earlier in this proposal) give that was the most commonly mentioned piece of beneficiary feedback. 

    These meetings also indicated that ministries would be willing to support the program for refugees, as well as include the program on its websites and help with employment connections for students. As the program grows to other countries, the ministries were also keen on introducing us to ministries they work with in the East African region. Last, we all agreed that once instruction began, that the ministries come out and visit the program and meet with Actualize to offer additional feedback and synergy around partnership. 

Overall, the comments on the platform, beneficiary feedback, expert feedback, and our prototyping process offered us great insight into how to improve the program before launching. These insights have been invaluable and have greatly increased the likelihood of student success both in the program and in employment once completing the bootcamp learning and apprenticeship/portfolio portions of the program. 


In 5 years, this project plans to impact the employment rate of East Africans by ensuring 5,000 graduates job placement through providing students with the coding skills, portfolio development through professional experience, and connections to employment required for success. One question we need to answer to get there is: Are the employment rates of international students in the Actualize program going to be the same as those of American participants?


  • Above $1,000,000


  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work


  • More than a year


We are interested in joining Amplify’s portfolio of innovators because we’ve had a track record of success in the initial stages of our pilot, but we want to continue to iterate on the program and ensure we have a rigorous planning and design process that ensures we bring the best to our students. We know the amplify portfolio of innovators will offer us essential critical feedback to improve our programs as we move forward in ensuring students gain earn gainful employment as software engineers.
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Team (6)

Chrystina's profile
Ashley's profile
Ashley Haywood

Role added on team:

"Ashley is a leadership coach on the campus. She'll be invaluable in ensuring the successful implementation of the curriculum."

Mupenzi's profile
Mupenzi Rubangura

Role added on team:

"Rubangura is a part of the first cohort of students, and will be a leader in collecting and analyzing beneficiary feedback, as well as collaborating to design solutions according to student needs."

Nina's profile
Nina Weaver

Role added on team:

"Nina is the SNHU Director of Refugee Education Programs. She will lead the on-the-ground partnership with SNHU, Actualize, and our students to implement our project idea!"

Heritier's profile
Heritier Muhire

Role added on team:

"Heritier has worked in Kiziba with students and is also a technological expert. He'll add the perspective of understanding beneficiaries as well as technical expertise needed for the project."

Buranga's profile
Buranga Divine

Role added on team:

"As a female student in the Kiziba refugee campus, Divine will be a key informant into making sure our program meets the needs of female participants. SNHU's campus, in partnership with Kepler in Kiziba camp is proudly serving 50% male and 50% female students, ensuring gender equity."

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Attachments (7)


After going through the process of deciding what to prototype, our team decided to both hold meetings with key government ministries (included in the narrative section) as well as create this poster. The goal was to better understand how to use our communication with students to describe how the program leads to pathways to employment. The post and discussion that followed with students and experts enabled us to think about how to refine our message and improve this proposal.

Amplify Prototype 1.JPG

Amplify Prototype 1, 2,3 outline our team's process in thinking through what we needed to prototype. There was a lot of healthy debate about what was most important--great discussions!

Redesigned user experience map.pdf

This is our redesigned user experience map, which has been revised in collaboration with our student beneficiaries. During a participatory prototyping workshop, students offered suggestions and improvements to build a new experience map. As a result, our user Claudine engages in a coding bootcamp experience that works with her schedule while giving her the skills for work and equips her as a leader. Most importantly Claudine is empowered with choices through her participation in the program.

Re-designing our OpenIDEO User Experience Map.pdf

Students at SNHU's Kiziba refugee camp campus (some of our potential beneficiaries) offered comments and feedback on our original user experience map during the prototyping workshop. Students performed a gallery walk of the map before posting comments, opinions, and suggestions directly onto it. We recorded this feedback here, and it has been incorporated into an updated version of the user experience map that reflects the concerns and interests of potential beneficiaries around the idea.

Idea board.docx

This is the original version of our user experience map, which follows Claudine through the Actualize coding bootcamp at Kiziba refugee camp. We have revised this new map based on feedback and suggestions from our potential beneficiaries during a participatory prototyping workshop. Using the IDEO user experience planning system, Actualize and SNHU envision coding as directly impacting the life of a student earning a Bachelor's degrees through SNHU at Kiziba.


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