Although there are more refugees today than there were at the end of World War Two, the global response to this modern day crisis is based on systems that were created almost seventy years ago. A reluctance to incorporate new technology and infrastructure into refugee response procedures has resulted in antiquated international structures that fail to help people fleeing from conflict. With 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, a figure that is expected to climb as climate change worsens, it is imperative that political mechanisms are updated to accommodate this crisis in a humane way. One of the main issues that refugees face is unemployment. With institutional barriers to work, lack of proof of accreditation, and a growing education gap, it is difficult for refugees to access jobs. While changes in policy are needed to structurally address this issue, improvements in technology have the potential to open doors and provide opportunities for refugees to build new lives for themselves. There are many organizations that use technology both as a medium and a subject for career paths and educational opportunities that allow refugees to help themselves and improve their lives. These opportunities create ways for displaced people to create revenue without work permits, learn marketable skills that can travel with them, tap into global markets, and regain dignity. This conversation points to the intersection of technology and fiscal opportunity as a way to enrich the lives of refugees and provide solutions to modern problems.
Near the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, ROW and 3Dmena envision a 3D printing workshop that would give refugees the ability to craft products that they need, from medical tools to prosthetic limbs. This lab would cut down on costs for humanitarian aid and provide people in Za’atari camp with products that they need while providing a practical training in programing 3D printers and an avenue for refugees to innovate. ReDI, a school in Germany, teaches refugees and German citizens how to code so that they can enter the job market. This institution both provides valuable skills and allows refugees and Germans to get to know each other as peers. ReBoot Kamp, a school for coding in Jordan, offers a very similar program for refugees and Jordanian citizens. Other companies employ refugees by contracting them to perform online coding projects. The list of organizations that utilize technology as a means for job training or employment is long.
Organizations that use technology to work with refugees have unique opportunities to enrich communities and individuals; however, they are also presented with unique challenges. In this conversation, participants discussed how institutions can ensure that they are implementing best practices when working with refugees, the logistical challenges of implementing these programs, the ways that digital careers and training can strengthen communities, and more.
Thank you to our featured resource practitioners who led the conversation:
- Lana Radosavljevic, The Refugee Center Online
- Jessica Marks, The Refugee Center Online
Using Technology to Create Job Opportunities for Refugees
Working with refugee populations can present very specific challenges as the organizations that work with refugees often rely heavily on volunteers. Organizations must ensure that they are able to institute best practices within their work, while at the same time working with volunteers that might only be with them for a limited amount of time. One of the challenges that nonprofit organizations face is the capacity of the organization to manage volunteers. A solution that can help mitigate this challenge is to have technology supporting and facilitating the process. An example is to use a google form where volunteers submit applications that generate an automated email reply. Further, implementing online volunteer orientation on the organization’s website also benefits the organization as they do not have to spend time manually providing orientations. Another point outlined as being advantageous when working with volunteers is to be flexible with the opportunities provided. This can be beneficial as the volunteers will experience their work as being fulfilling and might be more motivated. Opportunities frequently provided are translations, administrative work and editing opportunities.
Logistics and Barriers
The situations refugee populations are faced with across the globe varies widely. Because of this it can be difficult to reach refugees that could benefit from educational or job opportunities available. Access to Wi-Fi and battery power can provide challenges that can prevent refugees of being able to utilize technological solutions. Organizations must focus on creating solutions that can be accessed offline, while using minimal battery power. This might mean that more innovative and modern solutions such as the usage of video trainings have to be sacrificed. Another barrier is that there is a lack of material translated to different languages. The nationalities of refugee populations vary across time, and new groups are appearing frequently. Therefore it poses a challenge to provide content in each individual language as well as finding someone to translate the work.
Connecting Refugees and the Outside World
Career and educational connections create links between refugees and the general public. However, there are some challenges in creating these connections as refugee groups might come from vastly different cultures. Finding a job is very important for refugees as this can eventually lead to self-sufficiency. It is suggested that there should be an entity facilitating these connections and provide trainings on how to apply for jobs in a new country to mitigate some of the challenges. There may also be stigma attached to refugees, and in an educational setting it is found that most educators have very little training in working with multicultural populations, as well as populations that have experienced trauma. It is therefore necessary to provide educators with proper training and basic information on different cultures and how to engage with these populations.
- Use of technology to manage volunteers
- Provide services to facilitate career connections and job application training
- Provide educators with proper training in working with multicultural populations and people having experienced trauma
- Job and Career Resources: The Refugee Center Online provides resources that can assist refugees and provide information about the application process in the U.S.
- Tarjimly: App that provides translating services.