From the 17th to the 19th of November, Georgetown Social Enterprise and Innovation Fellows convened to take part in the Social Innovation Lab, a three day intensive course where students were challenged to apply design thinking principles to real -world problems to create innovative solutions to some of the most pressing needs facing the world’s refugees today.
On the first day, participants received insight into the realities that refugees face through the testimonies of former and current refugees, as well as expert support from professors and development practitioners.
In response to the challenge statement and refugee panel, the students pitched their ideas and formed groups around the strongest ideas.
Structured workshops provided guidance and tips on the process of researching, prototyping, and designing solutions throughout the weekend. During the workshops, practitioners shared their knowledge and experiences on topics such as the importance of stakeholder mapping and identifying needs and market feasibility to provide students with a framework within which to ensure the relevance and practicality of the suggested solutions.
First-year Global Human Development student Ben Simmons-Telep noted that, “facilitators provided ample opportunity for meaningful discussion with people who have lived as refugees and have unparalleled insight into the challenges and opportunities that exist in refugee camps,” which helped to guide the students through the design process of their solutions.
After the workshops, students then worked in their groups to develop prototypes of their suggested solutions. Second-year Global Human Development student Hadya Abdul-Satar commented, "before this weekend, I thought all it took to change the system was a good idea and faith in its success. Now I know that it takes a lot of research, brainstorming, prototyping, testing, and repeating that cycle multiple times."
On the final day, the prototypes were pitched to a panel of judges in a series of presentations. The judges asked each group tough questions about their innovation, their business plan, and pressed them on key challenges they might face in its implementation. They lauded the solutions pitched as remarkably creative, and encouraged all teams to further research and refine their projects and possibly seek funding.
The first prize went to Matchi, a skills exchange marketplace for refugees. The concept of Matchi was for the app to provide an opportunity for refugees to market their skills within and outside their refugee camp in exchange for cash or mobile credit. This innovative approach expands the reach of refugees and their ability to connect with demands for their skills while providing them with opportunities for informal and short-term labor opportunities.
Marbout, an app developed to connect refugees in camps to existing services, received the prize for 2nd place. The app was aimed at mapping existing services and giving refugees access to information on the services provided within the camp by international organizations. Through the app users could also review and give feedback on the services they received and request other services, allowing service providers to gauge demand.
The WeMatch app was awarded the 3rd prize for its innovative approach to matching potential employers in host countries to resettled refugees. During their pitch, the group demonstrated an app that was designed to support the successful integration of refugees into communities by matching them with employers in their area based on skills.