The idea for having a Bristol Refugee Hackday was primarily inspired by a London event called EmpowerHack, a hackathon event and now ongoing collective working on different technical and digital projects focused specifically on the needs of refugee women and girls. Attendees came to the hack from across the UK and beyond. During the first EmpowerHack event there were three themes we could explore and discuss.
(With links to the relevant EmpowerHack resource pack.)
After some talks from relevant organisations and people, we spent the morning moving between these areas and discussing and brainstorming to understand the problems and situation (along with these briefing documents) and looking at submitted design challenges, before creating idea proposals and choosing what to work on in small groups.
In Bristol we have a vast array of expertise we could draw from to facilitate interesting discussions and brainstorming. The Bristol Hackday will have a more local focus than EmpowerHack. Aiming to start with issues facing asylum seekers and refugees in Bristol and engage with the work of local organisations to create tech solutions. However with the goal that solutions could be shared through national networks and that where possible the work would be opensource and available to others to adapt.
A Refugee Hackathon was held in Sheffield in February with around 25 attendees.
The spent a couple of hours on the Friday evening discussing around 10 potential projects suggested by local organisations, together with people from some of the organisations. They decided to split into two groups. One looking at local mobile mapping and the second working on consolidating data about services available at different points in the asylum process and beyond, working with initial data from a collaborative word document created by local organisations to create a website. Alongside this they have created a webpage, a google group (so organisations can ask for tech help easily) and decided on the label Sheffugees. They also arranged to have follow up events to continue with the work, as well as remotely collaborate.
They also have an interesting post detailing their planning and initial ideas.
What stands out to me is this quote from Dan Sumption’s blog
By 4:30pm Saturday when we downed tools, we did not have a great deal of website to show for our work, but we had achieved a lot in terms of planning, designing and putting in place the project tools which would allow us all to disperse and continue work remotely.
In many ways this is similar to my experience at EmpowerHack, follow-up events have now been arranged, the project I am part of HerStory is collaborating via Slack and Trello and it’s quite fluid with new people able to get involved. Rome wasn’t built in a day, if we want to create solutions which can actually be used a hackathon is a first-step.
This post wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Techfugees -‘A tech community response to the European refugee crisis’. I don’t have much direct experience with Techfugees, although I am in the Facebook group. However some projects from EmpowerHack have featured in the #TechfugeesLive streaming event, as well as the NHS Navigation Hack – a project working on developing a tool for migrants to help in navigating NHS services, which I learned about at a NHS hackday. It’s clear they are a big player in bringing together different refugee tech activities and are a key group to liaise with. They have a very detailed HackPad (collaborative linked documents, somewhat similar to a wiki) with lots of information from different projects, research, needs and events etc, which will be useful for us.
Techfugees also shows just how keen people in the tech industry are to get involved with this issue and with the large, successful Bristol-Bath Tech cluster, we are well placed to harness this.
More about Techfugees from their website:
Moved by the plight of refugees in Europe, a number of technology industry people have formed a voluntary team to create the series of non-profit “Techfugees” conferences, hackathons, and work with a global network of collaborators.
In it’s first 48 hours our Facebook Group and Twitter account exploded. Today there are now over 2,000 members of Techfugees, demonstrating a huge desire amongst the tech community to get involved with this issue.
Our events are entirely non-profit, designed to bring together tech engineers, entrepreneurs and startups together with NGOs and other agencies in order to address the crisis in ways where the technology world can bring its considerable firepower.