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Innovating the Young Refugee Experience

By Joanne Jacobs

In almost any field of endeavour, leaders and innovators are constantly grappling with notions of “the future” and rapidly creating new pathways for current and future generations to perceive, grasp and take advantage of opportunities. But in almost every instance, the missing link in the equation is the group who will most benefit – young people.

One of the benefits of working with youth entrepreneurship organisation, Vibewire, is the opportunity it brings of working very closely with emerging social, creative and tech entrepreneurs. At Vibewire, it’s less about creating “for” young people, and more about creating “with” them. It’s about co-creation. It’s about participation and leadership.

The challenge, of course, with cocreation is that it is a messy process. It requires a strong process, discipline and a shared vision. In many ways, cocreation represents one of the greatest hopes that we have to generate substantial, large scale change.

Over the course of the last weekend, the third TechFugees Australia event brought together young refugees, entrepreneurs and the tech community to cocreate against a series of challenges borne out of the experiences of those newly arriving in Australia.

Working in teams of four or five, these nascent startups, inspired by stories from the lives of refugees making their new lives in Australia, worked with those refugees to create new businesses, business models and “minimum viable products” in a hackathon that lasted only one weekend. Thanks to intensive mentoring, the teams, half of whom had never attended a hackathon before, were able to create, validate and pitch their solutions by late Sunday afternoon.

You can follow on with the Hack4Refugees action on the Storify collated below. But also keep an eye out for coverage from SBS TV and startup media, including Anne-Marie Elias on Codesigning Solutions to Settlement.

And while coverage is one element of success for these social impact programs, lasting change and transformation is another. This is now the third time that this event has been run in Australia – and there is an increasing sense of excitement, movement and success building. The work of Annie Parker, Nicole Williamson and Anne-Marie Elias in planning, running and supporting these Hack4Refugees cannot be underestimated – but the impact they are having in the lives of refugees is plain to see. We’re looking forward to seeing where this cohort of young refugee entrepreneurs take their ideas.

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