UN migration agency supports upcoming social innovation hackathon in Erbil, Iraq

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The first Social Innovation Hackathon in Erbil, Iraq, will take place on 21–22 July organized by Re:Coded, a humanitarian innovation non-profit organization. The event will be supported by IOM, the UN Migration Agency.

The Social Innovation Hackathon will bring together more than 50 local developers, designers, social entrepreneurs, humanitarians and community residents to develop creative technology solutions that address the specific challenges facing refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. These include barriers to education, difficulty accessing the job market and social cohesion between displaced Iraqis and host community members.

Participants are expected to arrive from across northern Iraq, and will include residents of the Qushtapa refugee camp as well as students from the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani.

Since early 2014, over 3.3 million Iraqis have been internally displaced due to conflict, and more than 240,000 Syrian refugees currently live in Iraq. The humanitarian crisis has created many difficulties, disrupting sectors such as education and employment.

The Social Innovation Hackathon is an expression of the belief that the collaborative development of technology-oriented solutions can address these issues. Participants will bring their expertise and collaborate on designing technology-oriented solutions that address the challenges associated with displacement. Participants will be divided into teams of varying skill sets and expertise to generate project ideas around the creation of learning opportunities, improving access to employment and enhancing social cohesion.

Re:Coded staff and experienced developers will provide technical mentorship to teams throughout the event; humanitarian community leaders will also advise the teams to ensure understanding of the many deep-rooted challenges facing refugees and IDPs in Iraq. At the event’s conclusion, seed funding will be awarded to the project judged to have the greatest potential for positive impact.

IOM is sponsoring the Hackathon as part of its Social Cohesion and Innovation project in Iraq. IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Thomas Weiss said: “IOM is pleased to support this pioneering initiative with Re:Coded, which aims to assist and involve refugees, IDPs and members of the host community and help young innovators, developers and social entrepreneurs identify the problems and challenges in their communities that can be addressed through technological solutions.”

Re:Coded CEO Alexandra Clare said: “We are excited to bring together a diverse community of developers, humanitarians, community members and creatives to encourage innovative and sustainable solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing refugees and displaced people in Iraq.”

The Social Innovation Hackathon is supported by IOM and the US Government. Partners include Zain Iraq, Five One Labs as well as media partners Bite.Tech and Techfugees.

This June and July, Re:Coded ran a four-week summer programme in the Qushtapa refugee camp. The IOM-supported programme, the first of its kind in Iraq, provided 40 young refugees, aged between 12 and 18, with hands-on experience in computing concepts, programming fundamentals, gaming and algorithms as well as softer collaboration skills and problem-solving.

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