A generation-defining challenge
Once in awhile, a particular moment in our history goes down to define the rest of the decade. Songs are written about it, history books abound with dates and names and stories are passed on from grandfathers to grandchildren to award-winning novels. The vietnam war, the fall of the Berlin wall, the famine in Ethiopia are just some examples.
That moment for our generation is here. It concerns the most important exodus in human history since World War II.. More than 4 million people have left Syria since the beginning of the war. These are men, women and children fleeing chaos in search of a better future.
We’re faced with an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Like Typhoon Haiyan, citizens are asked to help catering to the most basic needs such as shelter, food and clothes and this is a time-sensitive / short term action. Longer term, we will need to provide sustainable and dignifying solutions: jobs, a stable legal framework, education..etc.
There is an economical and moral imperative to address both challenges. The good news is, if we are successful, our choices will improve life of millions of people for the next 50–100 years. We have today, the potential to redefine a world where migration nourishes both sides, where no human is illegal and where people escaping wars and chaos are welcomed in safe havens to start life anew.
We are also better equipped to face this issue.
Technology helps us organise across countries. A host of new RefugeeTech startups from Berlin, Paris and other startup capitals are spurring citizen engagement and innovation. Citizens worldwide are better informed and a global consciousness and commitment to act has now emerged.
An approach which makes sense
At MakeSense, our mission is to mobilize citizens around the social issues that they care about, to enable them to find concrete solutions to solve them. For few months, many MakeSense members (we call them the “Gangsters”) have taken the cause of refugees wholeheartedly. A community-led effort mapped some of the pain points refugees face throughout their journey. Our volunteers are now identifying organizations addressing those pain points in their city. The plan is to mobilise citizens to support and solve the challenges of the identified organizations. Later on, we will highlight trends, produce best practice and inspire citizens to tackle unaddressed pain points.
We started prototyping this approach last April in Berlin.
We launched a campaign showcasing the most innovative solutions tackling refugee issues. Throughout the month, more than 700 citizens gathered at 18 events to support the refugee cause. It ranged from “Hold-Ups”, MakeSense’s creativity workshops for social entrepreneurs, to a street musician performance, a theater workshop, a visit to a refugee camp, and a grand finale blending musical performance and interviews with refugee startups. The results were outstanding. The sheer number, energy and commitment we saw from our fellow citizens has urged us to scale this pilot.
Today, across the MakeSense network, Gangsters are unleashing the social entrepreneurship virus to mobilise citizens for refugees.
Sarah Mag Toumi, for instance, is preparing a tour from Sweden to Greece to meet with entrepreneurs and organisations helping refugees along the way. Hera Hussain is preparing a hackathon in Beirut to leverage technology for the benefit of refugees. Hanieh Shirazi is mobilising more than 800 people in France for an MKS Room on migration; she uses music to moderate the discussion.
In the end, social entrepreneurs and humanitarian organisations show us the lead. It behooves us, citizens, to improve reality for millions of disfranchised individuals. The Moses and Aaron of today are the thousands of citizens welcoming refugees with bottles of water at train stations, the social businesses and startups bringing innovative solutions to refugee challenges and maybe the one person reading this note behind a laptop.
By bringing together citizens across the globe, mobilising them around a cause which affects our day-to-day life and making them part of the solution, MakeSense is contributing to a model of citizen involvement that help solve society’s most pressing problems. Google has recently recognized this strength and nominated the initiative to the Google Impact Challenge.
We explain our dream here: forward.makesense.org.
Join the global mobilization to ensure 1) security, 2) access to basic needs and 3) social inclusion &economic opportunities for refugees at forward.makesense.org/refugees
Ismail Chaib launched the German chapter of MakeSense in 2011 and has been spearheading MakeSense refugee effort in Berlin this year (You can read more about this here). He is a happy Algerian living in Berlin. His background is in software engineering and financial technology.