Reflections from SOLVE @ MIT

Good afternoon, thought I would try something new and share our Humans on the Move newsletter content here…

Mariela Shakar, Syrian Violinist & Advocate — Closing Plenary at SOLVE at MIT, Photo by C. Mendonca 2017

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the SOLVE at MIT Annual Meeting held on MIT’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the MIT Media Lab and Samberg Conference Center. Last September, MIT brought in Alex Amouyel from the Clinton Global Initiative, to scale the MIT at SOLVE initiative. Last fall’s kick off event, Ms. Amouyel’s first day, was awe-inspiring in and of itself, but to see the ‘solvers’ grow and pivot over the last 8 months was interesting. One of the 4 challenges was focused on Refugee Education, which is what initially brought us to SOLVE. This year I had the opportunity to be a mentor to Katie Zaniboni, the founder of TeamUp 2 Teach, who is creating solutions for teachers educating refugees in informal settings in the Balkans. It was a mutually beneficial experience, where I learned as much from Katie’s insights on the ground as I think I helped her and her team. Our mentor-mentee relationship was also a testament to the global nature of SOLVE, Katie spent the entire time in Europe, mainly based in Sofia, Bulgaria, where I have been mainly in the US. We look forward to sharing more about the incredible and innovative work Katie Zaniboni and her team are doing with TeamUp 2 Teach soon as well as the work of other innovative solvers we had the chance to meet.

The conversations over the course of the two days were thought provoking and also affirming that what we are working on, in trying to bridge the chasm between the private, public, and philanthropic sectors engaged in the refugee and migration crisis is more important than ever. While there are ideas that we are going to want to unpack in longer pieces, there are some quick takeaways that we can share to provide some insights on where our mindset is today”

  • The fact that only 40% of the world’s refugees live in formal camps, is challenging for everyone. As stakeholders gather globally to think through innovative approaches to challenges they face, the focus cannot solely be on developing solutions for refugees in camps if 60% of the displaced are living outside of them.
  • This refugee and migration crisis is different in it’s size, but also that it is occurring in developed countries, places that traditional respondents don’t necessarily have the institutional processes in place to meet those needs.
  • English cannot be the only language of solutions or programming. There are far too few solutions in Arabic and other languages. Innovators need to meet their end customers where they are, not the other way around.
  • Addressing the mental health of refugees and migrants is an increasing theme, both in addressing post traumatic stress and the stress of day-to-day existence. Mental health cannot be an ad hoc process or a la cart item in how the needs of refugees and asylum seekers needs are met, it needs to be integrated.

SOLVE at MIT announced the next set of challenges on Brain Health, Women & Technology, Sustainable Urban Communities, and Youth Skills and the Work Force of the Future. If you or know someone that is working to address solutions in these areas, we strongly encourage you to submit them. Humans on the Move will continue to be engaged in these challenges as they all have application to responding to the refugee and migration crisis without explicit framing.

Finally, one of the coolest announcements from last week at SOLVE at MIT is the creation of MIT’s Refugee Action (ReACT) Hub to spur on further education solutions for refugees and displaced populations. MIT Professor Admir Masic, a refugee of Bosnia, was the catalyst for the creation of the ReACT Hub, and also this year’s education challenge leader. MIT is bringing together global leaders to address education challenges.


Inspiring, Informing Reads

How to Write About Refugees — The Development Set came up with some solid quick points on how to write about the refugee crisis in more ethical, and effective manner.

Cities must stop underestimating their need and ability to respond to the migration crisis — Cityscope lays out advice for urban planners in how they could better respond to the needs of their cities development in the response to an influx of refugees, migrants, and displaced persons.

Blockchain for Development: A Handy Bluffers Guide — the World Bank shared an awesome post from “From Poverty to Power” that helps all of us already not engaged in blockchain to have a better understanding of what it is, and how it can work in development areas. As much as I have talked about blockchain and refugees, this was incredibly helpful to even me.

Axworthy: “We simply can’t leave refugee policy to border control” — Lloyd Axworthy, the former Canadian Prime Minister was interviewed announcing the launch of the World Refugee Council — with excellent insights on why the world is where it is in the response to refugees. Considering Axworthy’s track record, I am keen to keep an eye and ear on where this group goes.

Christine L. Mendonça is the CEO and Co-Founder of Humans on the Move. Sign up for our newsletter here.

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