Creative Minds Hackathon Creates Tech Solutions for Refugee Inclusion

October 17, 2016

Three original tech platforms to facilitate refugee inclusion took the top honors at the second annual Creative Minds social entrepreneurship hackathon sponsored by the U.S. Embassy and Intel in partnership with the DCU Ryan Academy October 14-16, 2016.  During the 48-hour hackathon, teams comprising of 100 young innovators ages 18-25 representing more than 14 different countries (including Ireland, the United Kingdom and United States) competed to develop ground-breaking solutions to promote refugee inclusion, integration, and self-reliance.

Over the next three months, the winning teams will work with the DCU Ryan Academy and the recently-launched Ireland chapter of Techfugees to bring their prototypes to life, drawing on the €15,000 prize fund.  The winning projects were:

  • Health Path (@HealthPathIRL), a digital health platform to assist refugees to access health services in their native languages and integrate into the local healthcare system, led by Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) student and Washington Ireland Program (WIP) alumna Valerie O’Brien;
  • Isle of Hope (@IsleOfHopeIRL), a program to promote inclusiveness by matching refugee and local families to build friendships and support systems, led by University College Dublin (UCD) graduate student Mark Duffy; and
  • Líonra (@LionraHq), a peer-to-peer platform that facilities refugee integration through skills exchange and knowledge sharing, led by Institute of Technology (IT) Carlow student Sinéad Ní Bhrolcháin.

Three other hacks that earned honorable mentions:

  • Most Disruptive: Identify Refugee (@IDentifyRefugee), a concept to use Blockchain digital identification to help refugees establish and verify their identify with service providers and host countries;
  • Beat Team Dynamic: Future Roots (@futurerootsIE), a project to improve nutrition of refugees and promote integration of refugees into the local community through greenhouse-based agricultural projects at direct provision centers; and
  • Best Pitch: Soul Roots (@SoulRoots_IE), a social enterprise that promotes community and empathy between refugees and host populations through food trucks.

U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley hosted the hackathon kickoff event at his Phoenix Park residence where UNICEF Ireland Youth Ambassadors Minahil Sarfraz and Natasha Maimba inspired hackathon participants by sharing their first-hand experiences in Ireland’s direct provision system and their remarkable achievements since receiving permanent status in Ireland, such as speaking before the 2016 UN General Assembly.  Daranee Petsod, President of San Francisco-based NGO Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) joined the event to share a U.S. perspective on refugee integration and serve as a hackathon mentor and judge.

The teams—supported by more than 20 mentors from a variety of companies, leading Irish startups, social enterprises, NGOs and agencies including Startup Grind, the Irish Refugee Council, Bank of Ireland and Enterprise Ireland—worked throughout the weekend to create solutions to social problems using entrepreneurial and business practices.  Nubi Kay, entrepreneur and Business Analyst at Accenture Ireland originally from Nigeria, served as the hackathon facilitator.

The judging panel consisted of Eoghan Stack, CEO of the DCU Ryan Academy; Lye Ogunsanya, Head of the recently-launched Ireland chapter of Techfugees and Co-Founder of #HouseofAkina Social Enterprise; Deirdre Mortell, CEO of Social Innovation Fund-Ireland; Daranee Petsod, President of GCIR; and Aleisha Woodward, Director of Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin.

Eoghan Stack, CEO of DCU Ryan Academy, said: “I really would like to congratulate all the delegates who took part in this event – they came full of enthusiasm, armed with superb ideas, and worked as teams around the clock to deliver impressive pitches.  Many of these teams have developed prototypes that can now be implemented and the DCU Ryan Academy will support all of the teams who wish to take their concept to the next stage.”

Lye Ogunsanya, Head of the Ireland chapter of Techfugees, said:

“This hackathon has kick-started the launch of the Ireland chapter of Techfugees, a coalition of volunteers who are coordinating the tech industry response to the needs of refugees.  We look forward to partnering with the DCU Ryan Academy to help incubate the hackathon’s winning solutions into viable platforms for refugee inclusion, while leveraging the global Techfugee network.”

Aleisha Woodward, Director of Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy, said:

“Across the globe, more than 21 million people have fled their homes and crossed international borders in search of safety.  More than 4.8 million have been forced to flee Syria alone.  They have all experienced loss and face uncertain futures, and they look to the rest of the world for support.  By tapping into the creativity of young people, this hackathon developed several innovative solutions to promote refugee inclusion, integration, and self-reliance as they build new lives in our communities.”

Learn more about the hackathon at:

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