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Uniting Refugees in an Unconventional Way: Lessons Learned - Forbes


Stashed in: Risk!, Stories, Bill Gates, Restore your faith in humanity., The World, Philanthropy!, @gladwell, Refugees United

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It's risky business - as it should be....

I'm impressed with how well this is written:

It is common knowledge in the private sector that to foster success you experience a lot of failures. Bill Gates said it. Malcolm Gladwell said it. Sometimes you invest hundreds of millions of dollars (if not billions!) in failures to find the right solution. You must practice thousands of hours before you succeed.

Yet, in the aid industry – an industry we joined when we started Refugees United – risk aversion seems to be prevalent. This blocks innovation and results.

Five years ago, all we had was an idea: we wanted to create the world’s first mobile family-tracing platform for refugees displaced by war, disaster and political repression.  We wanted to convey a message to poor and illiterate families in despair: searching for family? We’ve got your back.

We also wanted the platform to be accessible from low-cost mobile devices so that refugees anywhere in the world would be able to search for long lost family. On top of that, we wanted to offer this platform to organizations in refugee camps and urban areas for them to collect data on separated families – as opposed to keeping track of separated families via pen and paper.

With more than 43 million forcibly displaced people in the world and humanitarian crises unfolding in numerous hotspots, we felt a sense of urgency and set a goal: by the end of 2015, we would help one million refugees search for missing family through our platform.

Since then, Refugees United has grown into a global organization supported by Bill Clinton, the Omidyar Network, Ericsson, IKEA Foundation, SAP, Ketchum PR, FedEx, MTN, Vodafone, Safaricom and others.

It really makes me feel good to hear your story!

Thanks Adam - sharing is caring:) C&D

Plus it reminds me of the power of a great story!

I love that your mission is so important that you had to invent a new type of organization:

Rejected by the establishment, we laid out the strings of a strategy – we’d seek the help of the private sector to build a new kind of organization, with the strategic focus, measurement and execution of the corporate world mixed with the dedication of a non-profit.

It's really hard to know what data you'll need when you start. It's best to figure it out as you go.

One of our earliest mistakes was not capturing enough data, both about our users and about how our partners performed. We’ve come to believe that the true revolution of mobile technology in the world of aid may not be the communication trails it blazes, but the data it leaves in its wake. As we begin to see mobiles become an integral part of the day-to-day work of organizations, used for data collection, dissemination and so on, people are realizing that by tracking and analyzing efforts in all thinkable ways, a deeper understanding of what works, and what doesn’t, is possible. Understanding this evolution enables us to build on our victories, however small they may be.

Agreed - but we should still have had more focus on data back when we started out....

The key challenge is there are so many different types of data to collect.

It's hard to know what you really need until you're actually in the middle of it.

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