HOST NZ was very pleased to be founding partner for the inaugural Techfugees NZ Hackathon which ran in Wellington on 25-26 May 2019.

It was the first time tech solutions have been introduced in New Zealand to start tackling the challenges that new Kiwis experience during their resettlement in Wellington.

Techfugees NZ is part of the global Techfugees network which has 20 chapters and a 35,000 strong network around the world all coming together to empower the displaced and former refugees with technology.

We started the weekend with local community partner ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum, sharing three core problems that their community members have identified as making it difficult for them to settle here. These were inadequate housing, difficulty in gaining meaningful employment, and problems accessing culturally specific mental health support.

Participants then worked in teams to decide which problem their team wanted to focus on finding a tech solution for over the weekend.

The next two days saw the teams working hard, with support from mentors to design and deliver their creative ideas.

The first team, Team by Default, tackled the issue of scattered refugee resources and lack of a single place to find them. They spent time creating a website prototype which focussed on multilingual resources and a community-driven platform. One of the highlights for them was building web pages in Burmese to test out how the platform would work in multiple languages.

Team Bridge was the second team. They proposed a website to assist refugees and migrants whose overseas qualifications are not recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Their goal was to help guide people on the possible paths they could take to get their qualifications recognised or upgraded.

The third team, Ref ‘n’ Tech, wanted to create videos to challenge employers’ perceptions and unconscious bias when considering refugee-background job seekers. They produced a sample animation to demonstrate how it could work.

At the end of the weekend, three judges – Sendirella George, Troy Hammond and Michael ‘Koz’ Koziarski – listened to the team pitches. The judges took time to consider the potential viability of the solutions and selected Team by Default as the winner.

HOST NZ was delighted to see so much enthusiasm in the room from the participants, mentors, judges and wranglers to create real solutions to improve resettlement in New Zealand. The Techfugees’ focus of innovative tech solutions sits well alongside our HOST NZ values around innovation.

Our HOST NZ CE, Rochelle Stewart-Allen, is also chapter co-lead of Techfugees NZ which provides a good synergy across both organisations. Rochelle is now working hard to find ongoing support for the three developed solutions so they can become viable products. We’ll keep you posted as progress happens.

One of the participants summed up their experience of the hackathon like this – “FANTASTIC! It opened my eyes to many problems, it made me appreciate the benefits of accepting refugees and helping them achieve their full potential.” We’d say that was a weekend well spent.

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