Goalify, an app to create a “progress bar”, to link refugees and their case workers in their work to integrate refugees into the community, won Australia’s first refugee hackathon over the weekend.
The hackathon began with former refugees standing up and telling their stories, defining problems and gaps based on their experiences. From there, groups were formed to tackle the issues and create solutions.
Goalify coalesced around a refugee named Simon, who has been in the country for only a few months and “didn’t know how to progress or whether or not he was progressing”.
“What he really wanted was some way to see ‘this is what you do when you get here and this is how you get to the next step’,” team member Alice Brennan said.
Basically, Simon wanted to create a list of things he needed to do – open a bank account, register with Medicare etc. – and he wanted a way for both him and his case worker to track his progress. But the platform also needed to be flexible, to account for all the variances in experience.
“Every refugee that comes to Australia has such individual resources and needs and wants to go in a completely different direction. So a one-size fits all solution doesn’t really work,” Brennan said.
“So how do you give someone the resources to build whatever life they want to build?”
The hackathon saw more than a hundred people gathered in the Liverpool Library in Western Sydney. About 30% of participants were from the startup sector, with the rest comprising a mixture of former refugees, designers, data scientists and marketers.
The refugees were proof of the mixed background Brennan was talking about, some with engineering degrees and arts degrees. Some had been through trauma, and all of these different situations needed to be accounted for.
The wide variety of needs was on show with the range of concepts that came out of the weekend, ranging linking refugees to businesses through to sharing food experiences.
Now, the question is how to get the ideas going. Liverpool mayor Ned Mannoun has backed the app to link refugees to local businesses, making it an app that could be monetised and run as a social enterprise – businesses could pay to be featured. Most of the ideas, however, would need some kind of sponsor or government backing.
Organisers hope the Immigration Department is one potential source of support, after it sent representatives to the event.
“They approached us and we invited them as observers on the second day. So they came to see what came out of it, and they were blown away,” organiser Anne Marie Elias said.
“They are now thinking, ‘This is the sort of stuff Immigration should be investing in’.”
For winning the hackathon, Goalify received $10,000 to develop their service. But are now exploring alternative ways to keep the service running. So far the best idea they have come up with is to cross-subsidise by expanding the service to groups who can pay, such as new migrants and international students.
Brennan, for example, moved to Australia only recently and would have liked a service to help her become established.
“No one was explaining to me the process of getting my Medicare card or anything,” she said.
“So, there a lot of groups that have similar needs to refugees who need a bit more resources and would be interested.”
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