Innovation Program channels tech to find real-life solutions for refugees

Jordan Innovation Program
VentureX, a Jordanian firm specializing in launching accelerators for innovative ideas across the region, established the Jordan Innovation Program earlier this year. (Photo: Handout from the Jordan Innovation Program)
AMMAN — With the goal of supporting refugee populations, VentureX, a Jordanian firm specializing in launching accelerators for innovative ideas across the region, established the Jordan Innovation Program earlier this year.اضافة اعلان

They did so in partnership with Finnish company Ultrahack, and supporting partners including Business Finland and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Finland.

The program’s main objective is to connect Finnish tech-companies with local partners (called challenge partners) to tackle major issues facing refugee populations and vulnerable communities in Jordan, with a specific focus on empowering female refugees.

“The challenge partners are experts in the domains we are addressing ¬— health, education, energy and sanitation — plus those who interact with refugees and know what their main challenges are,” VentureX Entrepreneurial Development at Outreach Manager Mira Samman said in an interview with Jordan News.

After identifying the major challenges facing refugees, in addition to issues preventing the organizations from supporting these refugees, they collaborate with the Finnish companies to find solutions, Samman said.

“The Finnish companies have existing solutions, they know the challenges and the domains, then they tailor their solution as per the challenge defined by the partner,” Samman explained.

Through a series of webinars and workshops, the outreach cycle began. “We did an awareness webinar where we worked with Ultrahack and our partners to identify challenges,” Samman said. “Then there was an exploration workshop where the matchmaking occurred between the challenge partners and the businesses given the domain they work in.”

During the exploration workshop, which took place late March, a total of 12 challenges were presented by five different challenge partners, and around 40 Finnish companies attended to discuss their solutions.

Among the partners involved in the Jordan Innovation Program are the Wadi Araba Development Company (WADC), the World Refugee Schools (WRS), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the UNFPA, the UNDP, and most recently, Luminus Education.

Education challenges identified by the WRS, for example, included integrating refugee children to host education systems and providing access to online Finnish education, considered to be among the best in the world, for refugees.

“Our main focus is providing solutions to solve education problems for refugees,” WRS Director of Partnership Development Zaid Tahabsem told Jordan News. “One of the things we are looking at is developing our AI engine to make sure we can easily convert curricula from one educational system to the other.”

Through their participation in the Jordan Innovation Program, the WRS was able to connect with Finnish companies and develop partnerships. They decided to work with a group of these entities in order to reach the most comprehensive solutions, explained Tahabsem.

“Bringing in a different perspective helps you look at the situation in a new way, which was what happened with this program,” Tahabsem said. “At the same time, we got extra resources that believe in our vision and will bring us closer to achieving our goals over a shorter period of time.”

Currently, the Jordan Innovation Program is working on planning and implementing these projects, explained Samman. “Anyone in contact with refugees would benefit from this project — it would create added value for them,” she said.

The innovative solutions they are working with range from cost-saving initiatives to ways organizations can use technology to expand their reach.

“I would highly recommend companies in the region to explore such programs because in our area of work, it is all about scalability, culture of diversity and bringing people together,” Tahabsem said.

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