Refugee crisis: Sheffield hackathon

by Andy Mayer
Posted on 11 September 2015
read time:

Sheffield for Humanity is a recently formed group of local people pooling their resources of time, knowledge and skills to help those directly or indirectly affected by the current European refugee crisis.

The group has asked me to look into the possibility of arranging a Sheffield hackathon to see how we could help with the crisis through developing open source apps and websites.

Ideas so far

So far, the following ideas for digital projects have been suggested and will be investigated and evaluated:

  • Create a booklet to help those welcoming refugees feel confident, including basic helpful hints and tips – saying hello in different languages, traditional drink and snack, culture, fun facts – all the human stuff!
  • Devise a Buddy and Buddy matching system for local refugees to connect with local people wanting to help
  • Public Pledge Bank and matching system for things like offering a room for a weekend, come round for dinner, take out for coffee, help with filling in forms etc
  • Communication and awareness campaign: explain the troubles and why people have fled particular countries, using existing online content and expert sourced content curated by the group
  • Tell the story of real people, both refugees and Sheffielders helped and Sheffielders who help, with a positive emphasis on the difference it's made.


At this point, it's worth mentioning another Sheffield project, Project Paddington, I know has inspired a lot of the people involved with Sheffield for Humanity.

Project Paddington was recently launched by a group of Sheffield mothers to give teddy bears to refugee children and has attracted thousands of supporters. The project was set up a couple of weeks ago by Joy French, of Norfolk Park, after she saw the images of Aylan Kurdi's body washed up on a Turkish beach.

The basic idea behind Project Paddington is for British children to give their teddies, with welcome messages attached, to those who've fled the war in Syria and have left all their possessions behind them. More than 4,000 people have already joined the Facebook group, with many more pledging to take part.

A Sheffield hackathon

There's a massive amount of digital talent in Sheffield and I'm convinced that smart minds working together to utilise the power of the internet could significantly help reduce some of the chaos around the current refugee crisis.

At this stage I have no idea where or when the hackathon will happen. I'm just putting the idea out there to see if anybody in Sheffield wants to get involved. What I'm hoping is that the local tech community can develop something open source, along the lines of the ideas above, that can also be shared with other cities.

Next steps

The first stage is for me to look for people from the Sheffield tech community who are interested in volunteering their time and skills to build an open source solution together to pilot in Sheffield.

We also need to connect with organisations in Sheffield which are already engaged with refugees so that they can help us identify the right problems to address with a technology solution.

Once I've got handle on this, we'll arrange some dates to get together and start hacking solutions!

Sign up

If you are interested in getting involved then please register your details and we'll endeavour to get back to you. Also, if you want to show your public support, or ask any questions then please post in the comments below.

Which date?

Tell us which date you can get involved by following this link.

UPDATE 24/9/15

Thanks to everyone that has signed up so far. We've got 13 people signed up, and they are mostly software developers. I am in the process of trying to reach out to organisations in Sheffield that work with refugees, so that we can make sure their requirements are considered first. I am thinking that we start by running an ideation workshop with the organisations before getting together the software developers.

UDPATE 1/10/15

I attended a similar hackathon event in London called Techfugees, to see what they are doing, collaborate and bring inspiration back to Sheffield. I wrote another blog post about it.

UPDATE 15/1/16

Happy New Year! It looks like evening of Friday 5th Feb and Saturday/Sunday is the best date for the Sheffield Refugee Hackathon. I will send out details to all those who have signed up so far.

Posted on 11 September 2015 - By Andy Mayer
Share this post
blog comments powered by Disqus