by Andy Mayer
Posted on 08 February 2016
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Thanks to everyone who attended the Sheffield hackathon for refugees this weekend. We were overwhelmed by the turnout, enthusiasm and commitment from those who sacrificed a good part of their weekend to join us.

More than 25 people turned out on Friday evening and Saturday. We were fortunate to have some very experienced professionals from the local tech scene attend. We're also grateful to those who came from Sheffield City Council, local voluntary and community organisations who were able to bring the ideas to life.

We split into two project teams, both supported by the following experts:

Jan Thompson (ex Northern Refugee Centre)
Jean Gladwin (Public health specialist)
Nesar Miah (Sheffield City Council)
Tina Ball (City of Sanctuary)
Paul Harvey (Voluntary Action Sheffield)

The mapping team

The first team started to tackle a mobile-first, map-centric website (dubbed 'mapfugee') for asylum seekers to use when they arrive in Sheffield. It'll help them locate useful places around the city – from Post Offices and health centres to places of worship, even helping them to find their way 'home' in Sheffield (harder than you think when you've just arrived in a strange city in a strange country), using an easy-to-understand interface.

This team was started by:

Simon Redding
Paul Robinson
Ian Rufus
J-P Stacey
Sam Wakeling

The asylum journey team

The other team started tackling a project which will become a website aimed at the public and third sector bodies which work with asylum seekers. It will plot the services asylum seekers need to access at all stages of their stay, up to and past the point where they are approved or denied refugee status.

The team started by taking the existing 'asylum journey' data from a large, unwieldy Word document created by local organisations over a period of 12 months plus, and used it to populate a much more flexible Trello board. They also started building a website which will take this data from Trello and enrich it with additional fields and interface options.

This team was started by:

Amy Benson
Clara Jordan
Richard Miller
Jonny Rippon
Mohamed Said
Martin Smith
Dan Sumption


The group suggested we call our effort 'Sheffugees' as a convenient label for Sheffield's tech community responding to the needs of local refugee organisations. We also set up a Google email group so voluntary and community organisations can ask for help from the Sheffugees' tech helpers. We even have a website where you can find out more information!

Reflections on the weekend

Dan Sumption, wrote a great blog post about his experiences of the hackathon. Here's an extract from what he had to say:

We started off on Friday evening with a couple of hours' round-table discussion of approximately 10 potential projects, all of which had been suggested by public sector and third sector organisations working with asylum seekers and refugees. Some of the people from these organisations were present to explain the projects in more detail, and it was great working throughout the weekend with people from Sheffield Council and local volunteers, who brought a huge amount of insight and domain knowledge which complemented the technical skills the rest of us brought to the table.

By 4:30pm Saturday when we downed tools, we did not have a great deal of website to show for our work, but we had achieved a lot in terms of planning, designing and putting in place the project tools which would allow us all to disperse and continue work remotely.

Next steps

We agreed to organise a second follow up hackathon on 8th and 9th April 2016.

If you want to find out more about how this initiative came about, then check out my blog post from last year. And if you want to take part in future events, then be sure to join the Google group.

2017: Update

I'm delighted to say that the Asylum Journey tool is now live at and continues to be supported the team of volunteers and used by many organisations across Sheffield. Also I wrote another blog post about lessons learned from the hackday approach.

Posted on 08 February 2016 - By Andy Mayer
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