Keiko Odashiro
Community Services Officer
Duty Station: Bunj, South Sudan

During my fellowship year, I aspire to design and develop approaches and models that help build capacity and creative confidence of refugees in solving various life and community challenges.

Under the 2014-2015 Innovation Fellowship program I have designed two innovation projects, U-Spark Hub and the Hands Project. Both projects were developed together with refugee and host community youth in Uganda by applying participatory design approach. U-Spark Hub is a project that enhances social innovation and entrepreneurship among youth in Uganda by using the power of media and information technology. It is a youth-led and focused project and aims to create platforms where youth can share learnings, build knowledge and skills and be connected to peers, mentors and donors.

Both refugee and host community youth in Uganda struggle with finding viable employment to help themselves and support their family members. Majority of the youth in the country face barriers in accessing formal and informal education opportunities and are unemployed due to available employment opportunities.

Despite the odds they encounter, many youth venture into small scale social enterprises to solve challenges they face at individual, family and community level. U-Spark Hub supports turning their dreams and aspirations into real innovation projects and enterprises through peer support and business incubation training, and connecting them with potential mentors and donors. The Hands Project aims to rebuild creative confidence of refugees. In most humanitarian and development context, beneficiaries are given out “hand out” solutions to their challenges.

This approach diminishes the potential of the very people we are delivering for in crafting and designing their own solutions to life and community challenges.

The project intends to design a training that will equip refugees with skills, knowledge and confidence to enable them to design and develop solutions to any life and community challenges.