Our 2023 projects
Through four Innovation Funds, UNHCR’s Innovation Service supports projects that creatively solve complex challenges facing displaced communities around the world. The projects endorsed in 2022 and being implementated through 2023 are helping shape a humanitarian response fit for the future.
Refugee-led Innovation Fund
UNIDOS Social Innovation Center — Uganda
Challenge: Farmers in Uganda’s Nakivale refugee settlement are struggling with low yields due to infertile and eroded soil. Many farmers continue to use environmentally harmful techniques that exacerbate the problem, threatening the ecosystem and their livelihoods.
Solution: UNIDOS will adopt a systemic approach that prioritises complementary ecological and socioeconomic interventions to enhance regenerative agriculture practices in and around Nakivale. The team proposes vermicompost as an entry point to promote better practices.
Expected results: 1,080 individuals from the settlement and host community will be trained in regenerative farming techniques, with 30 farmers trained to produce, sell, and distribute vermicompost. More sustainable livelihoods, healthier food, enhanced soil quality.
Association Gouna-Thieré — Mali
Challenge: The arrival of forcibly displaced populations had resulted in waste-management issues and expanded landfills, creating severe sanitation issues in the city of Timbuktu.
Solution: Association Gouna-Thieré will work to clean up the living environment of displaced people with a community-based, cash-for-work programme to collect plastic waste and recycle it into artwork and paving stones.
Expected results: 250 people, including 150 forcibly displaced women, benefit from improved livelihood opportunities as waste collectors and art /paving stones makers, with 250 tonnes of plastic waste recycled into beautiful and useful materials.
Redeeming Hope for the Disabled — South Africa
Challenge: People with disabilities face stereotyping and discrimination, increasing their vulnerability. For migrants and refugees with disabilities in South Africa, this is compounded by xenophobia and a lack of proper documentation.
Solution: Redeeming Hope for the Disabled will create a Life Skills Empowerment Centre, where people living with disabilities will be trained to provide repair services, including for cell phones, computers, wheelchairs, and other assistive technologies.
Expected results: Persons with disabilities will become trusted solution-providers for the repair of technology, and the Centre will become a unifying platform to coordinate the efforts of various organizations assisting displaced people living with disabilities in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Pabėgėlių Taryba (Refugee Council of Lithuania) — Lithuania
Challenge: Lithuania has a rich ecosystem of startups, but refugees are mostly excluded from this ecosystem since entrepreneurship initiatives do not address their specific needs. This prevents refugee entrepreneurs from starting/sustaining enterprises, hindering socioeconomic integration.
Solution: Pabėgėlių Taryba will facilitate market-driven skills acquisition, entrepreneurial development, and innovative partnerships through the Talent Together initiative, which is embedded into existing networks and initiatives at the local and regional level.
Expected results: 8–15 refugee-led startups will be supported to develop and strengthen entrepreneurial skills and to integrate into the ecosystem. Increased availability of robust data on refugee entrepreneurs, and improved pathways for socioeconomic integration.
Global Girl Media — Greece
Challenge: Many refugee women and girls living in Greece are exposed to gender-based violence (GBV), exploitation, and abuse. There’s a lack of services to support these women and online media often contributes to the problem, rather than productively countering it.
Solution: All-female collective Global Girl Media presents AGAPE Athens, a mixed-media awareness-raising campaign, produced by young women from the displaced and host communities, that harnesses the power of social media to change the narrative on GBV.
Expected results: 75 young women will gain awareness of media impacts on gender equality as well as the skills they need to become bold content creatives, producing up to 360 pieces of multimedia content. Plus, up to 75 boys are sensitised through participation in some workshops.
Kyete Biingi Tai Nyeme (KBTN) — Uganda
Challenge: The Nakivale refugee settlement has inadequate land to support farming and food production to sustain the population, while environmentally damaging farming techniques and limited capital to purchase tools, equipment and seeds create further challenges.
Solution: KBTN will establish a seed bank and exchange system, set up community gardens and communal access to equipment, provide training on effective land use, and introduce a management structure whereby farmer-led committees lead implementation and monitoring.
Expected results: 2,400 farmers directly benefit from the programme across 24 Nakivale villages. Seeds and trees are distributed to 600 farmers each season. Each participating village has a community garden established, and receives hoes, watering cans, and a water pump.
Women for Action — Malawi
Challenge: Dzaleka refugee camp is home to more than 57,000 people who depend on limited food aid. Movement restrictions limit livelihood opportunities, while poor conditions result in low crop yields and food insecurity. Some women and girls turn to negative coping mechanisms.
Solution: Women for Action will implement an aquaponics project in the camp to increase food security and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for women, with training in system installation and maintenance, as well as business management and marketing.
Expected results: 100 women receive capacity-building and training, gaining access to income-generating activities. Aquaponics, with its relatively minor land/environmental footprint, is integrated into refugee livelihoods and food systems, improving food security for 1,000 people.
Espero — France
Challenge: Refugees face barriers to social and economic integration in France, with their career trajectories characterised by jobs with low qualifications, low wages, and precarious conditions. Many refugees have sewing skills, but face challenges accessing the prestigious textile industry.
Solution: Espero will implement a project using haute couture upcycling as a formal integration pathway. Vocational workshops on design and sewing techniques will be complemented by networking opportunities and socioeconomic support to access housing and French classes.
Expected results: 20 refugees gain marketable skills and are supported to sell their products, boosting their socioeconomic integration. The project will also change the narrative around refugees, combating prejudice and raising awareness about displacement issues.
Associação de Comunidade de Afegãos em Portugal (ACAP) — Portugal
Challenge: Since August 2021, displaced Afghan women have steadily been arriving in Portugal with their families, and many of them face challenges finding employment.
Solution: ACAP aims to link the rich textile-manufacturing heritage of Afghanistan and Portugal, to support socioeconomic integration. Market-driven skills acquisition, innovative partnerships, and the promotion of Afghan textile techniques will support refugee women to become self-reliant.
Expected results: 10 Afghan women will be trained, connected to Portuguese fashion designers and textile manufacturers, and supported to start their own businesses. 850 members of the Afghan refugee community in Portugal will indirectly benefit.
Unione Italiana Apolidi — Italy
Challenge: Statelessness is poorly understood by the Italian public and academia, resulting in discriminatory policies and behaviours. This prevents stateless people from enjoying their rights, and is compounded by inadequate research and data on statelessness in Italy.
Solution: Unione Italiana Apolidi will equip stateless people with enhanced advocacy skills to change the narrative on this issue, as well as partnering with Italian universities to organise seminars and essay competitions about statelessness in order to promote timely research and data on statelessness in the country.
Expected results: 4 stateless individuals will initially receive advocacy training – with others identified in due course – and 300 students across 6 universities will participate in research and essay competitions, resulting in greater visibility and understanding of statelessness.
Education for Peace — Sudan
Challenge: Displaced young people in Sudan lack outlets for positive and creative expression and access to educational and therapeutic services. This results in feelings of despair, mental health disorders, and violence between displacement camp residents and host communities.
Solution: Education for Peace will facilitate drama workshops to help youth address conflicts, accept difference, and develop a sense of belonging, while a documentary will be produced to raise awareness of refugee talent. A complementary teacher-training program to improve the quality of education in the camps will be provided for refugee teachers.
Expected results: 500 young people benefit from drama workshops, while 360 refugee teachers will receive teacher training to improve the quality of education offered to youth. Displaced youth organise a month-long drama festival, with the participation of host communities, showcasing the peacebuilding potential of drama and education.
SAMA for All — France
Challenge: Refugees in France lack professional, social, and cultural integration opportunities. Inability to access art and culture stymies their integration process, while a lack of access to employment opportunities is a major barrier to achieving self-reliance and economic integration.
Solution: Sama for All will provide tailored, immersive professional training in art and museums professions in partnership with French museums and cultural centres (such as Paris’s Cité des Sciences et de l’industrie and Musee d’Orsay) and with the support of the Ministry of Culture.
Expected results: Up to 25 refugees will receive 10 months of training, with at least 30% of them securing work in the cultural sector following the programme. All participants will feel an enhanced sense of belonging and social inclusion, and intercultural dialogue will be facilitated.
Tertiary Refugee Student Network (TRSN) — Rwanda
Challenge: Only 6% of displaced youth worldwide enter higher education, despite demand being extremely high, with thousands of applications submitted each year. This is in part due to a lack of access to information about work and study opportunities as well as limited support.
Solution: TRSN will provide capacity building and advocacy opportunities to refugee students, with a refugee-led advisory network established to provide customised one-on-one support, guidance, and counselling by trained refugee experts to prospective students.
Expected results: Within the 12-month funding period, up to 700 refugee students across two locations will receive guidance on higher education opportunities, possible education pathways, job placements, and remote work opportunities, boosting resilience and livelihood opportunities.
Coopérative Agropastorale Maboko — Democratic Republic of Congo
Challenge: Forcibly displaced people living in the DRC’s Mole refugee camp are affected by severe food insecurity and malnutrition, with the host community also suffering from these issues. This often drives intercommunal conflict.
Solution: Coopérative Agropastorale Maboko will implement a project to create 30 additional fishponds, using water from plentiful mangrove springs, to increase yields, diversify diets, and reduce food insecurity. Waste from guinea-pig and rabbit breeding will be used to feed the fish.
Expected results: 265 households benefit directly from increased income and improved food security, while 800 people in surrounding towns benefit from newly available fish products. The project will contribute to peaceful cohabitation and boost self-sufficiency.
People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression, and Poverty (PASSOP) — South Africa
Challenge: LGBTQI+ refugees come to South Africa in pursuit of freedom from discrimination. Instead, they are too often met with homophobia and xenophobia, which is in part driven by fear stemming from a lack of knowledge about this community.
Solution: PASSOP will launch a series of initiatives to facilitate sustained, positive contact among LGBTQI+ refugees and host community members and leaders. Through safe community gatherings and education initiatives, South Africans will have the opportunity to meet LGBTQI+ refugees, hear their stories, understand their rights, and develop empathy with them.
Expected results: More than 200 LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers living in Cape Town and the surrounding areas will benefit from the project, which will tackle prejudice and discrimination, and support enhanced social integration and wellbeing.
Solidarity of Refugee Women for the Social Welfare (SOFERES) — Malawi
Challenge: Many residents of Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi – including 26% of camp residents under five years of age – suffer from chronic malnutrition, due to food security challenges and a lack of livelihood opportunities.
Solution: SOFERES will train refugees and host community members on farming techniques and financial literacy, as well as providing agricultural inputs and seed funding. 20 farming cooperatives will be established to improve competitiveness and market-access.
Expected results: 200 people, mostly women, from the refugee and host community will benefit from capacity-building, improved livelihood opportunities, and greater market access. Camp residents will experience enhanced food security, with improved health outcomes.
Hope Health Action East Africa (HHA EA) — Uganda
Challenge: An increasing number of refugee families are returning from Uganda to South Sudan’s Kajo-Keji, but Kajo-Keji lacks infrastructure and services for returnees – which has particular health implications for women as well as people with disabilities or chronic illness.
Solution: HHA EA aims to improve outcomes for returnees by establishing a new outpatient health centre to meet some immediate needs and to function as a hub and referral platform for other health services (such as those provided by CRADLE and UNHCR’s public health teams).
Expected results: The clinic will initially serve up to 500 patients per month, with CRADLE providing coverage for around 17,300 women of child-bearing age. Around 2,300 households with a person with a disability will be supported by community-based rehabilitation services.
Environment and Climate Action Innovation Fund
E-waste management and recycling — Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Challenge: Solar appliances and devices have been distributed or established across refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar to meet energy and protection needs, but limited skills, maintenance issues, and sometimes quality-control limitations impact the equipment’s lifespan, creating e-waste.
Solution: UNHCR is developing a system for e-waste collection, value-chain analysis, recycling, and repurposing, by developing refugee skills to refurbish appliances and other products, and assessing a take-back scheme for recycling and potentially refurbishing solar appliances.
Expected results: Improved waste management to reduce negative environmental impact, creation of livelihood opportunities, and extended equipment lifespans. More than 40,000 people are expected to benefit, directly or indirectly, from the programme.
Sustainable shelter solutions — Boa Vista, Brazil
Challenge: Low-income displaced families need alternative housing solutions that are environmentally sustainable and appropriate for the local climate and needs.
Solution: UNHCR and the Federal University of Roraima will test new construction techniques to build housing units with locally available, sustainable materials that can withstand local conditions and provide better protection for families.
Expected results: Fewer emergency shelters used, refugees and migrants in settlements close to the Venezuelan border learn sustainable construction techniques, environmentally friendly construction methods to improve transitional shelters identified.
Nature-based solutions for malaria prevention and environmental health — Palorinya refugee settlement, Uganda
Challenge: Palorinya refugee settlement is located in seasonal floodplains that become a breeding ground for mosquitoes in the rainy season – a situation aggravated by climate change and deforestation. Efforts to respond to the increased malaria risk have had limited success.
Solution: UNHCR will test the use of products derived from locally available resources, such as lemongrass and neem trees, as a natural mosquito repellent to boost malaria prevention efforts.
Expected results: Improved malaria prevention, environmental restoration and revegetation from planting of lemongrass and neem trees to reduce the impact of rains and flooding, livelihoods opportunities related to tree-care and repellent production. Nearly 35,000 households are expected to benefit from the initiative.
Environmental health and sustainable supplies — Tarapaca and Santiago, Chile
Challenge: Humanitarian items distributed to newly arrived refugees and displaced people can have high environmental impacts on host areas, fostering a negative image that refugees contribute to poor environmental health.
Solution: UNHCR will assess the supply chain, waste generation, and carbon footprint of activities supporting refugee arrivals to determine potential adjustments to supply activities that will integrate environmental considerations in procurement criteria.
Expected results: Solutions and opportunities to promote circular material use, consider end-of-life options for items provided to refugees, and inform a more sustainable response.
Sustainable agriculture and social cohesion — Medellin, Colombia
Challenge: Medellin’s periphery has seen an increase in settlements due to waves of displacement from armed conflict and arrival of Venezuelan refugees. The displaced face limited livelihood options and challenges integrating locally, resulting in neighbourhoods with environmental degradation and water pollution.
Solution: UNHCR will establish community hydroponic gardens and employ traditional cultivation methods to grow native organic vegetables for community use with the aim of building bridges between displaced communities for better inclusion and shared livelihoods.
Expected results: Improved environmental restoration through dialogue and cooperation, restored environmental health, potential livelihoods creation, and the promotion of environmental knowledge and social cohesion amongst the various refugees, IDPs, returnees and hosts.
Fog nets for improved water security — Lima, Peru
Challenge: Lima faces absolute water scarcity worsened by pollution, climate change and the depletion of water sources. Limited access to potable water and dependence on industries affected by water shortages threaten refugee health and livelihoods.
Solution: UNHCR will pilot the use of fog nets – atmospheric water harvesting units – at a household and family scale, training refugee families in their installation and use, to test their effectiveness at addressing water scarcity.
Expected results: A community-based method of installing and maintaining fog nets that improves water security and environmental health while providing livelihood opportunities. Around 150 people are expected to directly benefit from the pilot.
Closed-loop waste system for agriculture and livelihoods — Tongogara refugee settlement, Zimbabwe
Challenge: In displacement settings, ineffective waste management can create environmental issues that impact human and ecosystem health – but closed-loop energy systems can reduce negative impacts and make better use of waste to power other activities.
Solution: UNHCR will introduce a closed-loop system in the Tongogara refugee settlement that uses household waste as an input for livestock farming – and pig-farming waste as inputs for biogas production.
Expected results: Better waste management, improved environmental and human health, increased livelihoods opportunities, and more sustainable energy to power further livelihoods activities.
Carbon credits and sustainable shelter solutions — Burkina Faso and Somalia
Challenge: The thousands of people displaced in the Sahel every year – a number likely to increase due to climate change impacts – need housing, but affordable temporary shelters are made of inadequate materials, while more durable ones are costly and carbon intensive.
Solution: This cross-border collaboration will explore using traditional building techniques that are environmentally friendly and make use of local materials and skills. Adobe shelters using the Nubian vault technique have already been tested in Burkina Faso and will be piloted in Somalia.
Expected results: Establishing a technique for sustainable, context-appropriate housing will provide new shelter options and potentially open pathways to use carbon credit schemes as an innovative financing mechanism. Around 150 people are expected to directly benefit from this initiative.
Community-based environmental management — Tulcan, Esmeraldas, and Lago Agrio, Ecuador
Challenge: Increasing climate change impacts are compounding vulnerabilities in northern Ecuador, with high impact weather events leading to cycles of displacement for Ecuadorian communities as well as refugees and migrants from Venezuela and Colombia.
Solution: UNHCR will test a variety of mitigation and adaptation solutions based on traditional and Indigenous knowledge tailored to five distinct ecosystems in northern Ecuador.
Expected results: Enhanced environmental management, skills and knowledge-exchange systems developed, improved social and economic resilience. This initiative is projected to benefit 270 people, with up to 10,300 experiencing indirect benefits.
Fish farming for sustainable livelihoods — Nakivale and Rwamwanja refugee settlements, Uganda
Challenge: The ongoing arrival of forcibly displaced people in Uganda – with limited support available and rising food insecurity – is leading to environmental degradation, with wetland ecosystems exploited for livelihoods and agriculture.
Solution: UNHCR will introduce fish farming in swamps around the settlements to provide more sustainable livelihood opportunities, boost food security, and reduce destructive agricultural practices.
Expected results: Empowerment of local communities (particularly women and youth), provision of sustainable livelihoods and food sources, maintenance and regeneration of wetlands.
Digital Innovation Fund
Fixing digital devices to boost skills, reduce e-waste, and improve connectivity — Skopje, North Macedonia
Challenge: Refugees have limited access to digital devices due to cost barriers, while e-waste is a growing environmental concern. In addition, displaced communities face challenges gaining the skills they need to access technology-related livelihoods.
Solution: With the support of civil society initiative Doniraj Kompjuter, UN sister agencies, the private sector and local universities, UNHCR is training refugees and host communities to refurbish digital devices, which can then be provided free of charge to refugee and stateless communities, as well as other vulnerable people.
Expected results: Improved livelihood opportunities for community members, easier access to digital devices, enhanced connectivity and social inclusion, and reduced electronic waste. More than 20 individuals benefit directly from the programme, while more than 200 indirectly benefit.
Turning digital leisure into an empowerment tool — Skopje, North Macedonia
Challenge: Forcibly displaced people face social and economic inclusion challenges, with few opportunities to build large-scale communities or develop skills that could help them access work in creative digital industries.
Solution: UNHCR is exploring ways to organise a game jam (an event/digital space where developers build a game from scratch) co-designed with refugees, to elevate the voices of the displaced, build community, and provide opportunities for skill and livelihood development in the gaming space.
Expected results: The feasibility study will suggest ways to deliver an impactful, refugee-driven game jam, to empower the displaced to tell their stories, link game designers with creative industries, and foster empathy and understanding. The study will advance UNHCR’s knowledge of digital leisure and livelihoods and identify opportunities for engagement with the video-game and related industries.
E-commerce skills to support livelihoods — Boa Vista, Roraima, Brazil
Challenge: Indigenous people from the Warao, Taurepang, E’ñepá and Kamarakoto communities displaced from Venezuela produce handcrafted items to generate income, but these refugee artisans – mostly women – have difficulty selling their products due to the limited market and cost barriers to acquiring a physical space.
Solution: UNHCR together with Serviço Jesuíta a Migrantes e Refugiados will engage 20 existing and early-stage businesses led by displaced Indigenous people, providing training on using online marketplaces and managing digital risks.
Expected results: Increased livelihood opportunities in digital marketplaces with the scale-up of existing businesses of displaced Indigenous people, as well as the development of handbooks and methodologies to guide similar projects in other UNHCR operations. The initiative will indirectly benefit around 150 people.
Community connectivity and digital skills — Guayaquil, Ecuador
Challenge: In Guayaquil, limited connectivity and livelihood opportunities – in a context of increasing insecurity and violence – drives communities to negative coping mechanisms and prevents them accessing digital education, livelihood, and protection opportunities.
Solution: Using blockchain technology, UNHCR will facilitate a decentralised, innovative, low-cost, community-based internet service that can be managed by community members to facilitate access to digital livelihood opportunities. Nonprofit Girls in Tech has trained 30 young community members to strengthen their digital skills and familiarize themselves with this service.
Expected results: 150 people benefit from affordable, community-managed connectivity services, enhanced digital inclusion, skill-acquisition, and sustainable livelihoods, with a business model that could potentially be scaled up. A further 10,000 people indirectly benefit.
Online registry to boost employment opportunities — Lima, Peru
Challenge: Lack of familiarity with documentation for displaced Venezuelans in Peru, combined with inability to apply past work experience and technical training to Peru’s job market, prevents highly qualified individuals from accessing decent livelihood opportunities, resulting in low wages and often exploitative conditions.
Solution: In close collaboration with Union Venezolana and Talent Beyond Boundaries, UNHCR will create an online national registry to facilitate links with opportunities in the labour market for refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants. The registry will allow profile-matching with labour needs identified by employers.
Expected results: Increased opportunities for Venezuelans to access formal employment according to their profiles, skills, experience, and interests while easing the recruitment process for employers. More than 1,000 people benefit directly, and a further 4,500 benefit indirectly.
Digital skills mentorship to facilitate online livelihoods — Dzaleka refugee camp, Malawi
Challenge: Encampment policies for refugees and asylum-seekers in Malawi limit access to socioeconomic opportunities and exacerbate poverty. These issues are compounded in the Dzaleka settlement by the shortage of skilled workers in the community.
Solution: UNHCR is providing 50 community members with digital skills mentorship and onboarding onto digital labour platforms, as well as connectivity and laptops to facilitate freelance work online.
Expected results: Enhanced self-reliance and improved online livelihood opportunities, as well as economic and social inclusion (with project participants assisted to open bank accounts and secure identity cards). The project will indirectly impact 400 individuals.
Career counselling for greater access to work and education opportunities — Mahama, Nyabiheke, Kiziba, Kigeme, and Mugombwa refugee camps, Huye, and Kigali, Rwanda
Challenge: Limited access to computers, internet connectivity, digital skills, and information about existing opportunities prevents refugees, especially young people, from accessing online scholarships and jobs.
Solution: An online job and scholarship help desk run by digital careers counsellors, to help refugees navigate job boards and scholarship websites, and to develop and submit applications. 32 forcibly displaced people will be trained to serve as counsellors.
Expected results: Livelihoods opportunities for 32 community members trained as counsellors, as well as increased opportunities for other refugees with technical skills and/or academic backgrounds to secure jobs and scholarships. More than 6,000 people indirectly benefit.
Digital literacy and digital safety training — Jakarta and surrounding areas, Indonesia
Challenge: Low levels of digital literacy prevent refugees and asylum-seekers from accessing services, receiving relevant information, and using digital tools, particularly following the COVID-related shift to remote service provision.
Solution: UNHCR will co-create a digital literacy curriculum with refugee groups and explore ways to deliver digital literacy training through a community-based, refugee-led approach. The initiative will identify priority digital literacy needs to inform the design of the curriculum. A specific module has been developed on security and safety concerns, such as theft, fraud and cyber-bullying.
Expected results: Development of training materials, upskilling of a diverse group of 80 trainers, improved ability to access digital services, curriculum adopted by refugee-led learning centres for cascading impact. Up to 1,500 people indirectly benefit.
Digital protection from social media risks — Budapest, Hungary
Challenge: Numerous online groups and social media channels have been created to offer support to Ukrainian refugees, but limited safeguards coupled with widespread use has increased refugees’ exposure to risks when looking for support or work online.
Solution: UNHCR will strengthen or establish a community-based vetting system for suspicious or malicious posts and develop refugee and social media administrator’s skills to identify and report such posts.
Expected results: Refugees’ exposure to online risks reduced, increased community engagement around this issue. 50 people will directly benefit from the programme, with up to 50,000 indirectly affected.
Digital trainings to boost livelihood opportunities — Tunis, Tunisia
Challenge: Refugees in Tunisia face many barriers to accessing livelihood opportunities, due to a lack of documentation and marketable skills.
Solution: UNHCR will provide training on high-demand digital skills – such as web development and full stack development – to facilitate livelihood opportunities and increase prospects for complementary pathways in the tech sector.
Expected results: Refugees and their families will benefit from skills development and enhanced livelihood opportunities and self-reliance in Tunisia’s growing information and communications technology sector.
Data Innovation Fund
Global early warning system on forced displacement
Challenge: Currently, countries at high risk of humanitarian emergencies are identified jointly by UNHCR operations, regional bureaux and headquarters, but the agency lacks systematic, data-driven early warning systems on forced displacement that provide real-time alerts. We must boost UNHCR’s ability to forecast in order to build our capacity to act.
Solution: UNHCR’s Division of Emergency, Security and Supply will design a prototype data-driven early warning system combining different data sources, based on research of internal initiatives and external systems used by humanitarian agencies, academia and the private sector. The system will be piloted in several country operations.
Expected results: Improved anticipation of and response to complex emergencies, strengthened partnerships, and a role in data-driven anticipatory humanitarianism.
Monitoring hate speech with data-driven alert system
Challenge: The Research, Strategy and Analytics team of UNHCR’s Global Communications Service has developed a model that classifies hateful content in English targeting forcibly displaced people. This partial solution needs to be operationalized to systematize and automate data collection.
Solution: A user-friendly web application that tracks, visualizes and catalogues hateful social activities almost in real-time to facilitate analysis and alert key stakeholders via established communication channels when crises are identified.
Expected results: Improved hate speech detection and response within UNHCR in accordance with the organization’s data protection standards, allowing UNHCR and its humanitarian partners to better understand hateful activities online and prevent discrimination against displaced people.
Improved household surveys through semi-automated mapping
Challenge: A lack of appropriate sampling frames makes it hard for UNHCR to get reliable data on people forced to flee from household surveys.
Solution: Three of UNHCR’s Data and Identity Management Analysis (DIMA) units teamed up to design a semiautomated delineation for enumeration areas, using satellite imagery and employing Bayesian statistical modelling techniques to estimate target population size from secondary data sources.
Expected results: Readily available sampling frames leading to reliable household surveys for country operations, reducing the complexity and costs of carrying out survey activities and improving the resulting data.
Improved community-based protection monitoring with AI and data science — Afghanistan
Challenge: UNHCR Afghanistan gathers a vast amount of text-based qualitative data through community-based protection monitoring, but manually processing this information is time and energy intensive, resulting in lost opportunities to use this data to inform timely interventions.
Solution: Use AI-based software, particularly with natural language processing features to facilitate qualitative analysis of data gathered through community-based protection monitoring. This software would detect key words and phrases, categorise and translate them, and produce meaningful analysis.
Expected results: Effective and efficient data analysis, resulting in better use of data to inform effective protection interventions and timely responses to protection risks.
Using data to secure greater social integration — Kenya
Challenge: Refugees and asylum-seekers in Kenya have historically been excluded from national social protection systems. However, when displacement is protracted and national services are developing, humanitarian actors are expected to demonstrate why they’re not working with national systems.
Solution: Integrate refugees and asylum-seekers into Kenya’s national registry to enable local solutions and access to social services, better target assistance, and broaden stakeholder engagement to support displaced populations as well as host communities.
Expected results: Improved integration of refugees in a way that benefits displaced people and host communities, reduces response times, avoids duplication, supports local economies and livelihoods for refugees and asylum seekers.
Machine learning to boost digital education uptake and impact
Challenge: With shifts to digital learning, displaced communities are excluded from the benefits of these types of learning opportunities due to a lack of infrastructure, devices and know-how. UNHCR has worked to track and centralise digital learning resources but needs to more rapidly align content to relevant curricula, in partnership with Learning Equality.
Solution: UNHCR’s Global Education team will use machine learning and natural language processing to partially automate the curriculum alignment process, which will improve the relevance, adoption, and impact of digital learning resources. A competition is bringing together machine-learning practitioners to design new algorithms to support this effort, and the winning solutions will be made publicly available.
Expected results: Creative solutions governments and educators can leverage to more efficiently align digital resources, particularly during crises. Uninterrupted access to education is supported for displaced communities and others, with benefits for students, teachers, parents and communities.
Data-driven modelling for protection prioritisation — Guatemala
Challenge: UNHCR Guatemala lacks an evidence-based methodology to prioritise communities most in need of community-based protection, affecting its ability to reach and respond to the most vulnerable populations, who tend to be widely dispersed across different contexts.
Solution: The design and construction of an evidence-based community intervention prioritisation tool that allows for a more objective, systematic, and reproducible prioritisation approach. A participatory design methodology facilitates input from the people UNHCR serves, community leaders, local authorities, and experts.
Expected results: A customizable online tool that is easy to use in different contexts, settings, and operations and that will enable UNHCR to better understand the situation of communities. This will support the prioritisation and tailoring of interventions, improving outcomes for the most vulnerable communities.
Identifying informal shelter needs through creating an address system and mapping — Lebanon
Challenge: Over 222,000 refugees live across more than 3,500 informal tented settlements in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Standardised shelter criteria determine households’ eligibility for additional shelter kits, but the absence of a tent-level address system hinders this process.
Solution: An address system for informal tented settlements, using a code for each tent. Part of the code will be fixed, reflecting the tent’s location, and another part will change based on the physical condition of the tent, to better link household needs with assistance and services.
Expected results: This tent-level address system will enable UNHCR to monitor household location and conditions, enabling more efficient and accurate identification of needs and the required response, and supporting the health and safety of families in Bekaa.
Creating a joint data analysis framework with national authorities — Mexico
Challenge: Mexico lacks an integrated data analysis framework to support joint analysis and planning by actors engaging with displaced communities. This results in inefficient resource allocation, with duplications in certain settings while many displaced people face barriers accessing basic services.
Solution: The creation of a data analysis framework to collate, study, and interpret information from the national refugee commission, the national population registry, and UNHCR. This will generate information detailing the characteristics and displacement patterns of the affected population, and highlight cases of successful local integration.
Expected results: UNHCR will better understand the needs, capacities, motivations and interests of displaced people in Mexico – information that will help decision-making processes, reduce duplication, and enable better coordination to deliver effective interventions.
Enhanced due diligence and risk monitoring with private-sector partners through AI and natural language processing
Challenge: Due diligence requires that UNHCR thoroughly screen its private-sector partners and analyse potential reputational risks. The resulting labour-intensive screening reports are valid for a year, during which the donor monitoring work is more flexible and variable.
Solution: UNHCR’s BEYOND project team will use AI-based software with natural language processing (NLP) features to develop a tool that automatically feeds pertinent risk- and opportunity-related updates on partners to relevant teams, enabling ongoing risk-monitoring while facilitating strategic donor cultivation and partnership development.
Expected outcome: This tool will improve and support proactive risk monitoring and relationship work through automatic updates, as well as optimising and streamlining the research, identification, and documentation of controversies for the due diligence screening process.
Faster and easier diagnosis of malnutrition with photo-based app
Challenge: Eliminating malnutrition is integral to UNHCR’s protection mandate, but existing methods to accurately and effectively diagnose malnutrition can require skill, time, cumbersome equipment, and direct contact. This makes it hard to conduct screening at the community level.
Solution: The Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) Photo Diagnosis App® is an innovative tool that uses morphology to screen wasting among children. UNHCR’s public health teams propose using the app, provided by Action Against Hunger, to simplify community screening and diagnosis of acute malnutrition among refugees. It is the first time this app is deployed in refugee-contexts.
Expected results: Faster, easier, real-time, and systematic diagnoses of malnutrition, which can be carried out by community members, will enable more comprehensive screening and support better protection and health outcomes for displaced communities.
Evaluating livelihoods interventions and predicting needs through data science and machine learning — Peru
Challenge: Despite UNHCR’s recent efforts to mainstream data-driven analysis and decision-making, many data-driven projects are still siloed within specialist units, rather than being operationalised to inform field-based work. UNHCR technical units in the field also continue to collect large amounts of data that may never be analysed beyond a very basic level, if at all.
Solution: Using data science and machine learning techniques to pilot deeper analysis of data collected by humanitarian organization HIAS on the progress of displaced households included in a specific livelihoods intervention. Using machine learning, the team will sort cases according to performance, identifying trends and common characteristics.
Expected results: Data-driven prediction of which cases are most likely to need additional support from the start of livelihoods interventions will enable a more effective response and amplify successes within livelihood interventions.
Enhancing text analytics and capacity building of youth at risk — El Salvador
Challenge: UNHCR El Salvador collects semi-structured qualitative data from internally displaced people and community members at risk, which is analysed manually by the operation and partners. A more systematic analytical approach could improve the identification of overarching trends and patterns, which could strengthen existing advocacy efforts and community-based protection interventions.
Solution: Develop an analytical framework to support qualitative text data analysis that would provide additional insights. The project also involves community-based participatory aspects, with opportunities for at-risk youth in El Salvador to learn important data science skills.
Expected results: Better insight into overarching protection trends and drivers of protection risks, their effects on communities, and possible community-based solutions. This will facilitate advocacy efforts, support programmatic planning, and help shape effective solutions
Data science to inform cash-based assistance — Peru
Challenge: Cash assistance is an increasingly important part of UNHCR Peru’s support for people displaced from Venezuela. With growing needs and shrinking resources, it is critical for UNHCR to be able to provide timely, targeted, effective cash-based interventions for the most vulnerable.
Solution: UNHCR Peru will used mixed methodology to improve the targeting of its cash-based interventions. Data analysis will identify the vulnerability profiles of families both eligible and ineligible for this assistance. Through workshops, interviews, and focus groups with partners, UNHCR, and displaced communities, the profiles that should be prioritized will be discussed. Inclusion and exclusion errors will be studied in depth.
Expected results: More effective cash-based interventions to respond to different operational contexts, needs, and individual vulnerabilities, supporting greater wellbeing for communities most in need.
Behavioural analytics and social media to better inform crisis-affected communities — Brazil
Challenge: Displaced Venezuelans face challenges accessing information to inform their choices on arrival in Brazil. Social media can be an effective outreach tool, but UNHCR lacks evidence of the effectiveness of its social media use to both communicate critical information to Venezuelan refugees and asylum-seekers in Brazil and support protection work.
Solution: To optimize the choice architecture (how different options are presented, as well as the available tools to help people make decisions) accessible to displaced Venezuelans, UNHCR will use behavioural analytics to quantify and inform interventions – such as information campaigns – and correlate these initiatives to refugee decisions and behaviour.
Expected results: Improved, evidence-based communication will enable refugees and other conflict-affected communities in Brazil to make well-informed decisions, maximising their protection, health, education access, social and economic inclusion, and dignity.
Better responses to climate change risks through improved vulnerability assessments — Jordan
Challenge: Jordan, a climate hotspot, hosts over 750,000 refugees. Every two years, UNHCR conducts a study to analyse and document different types of vulnerabilities across multiple sectors, from a representative sample of registered refugees. But this vulnerability assessment framework (VAF) does not include any indicator measuring climate change impacts on refugees.
Solution: Integrate indicators into the UNHCR VAF on how climate change affects refugees in Jordan, to gather quality data that would inform the programming of UNHCR and its partners over the years to come.
Expected results: Improved understanding of climate change impacts on the displaced in Jordan, driving better climate change related protection interventions and enhanced resilience of refugees to climate change related risks.