This November, nearly 150 journalists, designers, developers, academics, government and human rights leaders from 25 countries gathered in Rome to address one of the planet’s most complex human rights problems: the spiraling global refugee crisis created as record numbers of people flee war, persecution and poverty in their homelands in search of safer lives.
The gathering kicked off The 19 Million Project –a hackathon and journalism summit aimed at finding innovative ways to raise awareness about the migration crisis.
The focus of the event was a ten-day design competition during which 13 interdisciplinary teams raced to develop journalism and storytelling projects about the refugee crisis, and find creative solutions to solve challenges faced by migrants and refugees.
The results of the competition reflect the extraordinary diversity and creativity of the 19 Million Project participants, who came from 5 continents and over 75 publications and organizations, including Fusion, BBC, Vice Media, IDEO, Google News Lab, Chicas Poderosas, Berkeley Advanced Media Institute, Global Editors Network and many more.
Three teams were named winners of the Media Innovation Award, sponsored by Fusion and Univision, and received $5,000 to take their project beyond the prototype stage. One member of each team will also be invited by the Global Editors Network to travel and present their ideas at a Vienna Hackathon during the GEN Summit in June 2016.
Check out summaries of the 19 Million Project final projects below. If you’d like to see more detailed slide presentations and project descriptions, we can help you contact team members.
First, the winners:
- WINNER! Ultimum Refugium: A Pop-Up Living Museum
Project Summary Ultimum Refugium grew from a collaboration between South African architect Nadia Tromp and Costa Rican filmmaker Elda Brizuela. Their description follows.
The idea for a living museum was conceived as a response to the question ‘how might we create empathy for refugees?‘ and the follow on question ‘how could we start telling different stories on the topic of the refugee crisis in order to change attitudes and create a new narrative?’ We feel that there needs to be a physical disruption of the urban landscape. We created the concept of a temporary, modular, locally fabricated piece of architecture that would transform an environment for a limited period of time and encourage engagement. It is imagined that this living museum would be placed in a historically meaningful urban space in a city, a contested space, to create a forced tension. Our test environment for the prototype is this city, Rome, directly in front of the Pantheon. The Pantheon, which is a structured, precisely designed piece of architecture, is juxtaposed with an almost alien-like structure of our museum. This is a reflection on a society that is orderly and well-structured, being juxtaposed to the perceived invasion of the refugees. It forces dialogue around issues that are uncomfortable and sometimes difficult to deal with.The modular design means that the museum could be erected quickly and easily. It could be dismantled and loaded on a truck to be transported from one city to the next. The content in the museum could be generated in any number of different ways, including possibly developing projects that came out of the 19millionproject. We are interested in bringing the human aspect back to the story and giving faces and names to those affected.The physical transformation of the landscape is temporary, but the transformation of peoples’ attitudes that witness, contribute and experience the content of the museum, is permanent. Our aim is to create a space where the public can be immersed into the stories of the refugee and where the stories could be experienced through a number of mediums, including virtual reality.
Team Participants: Nadia Tromp, Elda Brizuela
- WINNER! Moving VoicesPROJECT SUMMARY Moving Voices is a mentorship program that pairs journalists and storytellers with migrants and refugees to help them share and publish their own stories.
Moving Voices aims to have a meaningful impact on Europe’s migration crisis by empowering migrants to tell their own stories in their own voices – direct, unfiltered and real.It is based on the premise that empathy derives from human stories told from first-hand experience. As today’s media environment continues evolving, so do storytelling methods, channels and processes. For this reason, our approach pairs storytelling professionals with those who have some of the most powerful stories of our time: migrants.These storytelling mentors come from a global network of journalists, activists, community organizers and technologists versed in the mechanics and aesthetics of communication, already aligned to strengthen existing relationships with affected migrant communities.Our network then builds on this dynamic so that migrant storytellers themselves eventually mentor newer migrants in modern communication tactics and strategies, creating a self-reinforcing cycle. The result is a modern, sophisticated, self-sustaining knowledge base.
Team Participants: Roberto Acuña, José Nogueira, Mayra Báez Jimeno, Damiano Usala, Andrés Snitcofsky, Ulysses De La Torre, Chloe Anna Harman, Teresita Goyeneche P.
- WINNER! Migrant’s VoiceVideo kiosks and installations in major Europeans cities will help educate the public about the experience of the refugees, creating empathy and raising awareness.
Brainstorming sketch of a citizen interacting with a Migrant’s Voice video installation
During street interviews with Italian citizens in Rome, we encountered a sense of “empathy fatigue” among the general public. With thousands of refugees arriving on European shores daily for months, we found many in Rome had already tuned out the story of the refugee’s struggles. “We’re tired of hearing how many of them have died,” said one interviewee.
Others expressed fear of the refugees—or had trouble empathizing because they viewed them as foreigners and felt they had little in common.
The goal of Migrant’s Voice is to create empathy among the host countries’ citizens by helping them get to know refugees. In order to achieve this, we will build a platform that hosts user-generated video content related to the migration crisis. Through a Periscope-like mobile phone application, users will push content to our platform in real time. The platform will be like an open microphone that gives a voice to refugees, activists, journalists and anyone engaged with the topic.
We’ll place installations and kiosks in urban public spaces that will show curated content from our archives. We hope to catch the attention of passersby and spark interest in the topic and in the people affected by it.
Team Participants: Stella Bin, Anna Cordioli, Marco Giannini, Melissa García, Alexandra Lizcano Rodriguez, Andrés Lizcano Rodriguez.
- Why They LeftFusion’s interactive map uses first-person narratives to help users understand the most common migration routes—and reveal the root causes of the refugee crisis.Abandoning their homes, families, and possessions, refugees often face unspeakable hardships and extraordinary danger during their journey to a new country. When they arrive, they are often met with a new set of challenge: hostility, lack of resources and uncertainty about their future. Yet, they repeatedly say that the treacherous journey is nothing compared to what they face at home. The reasons they flee vary: war, poverty, dictatorships, instability.Our interactive project highlights the personal stories of refugees from the top ten countries driving this massive wave of human migration that is transforming the demographic profile of our planet. It shows the route each refugee took and explains the context of the situation in their home country that led them to leave. The user can easily move through multiple stories in this immersive experience.In light of recent events in Paris, our project is even more relevant. As states declare they will not take Syrian refuges, we want to remind the public of the dire circumstances at home that often drive refugees to flee.
Team Participants: Kit Cross, Miguel Costa, Victor Abarca, Nidhi Prakash, Rachel Schallom, Alex Izaguirre.
- The Carnival of Love
Who doesn’t love love?Carnival of Love is a multi-city wedding party taking place on 14 February–Valentine’s Day–in cities across Europe and beyond, featuring traditional music, dance, dress and food from migrant communities in their new homes. The Carnival of Love is an important public declaration that Europeans open their hearts to migrants. The celebration bridges the gap between cultures, exposing the host community to the customs and rituals of migrants, in a celebratory atmosphere, and demonstrates how we are much more alike than we are different. The Carnival of Love also emphasizes how migrants have left wives, children and families behind, in search of better opportunities, and shows, once again, that migrants are individuals, and deserving of our attention and empathy.Team Participants: Chikodi Chima, Martín Szyszlican, Sandra Crucianelli, Mariana Gallardo, Luisa Ortiz, Valeria Verdolini.
- The One Word Project How would public perception change if media organizations stopped using the word “refugee”?“Words have energy and power with the ability to hurt, to heal, to humiliate or to humble,” –Yahuda Berg.
The media often create simplified labels to describe a complex concept: Millenials. Metrosexuals. Extremists. Refugees.The One Word Project aims to challenge the global media to replace the word “refugee” with “innovator” for a single day—and see how that transforms the tone of news coverage. An “innovator” is simply someone who begins a journey without knowing its outcome.Take this recent sentence from the New York Times: “Thousands of refugees landed in Lampedusa over the last week.” How would the story change if the sentence read “Thousands of innovators landed in Lampedusa over the last week.”?Our hope is to designate a single day in 2016 when the global media would experiment with this concept. The campaign would spark a social media campaign, and force people to thing about their associations with the word refugee—and the humanity it obscures.Join this worldwide campaign to help us change negative perceptions.
Team Participants: Giulia Annovi, Valeria Brigida, Danilo Lauria, Davide Mancino, Armando Ribeiro.
- Walk With MeAn innovative program to support teen girls who are traveling alone along migration routes.Walk with me is a program to support teenage girl refugees who are traveling alone and strengthen their journey, their choices, and their spirits each step of the way.Today, the number of unaccompanied teen girl refugees is rising across Europe. In 2013, more than two thousand asylum applications were submitted by unaccompanied girls in Europe.Girl refugees traveling alone are among the most vulnerable. They face displacement for longer periods of time, and remain vulnerable at every stage of this journey to dangers, including human trafficking and sexual abuse.They are walking alone. But they don’t have to.Walk With Me is a program-based network that unites and strengthens existing physical refugee hubs to provide these young women with the support they need to “Keep Going” in three basic aspects:
Call ahead: Physical support
Get ahead: Physical and online support
Leave footprints: Online support
Team Participants: Han Pham, Mandy Velez, Gabriela Brenes, Yamila García, Cinzia Gubbini, Lia Valero, Sandra Barron, Kainaz Amaria, Celestina Acosta, Carolina Astuya.
- Walking Alone A Tool to Track Unaccompanied Minors
Project Summary The refugee and migrant crisis in Europe is a crisis for children.Last summer, 5,000 refugee children went missing. They arrived on the shores of Sicily, coming from countries like Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, Mali, Ghana, and Ethiopia. These children were as young as 12 and as old as 16.Even today they are untraceable.Incidents like these are not a one-time occurrence. Children have been disappearing from reception centers across Italy. Many of them end up getting caught in a web of manual labor, domestic work, drug smuggling and prostitution.And today there is no centralized way to track these thousands of children, who arrive in the European Union alone.Now, with one of out of 4 children looking for asylum in Europe, UNICEF and others have stressed the importance of closing the information gap and ensuring that more data is made available on children on the move.The case was made even clearer by volunteers during our visit to the Baoboa Refugee Center in Rome, who explained to us how informal the process is of keeping track of migrants traveling to the center – especially children who cannot be held in reception centers by force. Volunteers are often unprepared for the number of refugees that arrive at their doorstep and communication between the government and these centers rarely exist.
Our solution is to build a communication tool that will track the passage of children traveling alone, while also providing critical information to the volunteers, NGOs, and municipalities that receive them at their next point of destination along their journey.
By collecting basic information about these unaccompanied minors, we will be able to have real-time data on their movement. Any time a minor is missing an alert would be sent across a new network of refugee centers. And we would seek to do all of this, while protecting their privacy and trying to pin down danger zones where children repeatedly go missing.
Team Participants: Donna Borak, Josefina Hagelstrom, Cecilia Tombesi, Lilia Saul, Kari Cobham, Liza Ramrayka.
- Project 5 An interactive mobile gaming experience that tells the story of a refugee leaving Syria for Europe.Project Summary Project 5 is an interactive experience delivered to your phone that consists of regular updates from a fictional character taking an epic journey from Syria to Germany.Our team member Mike, a game developer at MIT Media Lab, has already delivered a working prototype of an iOS app that handles everything — from push notifications to images. His experience in game mechanics is invaluable in the project development.Francesco is having fun with Telegram and its APIs, so we offer a fall-back for Android users and people on desktop. On this front, everything is working fine as well, allowing us to have a look at what the story looks like from a phone – and not from vim.Basile is writing the story and researching migration routes and personal experiences that migrants face during their journeys to incorporate them into the game. The story we are developing focuses on the the Balkan route.We have begun adding the first branches, e.g. the parts where the user is given the chance to interact with the story. Completing the narrative structure is our next challenge.
Team Participants: Basile Simon, Francesco Negri, Mike Lazer Walker.
- Open Migration A fact-checking platform that will fight the spread of misinformation about the refugee crisis.
Open Migration (OMP) is a digital hub that aims to provide quality information on refugees and migrants to fight the spread of misinformation, rumors and myths about the crisis. We hope that reporting accurate information and data in a timely manner will influence public opinion, combat the myth of ‘”invasion,” and promote ideas shattering common stereotypes about migrants.Reporting on the crisis is a complex challenge, because the story of human migration is fluid, and pinning down accurate facts is challenging. Along with presenting facts and data, Open Migration will host the opinions of experts and those working in the world of migration. Our Website will also be a space open to debate on key issues.