How one UN agency is using technology to improve donor engagement and provide support to refugees.

Covid-19 has changed the world. There is no doubt that the Coronavirus pandemic is an enormous driver of change, turning to technology to digitally connect the world like never before. As we all adapt to a new “normal”, the need for easier global connection is bigger than ever before. Many humanitarian organizations that provide global support, including UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency are implementing digital strategies to support the most vulnerable in these difficult and challenging times.

Gone are the days when digitalisation was a premium service. Gone are the days when charity workers could stand outside a shop shaking a collection box (and the hands of people kind enough to donate!).  In a world where Covid-19 is keeping us away from physical or face to face contact, not for profit organizations need to find other ways to connect.

There has been a longstanding need for charities to embrace digital technology well before the pandemic came and turned our lives upside down. All Covid has done is to accelerate that need. Rewind back just a year ago and it would be easy for any charity to remain in its bubble of paperwork. But now this is impossible. Now, every organisation needs to be thinking and fast planning for the post Covid world.

If we are honest, we would all like to do a little bit more for those less fortunate than us. As we stood on our doorsteps every Thursday evening applauding the NHS, there are very few of us who didn’t wish we could go that extra mile to help. Digital technology enables us to do that.

While the UN Refugee Agency has been embracing digital technology for many years, there are still great opportunities that new innovations can fill.  Technology creates better opportunities for donors to connect and support refugees in ways that they cannot do in a non-digital world.

Alertive has developed and implemented a pilot project to discover the value of digital communication to refugees from Syria.  Early-adopter pilot donor groups in UK, Canada, Australia and the Middle East and Africa (MENA) region have successfully engaged in support via a mobile application allowing near real-time communication to be translated and securely validated.  The engagement is extended by sharing photos and a news feed of updates with donors in the pilot areas.

“Connecting donors and refugees directly, to share their stories and interests in their own words was always a compelling concept for us. We felt that enabling direct communication could have value for both donors and refugees by offering an unfiltered insight into each other’s lives, building connection, providing emotional support, challenging preconceptions and increasing supporter engagement. But the potential protection risks presented a momentous barrier to implementation. Alertive has worked side by side with UNHCR from the initial stages of ideation, research and development to create a digital solution that is robust, safe, secure and currently in pilot with refugees and donors” says Lara Schlotterbeck, Head of Marketing Unit, UNHCR.

Sadly, every day, across the world, lives are threatened, and families are forced to flee. Yet often their stories never make the news. By implementing new technology, however, donors would be able to reach out and connect with the refugees within their sphere of care. Giving money is only one layer of a donor’s care, and words of encouragement and support can often go a lot further than a cash donation. New innovations in digital technology gives previously “silent” donors a voice to communicate and form bonds with the people who need it the most.

By making the most of the latest innovations in technology, we can form the connections and bonds needed to make the journey together.