PeaceGeeks is 10! How has it grown over the last decade?
A decade ago, we were a group of volunteer technologists unsatisfied with the status quo. From building websites for peacebuilding organizations who lacked the resources to have an online presence, to digitalizing humanitarian systems so they could be more efficient and effective, our team was motivated by a vision of utilizing technology for good. Ten years later, I’m proud that we have retained our curiosity, creativity and commitment to transform systems. But we have also grown into a more mature organization – our team, our professionalization and focus on our strategic goals means we’re being more bold in considering what “good” means for newcomers and leading transformations at scale.
2021 was a significant year for PeaceGeeks, with several long-term projects entering new phases. How did that feel?
Watching projects we had conceived of, designed, and grown enter new phases is exciting. When we tackle large, systemic problems, organizations can feel like they’re chipping away at a mountain, and inadvertently get stuck in path dependency. 2021 saw a number of important developments for our team.
In Jordan, we concluded our 3-year Meshkat project, and based on its success, received new funding to test its methodology on a new problem space, and expand our digital content creation work with young Jordanians. Two of PeaceGeeks’ flagship products scaled to new locations. Services Advisor launched in Malaysia and Arrival Advisor expanded from B.C. to Manitoba, expanding users’ ability to more easily find resources and information, in their first language, to tens of thousands of people in each new location. These demand-driven opportunities validate our ability to scale, and the value we continue to create for people who have been displaced, and newcomers to Canada.
What has been your biggest impact on the nonprofit and technology sectors?
Quantitatively, we are seeing increasing numbers of downloads of Arrival Advisor, and the impressive engagement metrics of youth-created content in Jordan. But that doesn’t adequately measure our impact. How can we transform migration journeys to promote greater dignity? To do so, we need to radically improve the systems that shape people’s experiences.
In November 2021, PeaceGeeks was on stage at the GlobalExpo in Dubai, receiving the UN Intercultural Innovation Award for Arrival Advisor. When asked about technology’s ability to facilitate migration journeys, I shared a core principle: all tech is human. I feel like this is the key to the impact we are making in both the nonprofit and technology sectors: design and fund the integration of technology in settlement – but not for technology’s sake. Change needs to be driven by the humans that are carrying cell phones in their pockets, as they board a plane from India, Afghanistan, or Congo. How can we reach them there, through the tool they’re relying on - their mobile phones - to gain the knowledge and confidence that will set them up for success the moment they arrive?
In our work with Global Affairs Canada, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, we see these institutions now recognizing that to be effective, let alone innovate or build for the future, funding models and service infrastructure need to ensure people are served according to their needs, priorities, abilities, and circumstances. Technology is no longer an add-on; it is central to our communications, our work, our education, our commerce, our societies. It is a very exciting time to be involved with such a formative systems-shift.