New project uses technology to bridge divides in Jordan

International Alert together with Tech Tribes are helping young Jordanians and Syrians to find innovative solutions to issues they are facing as a result of the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria.

Jordan now hosts 1.3 million refugees who have fled the Syrian civil war since it began nearly six years ago. This is costing roughly $2.9 billion according to the Jordanian government, but only 5.5% of this sum has been covered by the international community.

The influx of refugees has placed a huge strain on public services in Jordan. Schools are overcrowded, housing costs in the north have risen 300%, and the availability cheap labour is now mounting pressures on the labour market.

In this backdrop of rising tensions, we have partnered with Jordanian non-profit Tech Tribes to set up ‘Tech Social’ – a pilot project that brings young Jordanians and Syrians together and encourages them to build trust with one another, identify shared challenges and explore how technology can help overcome these.

“We are inspired by the vision of Syrian and Jordanian young people who have great passion and potential to support social cohesion in their communities”, said Ruth Simpson, who leads our work on Jordan.

“The project is the beginning of developing a longer-term programme aimed at supporting a new generation of tech-skilled young change makers. We look forward to seeing what tech solutions these young people come up with!”

Fifteen young men and women, all aged 19-23, took part in a recent workshop organised by Tech Tribes that was designed to equip them with skills needed to cooperate and jointly address the problems they are facing. As these are related and interdependent, establishing this trust is vital for inspiring social change.

Today was full of learning. I was assured that great things come from one of two things: a certain need or a desire to shake the status quo for the better”, said Fadi (pictured above), a Syrian involved in the workshop that we supported.

"As a youth living at al Zaatari refugee camp, I know that resources are scarce but today I realised that we might be suffering from a real resource-management issue. Personal interests dominate over community ones. It is only about time that we learn to work with one another.”

Lara (pictured below), a 21-year-old from Jordan, was also part of the workshop.

“Peace can be achieved if we allow ourselves to understand the other and to realise that we all face the same challenges and needs. It is the way that we express those needs that make them look different.”

The workshop is the first activity from the ‘Tech Social’ pilot project.

“The approach is both innovative and fun! While participants form an understanding of why everyday challenges are on the rise in their own communities, we come to expose them to possible innovative solutions that could help mitigate their impact”, said Tech Tribes Founder Khaled Hijab.

Young people have now returned home to develop their own community initiatives. These will be pitched to technology professionals and potential donors at a showcase event, giving them the chance to meet others in the field and explore technology as a career option.