Written by Arianna Freschi
MIT Enterprise Forum Pan-Arab: ‘Innovate for Refugees’, inspires innovation for the well-being of all children.
The Syrian conflict has created the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, with over 4.8 million registered refugees fleeing to Syria’s neighboring countries. 1.1 million of these are children are especially vulnerable to the dangers of displacement. These dangers include the disruption of their education, entering early marriage and work, psychological damage, violence, and exploitation. Refugee children face significant setbacks to future opportunities, as years of life damaged at a young age are not easily recovered.
New ideas are urgently needed to tackle this situation. To find new solutions, we need to foster global creativity and entrepreneurship to benefit the world’s most vulnerable.
Innovative ideas can emerge from anywhere, and anyone.
On 4 October 2016 in Amman, Jordan, UNICEF Jordan partnered with MIT’s Pan-Arab Enterprise Forum – encouraging global entrepreneurs to tackle one of today’s most pressing challenges: ensuring the wellbeing and protection of refugee children. In its 9th year, the MIT’s Enterprise Forum is the world’s biggest entrepreneurial competition. This year, the competition focused on the theme: ‘Innovate for Refugees’, seeking to catalyze innovation and progress to benefit the growing refugee population. To spark research and development in child-focused technologies, UNICEF is sponsoring an award of $20,000 for the winning ‘child-focused’ technology solution.
The competition received over 1600 applications from entrepreneurs around the world. These applications were narrowed down to 9 finalists, amongst which five winners were selected to win for a total of $150,000.
The UNICEF Prize went to LED Safari, a start-up based in Switzerland who developed a ‘do-it-yourself solar lamp’ for children. The technology aims to provide children with solar-powered lights where electricity is scarce, while also providing education and skills on renewable energy and sustainability. These lamps can be made out of literally anything: ping-pong balls, jars, bowls and more, as demonstrated by the CEO, who built a lamp during his pitch to the judges.
The type of training that LED Safari delivers, teaching children both technical skills and empowering them to use these skills to solve problems in their communities, is exactly what UNICEF’s new Social Innovation Lab strives to achieve. The Labs will deliver the skills and tools that will allow children to become agents of change, inspiring them to say: “I can build something out of nothing, I can create up my future.”
Or, rather “I can light-up my future.”