UNITED NATIONS
Strategy & Product Design
Title: Uable
Role: Service Designer
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is a global organisation dedicated to saving lives. In the autumn of 2016, a conversation between Gabi Triffiletti, designer and current programme leader at Hyper Island, and the UN, led to an idea and a challenge.
The goal: to discover and prototype how and if people living in refugee camps can work online using their skills. The vision: if we want displaced people to be able to continue with their lives as normally as possible after forced resettlement, we need to build channels for them to sustain themselves and their families.
89% of refugees in urban settings and 46% of refugees in rural settlements use mobile phones in their main income generating activity.
Refugee Economies Rethinking Popular Assumptions
University of Oxford, June 2014
PROCESS

I mapped the journey of a refugee and the times when they can access the internet on their smartphones. We held video calls with our contact in Nakivale camp to validate and tweak our understanding. We discovered refugees are entrepreneurs, linguists with smartphones and have an appetite to make new friends. We held a design sprint in the studio where we built a rapid prototype. My role in particular was to bring it to life through a branded quick clickable prototype.
TESTING THE PROTOTYPE

The set-up for the test featured a room in the Ugandan Nakivale camp, with six people ready and waiting at the agreed time, a room in Manchester with six designers prepared, briefed and equipped, messenger app open, a google spreadsheet with a scripted conversation and about 2,000 words (in English) broken into sections ready to go.

The assumptions to test where:

Hypothesis 1: Refugees speak languages well enough to translate.
Hypothesis 2:Refugees are able to translate on mobile devices via chunks of text.
Hypothesis 3: Refugees are interested in working as translators in order to earn money.

When our contact on the ground gave us the go ahead, we logged onto messenger, opened the scripts and started sending the English text and timing the responses received in French. We measured speed and quality of translation whilst annotating everything else.


The platform will have a client-facing side, where people can upload files for translation and help displaced people earn a living. We presented the concept in Geneva to the UNHCR and handed over to Gabriela to continue the development of the concept.

The idea received positive feedback and recognition from the Huffington Post and at SXSW 2018.