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An app that matches refugees with mentors is the winner of the TechfugeesBNE 2017 pitching competition


The winner of TechfugeesBNE 2017 pitching competition is Team Hand Sanitiser.

Team Hand Sanitiser came up with the idea for Springboard, an app that matches refugees with mentors. On the surface it seems like a simple idea but in reality — as refugees and NGOs can attest — no one has come up with an efficient solution to provide refugees with industry specific guidance to find jobs.

What Springboard does is it matches refugees with industry specific mentors in Australia.

Springboard uses a matching algorithm based on a mentee’s goal, interests and needs to match with a mentor’s experience, interests and strengths. This will ascertain the “mentorship compatibility” for both parties.

For example, Elsie is a refugee who has just moved to Brisbane. She wants to be a graphic designer and needs guidance on how to become one in Australia. She signs up to Springboard for free.

Susie is a practising graphic designer and has volunteered to be a mentor.  She will receive verified mentor training and certification for a $50 certification fee.

Henry is with a creative agency and will pay a sponsorship fee of $5000 to fulfil his organisation’s pledge to social responsibility.

What does this Springboard app mean for refugees?

TechfugeesBNE 2017 pitching competition judge Imtiaz Ali left Pakistan by boat for Australia in 2012. After a few years in Melbourne, he arrived in Brisbane in 2015.

Imtiaz said based on his experience, people don’t really understand how difficult it is for refugees and asylum seekers to get a job no matter how skilled they are.

“No one will employ ‘Imtiaz’ when they see my name on a job application. It’s not ‘John’ or ‘David’ so my chances of getting a job is very low. This is very frustrating but that is the reality.

“The Springboard app is a way of people like me to make a direct connection with a mentor who can help me with any challenges and to get a job.

“Young people don’t like email but the mentoring platform will provide an engaging platform because it’s simple to use,” Imtiaz said.

Imtiaz Ali, judge and former refugee
Imtiaz Ali, judge and former refugee

Imtiaz said the app could be used by refugees even before coming to Australia, after receiving their humanitarian visas.

“The mentor matching process can start before refugees even arrive here.

“This app gives me hope and it would give others waiting to come to Australia hope for a better future,” Imtiaz said.

What is the inspiration behind this app?

Team Hand Sanitiser member Shahwali Kazimi, who fled Afghanistan in 2012 for Australia, said there was great need for an app such as Springboard amongst refugees.

Shahwali is part of a group who started a Facebook mentoring group last year for students and he said the response has been overwhelming.

“Refugees need a lot of help when they first come to a new country. The app would be a great way to get started on their career of choice as it is targeted according to the refugees skills and interests,” he said.

Team Hand Sanitiser ‘s Kelsey-Lee Stay, a designer and software developer, who pitched Springboard to judges, said she was confident the app could become a reality as coding could be completed in two weeks for a basic product.

Team Hand Sanitiser with Peta Ellis top far left
Team Hand Sanitiser with Peta Ellis top far left

How did TechfugeesBNE 2017 go?

TechfugeesBNE 2017 ran from Friday evening (March 17) to Sunday (March 19). It was hosted by event sponsor and Queensland technology hub River City Labs in partnership with Marist180, MDA Ltd, Access Community Services, MultiLink Community Services, Australian Red Cross, and the Urban Informatics Research Lab @ QUT Design Lab.

Peta Ellis, River City Labs CEO and TechfugeesBNE chief judge, said: “I was really impressed with the prototypes the participants came up with in less than 54 hours at TechfugeesBNE.

“They really engaged with refugees and asylum seekers to come up with realistic solutions that are very much needed in the community.”

Five teams made the final cut. Team Hand Sanitiser won $1000 and membership at River City Labs. In second place was Team Let’s Talk with its accent reduction solution (winning $500 and work space at Queensland University of Technology’s Creative Enterprise Australia) and in third place was Big Box Orange with its Google cardboard 3D experience for refugees (receiving mentoring and online courses from Zenva Academy).