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ThinkPlace helps tackle the problem of refugee unemployment

One of the biggest challenges faced by the 6 million migrants in the ASEAN region, including the nearly 209,000 refugees, is finding a job.

As part of the worldwide push to solve this problem, ThinkPlace ran an Innovation Challenge in Bangkok, hosted by inter-governmental body, the Regional Support Office for the Bali Process.  The two-day event explored the complex and interconnected challenges facing asylum seekers travelling through Asia. The Innovation Challenge developed over 300 potential solutions, or concepts, on how to help refugees find employment, with ten successful concepts being chosen for further development.

The concepts we developed included diverse topics such as advocacy, recognition of refugee skills and qualifications, identity and status and economic prosperity.

To generate these concepts, we used practical design thinking tools based on the ThinkPlace Design System and gave participants permission to be creative and collaborative.  These tools included activities to think through the whole system of refugee unemployment including their experiences, the benefits to communities and how to mitigate risks to national security. 

One such tool ThinkPlace ran with participants early in the Innovation Challenge was visually mapping out all the connections and consequences of refugee unemployment. This is part of a process of divergence and allowed space for some creative ideas that might not have otherwise been thought up.

We then asked participants to envision an ideal future state, from different people’s perspectives such as refugees, community members and employers.  This ideal future was the basis of activities to converge on concepts that could solve the problem.

Generating ideas is by no means the end of the story. We asked participants to “pitch” their ideas to members of the Regional Forum, which was held the next day.  This gave participants the opportunity to gather feedback, iterate their ideas and inspire new ideas.

The two day event brought together 85 participants ranging from Cambodia to Canada, from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to clothing giant UNIQLO and IT company Nexus and co-facilitated by John Body and Nina Terrey from ThinkPlace Australia and Wee Kiat and Erin Entrekin from ThinkPlace Singapore.

The Regional Support Office for the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, which hosted the event, described the outcomes as innovative, practical and mutually beneficial.

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Hannah Richardson

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