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Not just dreaming: Reimagining digital to transform the lives of refugees

“This is by far one of the most transformational and strategic steps HIAS has taken and will truly set us on the path toward transformation, both digital and non-digital.”

May 11, 2018

This is the first post in a series focusing on the first networking group of NetHope members participating in IDEA (Imagine, Design, Execute, Assess), a broad umbrella for digital transformation processes offered to NetHope members through The Center for the Digital Nonprofit. The first IDEA implementation pilot is based on Dream, Design, Deliver, a social impact accelerator developed by Microsoft.

By Jim Daniell, The Center for the Digital Nonprofit, NetHope

World Refugee Day is June 20th this year and many of NetHope’s member organizations will be marking the moment to come together as one. It is also a time of unprecedented need as tens of millions of people forced from their homes are facing terrible choices while the safety net designed to help them is stretched to the breaking point.


With this as a back-drop, I was honored to spend two days with the CEO and entire leadership of HIAS to step back and reimagine how they could tackle refugee support as part of digital transformation. HIAS set aside precious time to engage in a Dream Session (part 1 of a 3-step process) sponsored by Microsoft and supported by Revel Consulting and NetHope. Building on months of prep work—including taking the NetHope Digital Nonprofit Ability™ assessment through our Center for the Digital Nonprofit—and one-on-one interviews with Revel, this was the first step of a new way for NetHope members to cross the digital threshold.

The first step of digital transformation is often hardest because the word digital invokes images of smart phones, social networks, and all sorts of gadgetry. The real first step is a mind-set shift. Digitally transformed businesses start with people and reimagine their culture to embrace radical transparency, creative confidence, data-driven thinking, and lean business processes. Then the work can begin to reimagine the organization’s business processes that touch beneficiaries, staff, internal operations, and ultimately the services provided.

HIAS made this quantum leap in just two days. It was not easy as the words and methods that work so well for the for-profit sector don’t always fit with a nonprofit’s world view. As we all talked, we struggled to deeply understand each other and then, suddenly, we were all on the same page. Ideas began to flow at an increasing pace. The problems that seemed so insurmountable on the first day became after thoughts as we totally reimagined how we could help refugees secure their rights and dignity. Now we were ready to discuss how advanced technology such as blockchain enables innovative ways of working.

At the close of our session, the team expressed a sense of powerful innovation and hope at a time when the world desperately needs them to succeed. To quote HIAS COO Farhan Irshad, “This is by far one of the most transformational and strategic steps HIAS has taken and will truly set us on the path toward transformation, both digital and non-digital.”

As World Refugee Day approaches, I want to thank HIAS, Microsoft and Revel Consulting for contributing to this vital step to help refugees the world over. To these efforts I say, Bravo!

To achieve our goals and better safeguard the futures of refugees, NetHope needs more partners. Consider joining the NetHope community. Together, we can provide hope for those individuals and families who count as some of the most vulnerable.

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