Media Lab Refugee Learning Accelerator 2017 for engineers & computer scientists from the Middle East

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Application Deadline: September 2017

The Refugee Learning Accelerator supports engineers and computer scientists from the Middle East to create technologies for refugee learners. The Accelerator is a project of the Media Lab Learning Initiative. The Media Lab is an antidisciplinary research lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that designs technologies for people to create a better future.

The Refugee Learning Accelerator is a six month program, lasting from October 2017 to April 2018.

Eligibility Requirements:


  • Computer scientists, electrical engineers and designers from Syria,* Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine, who want to use their tech skills to support refugee learners.
  • Ideal participants are the kind of people who are active on Stack Overflow, know their way around GitHub repositories, or have built things at a hackathon or two.
  • You must apply in a team of 2-5 people. If you don’t have people to team up with head over to our Facebook Marketplace to find other prospective participants with complementary skills.
  • You must have a working knowledge of Arabic and English.
  • You must have a valid passport/travel documents. Successful participants will be invited to a workship in Amman or Beirut during the Prototype phase.
  • You don’t need to have an idea to apply; the Ideate phase is designed to get you up to speed on what’s already happening in the field of digital education for refugees and to help you start thinking about what your team might be able to contribute.


The Refugee Learning Accelerator will cover the cost of travel for all successful teams.


How it Works:

1. Apply (Aug-Sept 2017)

You put together a team of two to five computer scientists, engineers, and designers all of whom have an interest in applying their technical skills to the real world problems facing refugee learners. You don’t need a concrete idea at this point: we’re here to help you understand the problem and make connections. We look for teams with a good mix of technical and design experience, commitment to some of the countries most affected by the Syrian refugee crisis, and a strong interest in the potential of digital tools to change the way that education is provided.

2. Ideate (Oct-Nov 2017)

Once your team is admitted to the Accelerator, you take part in a six week online workshop designed to get you up to speed with what’s already happening in the field of digital education for refugees, advance your technical skills and help you begin to think about a project to prototype. Your team completes a series of design challenges which get you thinking about how technology could be used to address the needs of refugee youth. All of the Accelerator activities take place online, but we encourage teams to meet face-to-face. We provide access to mentors with expertise in relevant technical fields, digital education and the refugee situation. This is a part time commitment; we expect you to spend between 15 and 20 hours a week on the Accelerator.

3. Prototype (Jan 2018)

Teams that have shown the greatest progress and have the promise to take their ideas further, will be invited to join the Prototype phase. We will bring everyone together for a week long design- thinking workshop in Amman, Jordan. By the end of the workshop you will have a first prototype, which has been developed in consultation with mentors who have real world experience. Your team pitches to a panel of judges, who provide feedback.

4. Incubate (Feb-April 2018)

The teams with the most promising prototypes receive further support to help them continue working on their project. We structure our support for optimal impact: we help you find NGO partners who can deploy your project, we connect you with technical experts to further its development, we host workshops on relevant topics (entrepreneurship, monitoring & evaluation, etc.) and we provide funding to get prototypes tested in the field. You continue to work on the project and think about where you want to take it next–& we do our best to support that vision.

For More Information:

Visit the Official Webpage of the Refugee Learning Accelerator

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