The app that’s connecting refugees with locals

The app that’s connecting refugees with locals

Daresay Team - December 14, 2015

Welcome! shows how digital innovation can bring people together from all backgrounds.

Just one of the fantastic things about our Screen Interaction team is that they never stop innovating, even when they’re off duty. That’s why we’re extra proud of Tobias Rosman, a designer here at Screen Interaction, who with his friends and some help from Screen Labs has developed an app that enables refugees arriving in Sweden to connect with local culture and people, and hopefully being to feel at home. The app, called Welcome!, allows refugees to ask locals anything from where to find jobs and housing to leisure activities and meeting places. Locals can also invite refugees to social activities and events, from “fika” (meeting up for coffee) to football practice, and much more. The first version of the app has already launched and has had people like famous stand-up comedian Özz Nujen get involved in the initiative. We caught up with Tobias to chat about where the idea came from and the challenge of financing the app in the longer term.

Tobias, we think this is such a great idea – what motivated you to develop it?

We saw that authorities and organisations were overwhelmed by the number of refugees arriving, making welcoming them difficult. The authorities are doing what they are responsible for, which is giving them shelter, food and treating their asylum processes, but they have too few resources to focus on the enormous social needs that the newly arrived have when they get here. No public authority or organization was able to cope with these needs at that moment, so we figured that the only way to help was if locals could get involved in some way. While many today would like to get involved, they do not know how; it’s just too complicated. Therefore, we created Welcome! to make it easy for everyone to get involved and have direct contact with refugees without having to go through traditional channels.

What are the features of the app right now?

Our first MVP consists of four main functionalities. Newcomers can learn how the government, culture, jobs, schools and healthcare work in Sweden with the help of texts written in their native language. They can also ask questions that locals can respond to in the form of a private chat. During our user research, we noticed that the newcomers have lots of questions regarding their new life in Sweden. For instance, there may be questions about where to borrow books, where to get free Internet access and if there are jobs that fit their skills. Natives can also set up activities that newcomers can participate in, such as inviting them to dinner, cinema, haircuts, to have a coffee together or whatever else they want. All conversations that start as issues or activities can continue as chats. Bing Translator automatically translates all the dynamic content in the app to the desired language. Our first MVP will have support for four languages: Swedish, English, Arabic and Persian.

You’ve set a Kickstarter campaign target of one million Swedish kronor. How will the funds you raise be used?

We have just started to communicate Welcome! on a broader scale in the tabloids, television and radio and the response has been fantastic. The money from the campaign will go to cover the costs of operation and to pay the developers. This ensures that the service will live on in the future. If we don’t succeed in raising funds through Kickstarter, we’ll try fundraising elsewhere.

In what way does Screen Interaction contribute to the project?

Welcome! is part of Screen Labs, which means that the project has been sponsored in the form of working hours. In my case, this means that I have been able to work on Welcome! one day a week on the company’s behalf. Beyond that, Welcome! also received support from one of Screen Interaction’s developers.

What can anyone reading this do to support your project?

You can do two things. The first is to use the app and help the refugees in any way you can. Should I bring anyone on a city tour? Invite some guys to my football practice? Or just invite a bunch for dinner? Now that the app is released, it would be very good if there were lots of activities that newcomers can latch on to. The other thing you can do is to support Welcome! financially by a swish donation. The longer Welcome! can live on, the greater the positive impact will be.

Visit the Welcome app’s website


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