Delivering a virtual Digital Gender Inclusion and Innovation Bootcamp

UNHCRInclusive Virtual Bootcamp

Here I Am partnered with UNHCR to deliver a one week intensive virtual training bootcamp that aimed to equip refugee led organisations with the skills and tools to bridge the digital gender gap in the displaced communities in which they operate.


The UNHCR Innovation Service exists to support refugees and forcibly displaced people as well as UNHCR colleagues in using innovative tools and approaches to solve pressing challenges. One aspect of that service is focused on taking innovative approaches to closing the digital gender divide.

The digital age has enabled vast opportunities for countless people worldwide, however not everyone has been able to benefit. For more than 50 million displaced women and girls worldwide these opportunities are limited, or even completely inaccessible. Digital information, resources, communities and opportunities remain out of reach to those who could arguably benefit from them most.

UNHCR sent out an open invite to refugee led, women led, community based organisations to apply for a one week intensive virtual training bootcamp that aimed to equip participants with the skills and tools to bridge the digital gender gap in the displaced communities in which they operate. After receipt of over 300 applications, 12 successful in-country organisations were invited to participate.

Zoom screen grab

Bootcamp design

UNHCR invited Here I Am Studio to collaborate with them on this important virtual bootcamp. Together we embarked on a design phase to define the structure, content and analysis of the bootcamp. Starting with definition of our bootcamp goal;

To equip all participating organisations with the right skills, knowledge and confidence to safely and impactfully digitally include forcibly displaced women and girls

Organisations would join us from 9 countries, across 3 time zones. The bootcamp was conducted in 2 languages, and the pre bootcamp survey indicated that the digital literacy and connectivity of the participants was highly varied. So we knew early on that we needed to work hard to ensure all participants were fully supported, in order to deliver them the optimum bootcamp experience.

To set the tone of the bootcamp, we opened with a set of environment principles, to help create a safe space to innovate. We asked participants to; Listen, Share, Mess Up and Reflect, to foster a playful and supportive environment - and for the most part they did.

We then surrounded the bootcamp with a range of support mechanics, such as a technical facilitator, a Slack channel and email support, all in place to identify any participants who were struggling to fully engage in the experience.

An inclusive, human-centred, bootcamp experience

We followed a Learn > Do > Reflect structure, spending our mornings together in one interactive workshop, then briefing teams on practical activities to complete independently, before regrouping in small groups to reflect. Interestingly several of the practical activities were among the top rated sessions of the bootcamp. You can view the practical activity canvases here.

The bootcamp would feature content from UNHCR, HIA, GSMA and EQUALS, covering a range of topics within digital gender inclusion. It was therefore important to bring the content together into an agenda that was well considered and meaningfully structured.

We decided to take the participants on a journey through the human-centred design process. Beginning the week with a challenge that they brought in from the field, then defining and empathising with the target audience group, analysing the barriers that currently exist, ideating on possible solutions, mapping out potential user journeys, then concluding the week with an elevator pitch of their developed concept, in the form of an investment case. This gave the bootcamp an energy and momentum that was palpable in the pitch sessions, and because of the safe and supportive environment that had been created, almost all participants highly rated their pitch experience.

Empathy map, Rapid idea generation, and elevator pitch are the activities I liked the most, nonetheless I would love to use all of the tools/practices introduced in the bootcamp.

Anonymous bootcamp participant

The participant's collaboration, support and genuine enthusiasm to build on each other’s ideas throughout the bootcamp was not only heart warming, but pivotal to the strength of the final pitches. As a fantastic conclusion to the bootcamp, UNHCR revealed a seed funding opportunity available to participating organisations, so those pitches are now being developed into investment cases and any number of them may be realised within displaced communities around the world.

Bootcamp participant feedback and data

  • 94% of participants rated their overall experience of the bootcamp as a 4 or 5 out of 5
  • 100% of participants agreed that the goals and objectives of the bootcamp were clear
  • 100% of participants rated the facilitators either 4 or 5 out of 5 in effectively in guiding the group through the bootcamp

This experience has been truly transformative for our organization. We are inspired and motivated by the remarkable community-based, refugee-led, and women-led organizations that came together to bridge the Digital Gender Divide for displaced women and girls. The bootcamp provided us with a unique opportunity to amplify our impact and equip ourselves with the necessary skills to build inclusive and innovative solutions. The guidance and support from experienced mentors have been invaluable in helping us turn our visions into reality. Moreover, connecting with like-minded peers has created a strong sense of camaraderie and passion for driving change and creating a better future for women and girls through peer-to-peer learning.

Festo Nduwayezu, Let’s Help International

We are grateful for the opportunity to expand our knowledge and expertise in technology and innovation. We will work hard to apply what we learn in this program to our future projects and activities, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to achieve positive change in the lives of women and promote gender equality in disadvantaged communities. Thanks again for your support and encouragement.

Anonymous bootcamp participant

My expectations regarding bootcamp were highly met. I gained a lot of skills in digital gender inclusion which help me to deliver adequate skills to the people I serve and to understand the strategic vision of the digital world.

Anonymous bootcamp participant

Thank you for sharing this opportunity with me to learn. I believe I will always use it, regardless of wherever I may go to work.

Anonymous bootcamp participant

UNHCR feedback

Here I Am (HIA) team’s exceptional dedication and meticulous planning shone through in every aspect of the UNHCR Innovation Service’s Digital Gender Inclusion and Innovation Bootcamp. From seamlessly aligning with the bootcamp's main objectives and UNHCR's Age, Gender, and Diversity policy, to going above and beyond to ensure inclusivity and success, HIA's efforts were truly commendable. Their commitment extended to individualized follow-ups with participating organizations, demonstrating a genuine understanding of each group's needs. The design of all materials, from visually appealing slide decks to interactive Figma and Miro boards, showcased their thoughtful approach. HIA's prowess in time management was evident as they not only met all deliverable deadlines but also expertly moderated the bootcamp sessions according to the agenda. The team's flexibility was remarkable, smoothly adapting to unforeseen challenges and accommodating last-minute changes from UNHCR, guest speakers, and participants. Creating collaborative communication channels further exemplified HIA's commitment to fostering networking and efficient communication with bootcamp participants. HIA's partnership not only met expectations but exceeded them, contributing to the success of the bootcamp.

Solji Oh, Associate Innovation Officer, digital gender equality focal point, UNHCR Innovation Service

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