START’s Rachel Gabriel was recently recognized by the National Democratic Institute and Stevens Initiative as one of 16 civic technology innovators from around the world for her part in creating a tool to improve the lives of Syrian refugee children. The innovative mobile app collects and visualizes data to assess the education levels of Syrian refugee children in Jordan, identify access gaps and recommend ‘best fit’ educational programs to aid workers.
“One of the primary barriers to providing formal and informal education to refugee children is the inability to properly assess the current educational levels of refugees, as well as the nomadic nature of refugees,” Gabriel said about the project. “Our app features an adaptive learning test that can be administered by any aid worker regardless of language ability or cultural knowledge. After a child takes the test, the app provides a visualized output of the child's current education attainment. Then, through partnerships with on-the-ground education providers, the app will provide recommendations for best-fit education programs based on the individual child's needs.”
Gabriel -- along with team members Ashely Amin, Philip Crehan and George Philoubos -- was invited by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to participate in a study mission in Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley to present the project idea, data collection and visualization tool that they developed.
“The idea for the app came together organically – my team members and I come from such different backgrounds and we wanted to create something that would combine our skills and also help a population in dire need of assistance,” Gabriel said.
The study mission served as the final phase in the Civic Tech Leadership Program, funded by the Aspen Institute’s Stevens Initiative and organized by the NDI in partnership with Stanford University’s Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) and the Institute for Representative Government (IRG). It aims to empower young, tech-savvy leaders from the United States and the Middle East and North Africa to create positive change in their communities.
Gabriel earned her bachelor’s degree from the George Washington University and her master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her hope for the future of the app is that it will serve as an important tool for organizations working to provide refugee assistance.
“I hope that we can find partners who are already working on delivering education to refugee children and that they might be able to integrate this as an essential first step in their process,” she said.