The 19 Million Project

In and around Rome

Basile, Francesco and Sylvia from BBC News Labs joined other news organisations from around the world at an event, which was part hack and part conference. It was organised by the 19 Million Project, which wants to understand the problems with the current refugee crisis narrative and explore new formats to tell the story. The project was a collaborative effort between Chicas Poderosas and La Coalizione Italiana Liberta e Diritti(CILD).

Rome, the location for this get together of designers, journalists and hackers, Rome, was a strategic choice as many migrants enter Europe through Italy.

During the workshop we had the chance to visit a migrant camp - a place where refugees find shelter, food, company and advice on their long journey to a new better life. We talked to some of the migrants, mostly young men, and the volunteers who help with logistics, meals and medical advice.

What we build

Over the course of the event we came up with a number of ideas involving different approaches to angles of reporting and new ways to connect people.

Finally, these were the two projects we went with:

A real-time long game sending you occasional updates about a fictional refugee’s whereabouts

Users who sign up to this would receive notifications and images from the journey of a fictional character through Europe. These arrive in “real” time throughout your day. Recipients will also be asked to make decisions that will affect the fictional character’s trip from beyond the continent’s borders to their final home – deciding which risks to take and which to avoid. Basile and Francesco teamed up with Mike Lazerwalker, a game developer from MIT Media Lab, to make that happen. They had a running prototype at the end of the event. You might be able to play that in the future - we are still incubating it for the moment….

A Refugee Information Portal

Anyone arriving in a new country has a host of questions about life there. A “one stop shop” site with basic information about each country would help them understand what was “normal” and save a lot of questions about basic issues such as registration for new arrivals, the laws regulating who can and cannot work and other common queries. Sylvia helped some event participants develop a clean interface, designed with mobile access in mind, that should serve as a first go-to point for refugees building up a life in a new country. You can find a prototype of BeingHere on Github - its is there to be forked and filled with content.