A lot of people want to help the many refugees arriving in Sweden right now. The new app “Welcome!” helps refugees and locals to come in contact with each other so that the newcomers get a better start in the new country.
Tobias Rosman, interaction designer at Screen Interaction, is one of the founders of the initiative Welcome! who wants to make it easier for refugees to cope in Swedish society. The development team has created an app that allows refugees to ask locals about everything from where to find jobs and housing to leisure activities and meeting places. Locals can also invite refugees to social activities such as dining, a “fika” (meeting up for coffee) or football practice.
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. In this interview, Tobias Rosman talks about the idea behind the app and the ongoing Kickstarter campaign to finance the app in the longer term.
How did you get the idea to create an app to connect refugees with the locals in Sweden?
‒ We saw that authorities and organizations were overwhelmed by the number of refugees who arrived, making the welcoming of refugees 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 these many newly arrived refugees in Sweden would be if the 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 have created the Welcome! to make it easy for everyone to get involved and have direct contact with refugees without having to go through organizations of different forms.
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 health care 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 started a Kickstarter campaign where you seek one million Swedish kronor. Do you think you’ll succeed with that goal, and what happens if you fail to reach the campaign goal?
‒ I think we will succeed. 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. And if that doesn’t work either, we won’t continue this initiative.
In what way does Screen Interaction contribute to the project?
‒ Screen Interaction has contributed much. 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.
For more information on the Welcome! app, visit welcomeapp.se. To donate money, swish to 123 160 49 82. If you’re a company and donate 10 000 SEK, you will get logo and name at welcomeapp.se landing page. If you donate 20 000 SEK you will also get a lecture from the Welcome! team (Limited to first ten donations).
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