EdTech Hub teams up with UNHCR

Update: Monday 22nd June

The call is now closed. Thank you for everyone’s applications. We are currently reviewing them and will be in touch with applicants in due course.


UNHCR is teaming up with the EdTech HubmEducation AllianceGlobal Innovation Exchange (GIE) and ECW to open a specific Refugee Sub-window to their EdTech call – in order to respond to the learning emergency caused by COVID-19 school closures.  Selected applicants will be invited to a dedicated Pitch Day focused on refugees, allowing teams to compete for the opportunity to join the Humanitarian Education Accelerator’s (HEA) Rapid Response COVID-19 Cohort.  

If you have already submitted an application to the general EdTech call, please do indicate your interest in being considered for the Refugee Sub-Window here

Background information

According to the latest figures released by UNESCO, over 1.2 billion learners around the world are not able to attend school or university, and 192 governments ordered countrywide closures of their schools and universities, with many introducing virtual learning modalities. 

Refugees and forcibly displaced communities are disproportionately excluded from national virtual learning initiatives – often failing to obtain the devices, infrastructure and connectivity required to properly engage.   

Longer-term consequences of this disruption will be felt long after the immediate crisis response has passed and schools reopen, such as: 

  • A growing divide between refugee children and youth and their national peers;  
  • Continued disruption of student enrolment and retention in school; 
  • Increased risk of drop-out including students who may not return to school, as well as those who return but fail to catch up due to prolonged absence from school; 
  • Negative impacts on the cognitive, academic and socio-emotional development of students, particularly with the disruption of support services delivered in and through schools; and 
  • Stalled or even reversed learning gains in affected regions and reduced educational attainment of marginalised children, such as girls and children with disabilities. 

How are we responding to this

We believe that both high and low technology solutions – especially when paired with high-quality curriculum delivered by skilled teachers – have an important role to play in the overall response to COVID-19. We are running an open call for problem-solvers from around the world to share their solutions that respond to the learning emergency impacting learners globally, and focus on how to ensure refugees aren’t left behind from national learning initiatives, particularly once they return to school.    

As countries gradually reopen their schools, continuous learning efforts are likely to remain in use as children may not be able to return to school at once, due to physical distancing measures. Furthermore, some countries may have to re-enforce lockdown measures if there is a resurgence of the virus in the coming months, resulting in new school interruption. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that no country is immune to the emergency, calling for innovative solutions to ensure the continuation of learning when schools are forced to close. Building national capacities to provide continuous learning options in times of emergencies contributes to strengthening the resilience of education systems.

Successful applicants will be part of the Humanitarian Education Accelerator’s COVID-19 Cohort, and will be provided seed-financing, mentorship and support to scale and accelerate their interventions to help ensure refugees, and the communities that host them, are actively included in national continuous learning approaches, including providing options for back-to-school remedial support.  

What we are looking for

Tested solutions that offer an opportunity to expand national virtual learning programmes, to low-resource refugee hosting contexts, to help mitigate some of the longer-term consequences. We are looking to support a range of high and low technology-enabled initiatives with a focus on: 

  • Innovative methods for delivering virtual learning and education content for students out-of-school and in non-formal settings
  • Support for teachers and school education leaders 

Within these focus areas, we are seeking interventions that support: 

  • Data: Modalities for collecting data/monitoring the efficacy of response models and learning programmes and their  reach and benefit for the most vulnerable  
  • Secondary Education: Solutions which support learning at the secondary level 
  • Primary Education: Solutions which target an already at-risk population for dropping out: those that are completing their final primary school exams and transitioning to secondary school 
  • Expanded reach: Approaches that support the national responses to reach communities living far from the urban centres, as well as in refugee camps and settlements.   
  • Low/no-tech: solutions for content distribution, continuous guidance & support where no connectivity and very few households have devices.  
  • Remedial/Catch up/Accelerated Education: Once school’s re-open, how can we ensure learners are able to join back into their age-appropriate level in school. 

We will consider a range of ideas that have been proven and are more speculative: 

  • Initiatives with proof of impact currently working within the education sector, which could be pivoted or quickly scaled to respond to refugee communities to ensure they are able to benefit effectively from national initiatives.  
  • Initiatives that can be adapted to respond to changing contexts, providing the flexibility to adjust to providing remedial support when schools reopen.  
  • Initiatives from anywhere: we welcome ideas from start-ups, non-profits, government officials, individual researchers, or anyone else seeking to further education outcomes during COVID-19 
  • Initiatives that incorporate as much as possible the principles of Universal Design for Learning  
  • Bottom-up concepts designed and built by those affected by COVID-19. 

How to apply

Submit your idea by filling in this simple application formThe deadline for applications is 12noon GMT on 22nd June.

The HEA COVID-19 Cohort Offer

All eligible applicants will benefit from the broader aspects of the EdTech Hub’s COVID-19 call including exposure to the Global Innovation Exchange and mEducation Alliance networks. Including an opportunity to pitch your idea at a COVID-19 EdTech Pitch Days, providing connections to world leading experts and donors. 

In addition, selected applicants will be welcomed to join the HEA COVID-19 Cohort.

Ten teams will be invited to benefit from a virtual Learning Series Bootcamp. During this bootcamp, participants will be able to select a series of tailored workshops to provide feedback and mentorship on your solution. This bootcamp will provide guidance and mentorship on:

  • how to test and iterate your solution with refugee hosting communities in a COVID-19 context; 
  • how to track your impact on learning outcomes;
  • how to work with governments to scale your solution, and many more topics. 

This bootcamp will form a learning series focused on forming partnerships for like-minded solutions, how to monitor your initiative, how to support opportunities for scale. Members from the mEducation Alliance, the EdTech Hub and UNHCR will serve as mentors along with guest experts from organizations such as ALNAP and ECW. 

After completion of the Bootcamp, applicants will be provided an opportunity to adjust their proposal and 3 solutions will be selected for additional financing (up to 60,000 USD) to assist with scaling up your programme. 

The three interventions will also receive further mentorship support from the HEA mentors and partners, in the form of a one-week sprint to help refine the scale-up. 

We believe that there is no limit to what great ideas and talented entrepreneurs can do in partnership with educators and education systems in response to this problem. 

M&E Mentoring & Support  

The goals of the HEA remain to build stronger evaluation capacity amongst partners and to provide a stronger evidence base for innovative programming in general through rigorous research. In this manner, the COVID Cohort will not only be supported to adapt their solutions for refugee contexts but will also receive mentorship to document the results of their initiatives. To this end each team will be supported to: 

  • Design an updated ToC for their COVID context; 
  • Build a corresponding M&E framework to document the programme implementations with key performance indicators to track outcome results; 
  • Develop tools to monitor and document programme pivots and progress; and 
  • Help identify three research questions that cut across all selected grantees.  

The HEA would also like to produce evidence through research on the overall impact of innovative solutions on the learning outcomes of students, and will explore how to develop an evaluation that looks across the different solutions provided. 

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