It’s a gray day in Toronto, with rain pouring on the empty streets downtown. Inside the cozy confines of Mozilla’s Adelaide Street office a group of hackers, facilitated by Bianca Wylie, are reviewing the insights, challenges and opportunities surfaced over the course of the MigrahackTO weekend.  There are lawyers and journalists, students and public servants, interpreters and coders – people of all walks of life, come together, despite the rain, with one shared purpose.

For three days we have been digging into migration data, looking for untold stories and impactful ways to present them.  The Migrahack teams pulled data from all levels of government and various institutions including settlement agencies and universities.

We learnt first hand how far these Open Data initiatives have progressed in recent years,  In many cases, it’s not far enough; many data sets are “under review” without timelines, or restricted without explanation as to why.  In other cases, the data is incomplete, or just not there at all.  Despite these challenges, our friends in Ontario’s Open Government Office released several new immigration data sets just for Migrahack, so there are positive signs of openness and collaboration happening out there.

A key skill participants left Migrahack with is the ability to look beyond the data to see the interesting stories which emerge.  One example of this related to the use of interpreters in court settings.  The story that emerged was that less interpretation was being called for than would be required for newcomer cases.  In some cases, it appeared police were offering their own interpretation. The notion of police doing double-duty as officers and interpreters offers a host of ethical questions and consequences that will need to be followed up on.

I had a great conversation about the Canadian citizen response and responsibility side with a representative from the province’s Refugee Resettlement Secretariat.  We recognized that, as with any market segments, there are people more inclined to view refugees as beneficial, or need a bit of persuasion, or to be convinced they are not a threat.  The question we pondered was how to reach and connect with the latter group in a way that humanizes these newcomers and created avenues for dialogue and understanding.

 

To address and develop solutions to challenges like this requires a diverse team with a shared goal. For me, the ultimate highlight was captured in a quote on this theme shared via Skype by Claudia Nunez, the founder of Migrahack in the United States – “Even more important than the data are the connections we make through these hackathons, building communities that can engage and work together. “

At WHTO, we’re all about the building bridges, inspiring collaboration and co-creation.


Which leads to the most important insight of MigrahackTO, worded perfectly by MCIS Language Solutions Executive Director, Latha Sukamar

“Civic engagement means empowering

people to speak with their own voice.”

It is important that we ensure spaces and initiatives like this serve to empower the people we are seeking to assist, rather than speak for  them.

MigrahackTO was a starting point, but there is a lot more to do.  I’m looking forward to continued work with MCIS Language Solutions, Mozilla, CivicTechToronto and all our partners as we move forward on this story-telling journey of discovery.

Kitty and I have worked alongside Eliana and Zoya of MCIS Language Solutions to help develop this event. Thank you for including us on this amazing journey and we can’t wait to work on the next project with you!

Craig Carter-Edwards is a co-founder of Welcome Home TO