This is my law/design class’ brainstorm on problems refugees & the UNHCR face in communication. There are many challenges, especially in opening more reliable, trustworthy, & resonant channels between the UN bureaucracy and the refugees in an unsettled & knowledge-deprived space.
Dispute resolution mechanisms inside refugee communities can be a model for other resolution systems in non-refugee contexts.
For example, consider the ideas identified in this write-up of design interventions in a Serbian camp in the 1990s, by Divna Persic-Todorovic. In particular, consider in-person and game-based trainings in dispute resolution.
“This article is about the work on interpersonal conflict resolution in refugee camps in Serbia by the MOST group for non-violent conflict resolution. Difficult living conditions in refugee camps (lack of facilities; the necessity to share them) created many interpersonal disagreements. The situation was worsened by the sense of hopelessness that people brought from the places which they had to flee. They shared horrible stories of the war and of failed attempts to make their lives better. This circular motion of pain produced more sorrow.
“To break these dynamics, MOST organized activities in summer camps for refugees to teach people problem solving skills and active listening, promoting more understanding between them. They used such techniques as “Communication Games”, the “Secret Friend” game and workshops with an emphasis on conflict analysis. The “Secret Friend” game created an atmosphere of joy. People were coming up with creative ideas for how to make another person happily surprised. In analyzing their relationships, people were exercising active listening techniques and learned to recognize each others’ needs. Going from there, they tried to create solutions. The author concludes that the work done by MOST produced encouraging results in improving refugee’s relations and their view of life.”
Persic-Todorovic, Divna. Conflict Resolution, Working with Refugees. Conflict Resolution Notes. V. 12, No. 4. April, 1995. Pp. 44-45.
An article from Ben Paynter at Good Magazine about Gary Well’s work in the Austin Police Department to use a computer program to improve crime witnesses’ identification of suspects.
“It’s an experimental protocol designed by Gary Wells, the guru of eyewitness reliability—or rather, unreliability. The director of social sciences at the American Judicature Society’s Center for Forensic Science and Public Policy, Wells has been working on lineups since the 1970s, but in the past 20 years exonerations of hundreds of prisoners based on DNA evidence—after many had been convicted in part based on good-faith eyewitness testimony—have made his task all the more urgent. Wells doesn’t want to merely understand witness identification. He wants to fix it.”
“Attorney General Janet Reno asked Wells to head a task force on new lineup guidelines for states, and he proposed new practices drawn from his research. All lineups should be blind, he said—the cops administering them shouldn’t know who the suspects or fillers are. There should only be one suspect per lineup. Witnesses should be clearly advised that a suspect might not be in the lineup. And statements of confidence should be recorded verbatim at the time of the pick, because witnesses with any uncertainty have been known to talk themselves into their choices as time passes.”
“In 2006, Wells designed a new study protocol. The tests wouldn’t just be blind but “computer blind”—the computer itself could offer prerecorded instructions to ensure lineups were done uniformly. After officers created a lineup, the photos would also be digitally shuffled so they couldn’t pass along the location of their suspect to anyone running the lineup. That eliminates the chance of lineup administrators giving off any cues—subtle nods, coughs, or the suggestion to pay closer attention to any one photo—that might be used, unconsciously, of course, to tip witnesses off to prime suspects. The computer would even randomly decide whether to run a sequential lineup or a simultaneous one.”
Sarkissian Mason, a digital innovation agency, worked with the non-profit Pathways to Housing, to make a Virtual Homeless interactive experience for people walking down the street in New York, to encourage donations + engagement.
From the agency’s site:
As originators of the Housing First model, the non-profit engaged SM to help spread awareness in NYC of their initiative to transform individual lives by ending homelessness and supporting recovery for those with psychiatric disabilities. We created a human-sized video projection with which passersby could interact by texting “home” to make a door appear in the wall and rouse the sleeping figure to enter his new home. A subsequent text made a small donation to the cause.
A2J Author is a platform that lets non-tech specialists in the government, courts, and legal world to build websites & apps to let non-lawyers get more access — more easily — to the bureaucracy of the courts.
One instantiation is the A2J Guided Interview, which walks people who are representing themselves in court through the process. It takes them through a flowchart of decisions and tells them what papers they’ll need to assemble for court documents.
You can try it out if you want to pretend you are filing an “Application to Sue or Defend as an Indigent in Cook County, Illinois”. At the link, an online program to help you create the form to file this for free.
The New York State Bar Association has released a mobile app for lawyers, judges, and other legal practitioners — for quicker advice on whether their action is ‘Ethical Under the Law.’
The app mainly provides a Search Function, to let the professional find a legal opinion on the matter at hand, to determine whether it has been judged ethical or not.
The user can search by keyword, or by the name of the opinion if they hand it — and the app will search through NY’s full case output on ethics. The app shows the matches with brief digests of the opinions, and the user can click through for full text.
Many cities are using “311 Apps” on mobile devices or on Facebook to let citizens report basic city problems — potholes, graffiti, etc — to their local representatives. They can supply the details, photos, and requests directly to the city official that should be responding to them.
It also allows citizens a better way to track the progress of their request & keep statistics on the officials’ responses. People can also map where requests are to have a better sense of what areas are better served than others.
The city of San Francisco debuted a 311-Facebook app in February 2011.
New York City has its own NYC 311 mobile app.
Baltimore debuted their Mobile 311 app in August 2011.
Pittsburgh unveiled its iBurgh App in mid 2009.