Launching the Education in Emergencies Alliance

Last year, the innovationXchange ran the MIKTA Education in Emergencies Challenge, a six month global call for innovators to source new solutions that support the delivery of education in crisis situations, particularly focused on girls.

This was run in partnership with OpenIDEO, design firm IDEO’s open innovation practice, as well as the Global Knowledge Initiative and AECOM (through the Innovation Resource Facility).

The challenge attracted 370 innovations for implementation in 60 countries. After a rigorous selection process run by a panel of international experts, the Foreign Minister announced seven winners in December 2017, who will share in a AUD 2 million prize pool to develop and test their innovations.

One of the winners was RISE (Refugee and Immigrant Services), who developed a software tool for humanitarian workers to log educational data, identify barriers to education and alert other workers for action. Sergio Medina, RISE Co-Founder and CEO, commented, “For the first time our idea was able to stand on its own… A lot of time competitions are more about the business plan and less about the idea and work.” 

In the past, innovationXchange challenges and initiatives have focused exclusively on supporting the challenge winners to scale their innovations. But with so many high potential ideas to enable communities in crisis situations, we saw an opportunity to test a new post-challenge support model developed by OpenIDEO: an Alliance. Under this model, promising finalists will also be further supported to progress and scale their project through a virtual innovation network.

The Education in Emergencies (EIE) Alliance aims to assemble a collaborative community of support that will help members devise creative solutions to problems they are experiencing in their ventures. It also seeks to accelerate the progress of thought leadership in the EIE space.


One of the greatest strengths of this EIE Alliance is the diversity of its members. EIE Alliance members come from a wide range of professional backgrounds. They are software engineers, designers, educators, entrepreneurs, academics, and leaders in NGOs and business and they are implementing ideas in over 40 countries, bringing diverse cultural perspectives and levels of expertise to their work. Some have been working in their field for 20 years or more, while others are just beginning. Some even have lived experience of being a refugee. 

Aside from their professional experiences, the innovators have many interesting stories to tell. For example, Crisis Classroom’s Co-Founder Kate McAllister once bought a double decker bus on eBay and turned it into a mobile school. Paul Falzone from PVI has acted in four Ugandan action movies, and Soraya Fouladi from Jara began her career as a professional ballet dancer. 


We believe the diversity of this cohort will be one of its greatest assets and lead to valuable cross-cultural dialogue that will ultimately increase positive outcomes for the end beneficiaries each innovator serves. Empathising with diverse viewpoints is key to the Human-Centered Design process, a methodology that has been core to the EIE Alliance model.

The Alliance launched this week, with 35 organisations from across the globe ready to push their initiatives to the next level. Alliance members will partake in a four-month virtual accelerator where they will receive peer support and mentorship.

Since starting a social venture from scratch can be a daunting prospect, the EiE Alliance will expose members to experts in design, business and EiE who understand their needs and can provide insights on how to drive impact in the development space.

Alliance members will be paired with a peer innovator, and each pair will be matched with two mentors. This model emerged directly from design research interviews, where innovators shared their desire for both peer-to-peer and mentorship support. By offering both types of support simultaneously through a group learning model, we anticipate these cohorts will progress faster, together.


To kick off their cohort engagements, these groups will meet virtually in April to discuss a big problem that they would like to solve to scale their innovation. They will then have one month to workshop the problem and provide an update on their progress in a follow-up meeting in May. In June, each organisation will share the progress they’ve made through this journey. High performing organisations will be eligible to receive flash funding from DFAT to further develop their project.

In addition to the two virtual small group sessions in April and May, Alliance members will be encouraged to participate in monthly webinars with the entire cohort. These sessions will allow all organisations to learn from each other and share their insights for the benefit of the wider group. This process is designed to accelerate collaboration and leverage the expertise of each organisation in an exchange of ideas.

We are confident that participants will emerge from the Alliance journey with a more successful model to support education in crisis situations, and that they will have formed lasting connections with potential partners in the Alliance network.

We look forward to sharing success stories from this acceleration process with you over the coming months. Keep an eye on our Twitter and this blog for more updates.


A screenshot image from our EiE Alliance virtual kickoff session, where over 30 innovators shared their dreams for driving positive impact in the world around them.

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Comments 3

  1. Very exciting to see this initiative launch! Can’t wait to see how this community connects, how innovators progress, and how this important field elevates – all to support those in the most vulnerable circumstances.

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