Part 5: The Problem

The year 2015 marked a dramatic increase in asylum seekers and refugees in Germany. On September 12, 2015, alone, an estimated 13,000 refugees arrived in Munich, pushing the city to its limits. In response to the humanitarian need of the new arrivals, cities across Germany set up large welcome centers to provide shelter, food, clothing, and medical attention.

Against this backdrop and crisis situation, Project Reconnect was born. The aim of the initiative is to help refugees rebuild their lives by facilitating access to online education and information resources. In December 2015, Google.org provided NetHope a grant to implement Project Reconnect and oversee the distribution of 25,000 managed Chromebooks to German organizations supporting the refugees, including NetHope members, Save the Children, SOS Kinderdorf Germany, SOS Kinderdorf Austria, and five state and regional Red Cross organizations in Germany. As of June 2017, NetHope has granted the Chromebooks to 50 organizations, which have deployed them at more than 1000 locations across the country. The majority of Chromebooks is made available in schools or other education facilities, offering a combination of online and in-person German language training, social and cultural events, and activities.

The rapidly evolving refugee situation has required grantee organizations to constantly adapt and adjust plans for Chromebook deployment. Through this process, innovative implementation models have been developed and implemented. Originally, for many grant recipients, targeted locations for Chromebooks (identified in their original proposals) were large-scale welcome centers, which housed thousands of refugees. In these settings, the aim was to facilitate access to online German language training to accelerate refugees’ ability to communicate and navigate in their new context. However, starting in early 2016, the numbers of newly arriving refugees dropped from nearly 200,000 in November 2015 to just under 16,000 in September 2016. This process led to the decommissioning of many of the large-scale welcome centers, which had been identified as recipients/hosts in the original grantee project proposals.

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