Mapping Out New Projects While Fostering Global Friendships

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Dec 18, 2019
by Claire Kidwell
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Mapping Out New Projects While Fostering Global Friendships

New partnerships and projects blossom at Salzburg Global Seminar’s recent program on education Brian Lally (Photo: Katrin Kerschbaumer)

During the Salzburg Global Seminar program, Education and Workforce Opportunities for Refugees and Migrants, participants were exposed to many initiatives and projects around the world. And now, some new ones are forming thanks to discussions in Salzburg.

Brian Lally, who works as an education specialist, says he plans to collaborate with participants on three projects, all of which have come out of the Solutions Café session held during the program.

Lally works alongside colleagues in Syria and supports self-sustaining refugee communities in Lebanon. These refugees said to themselves, according to Lally, “‘We’ve got to solve our problems ourselves, we are doctors and nurses and teachers and lawyers and engineers. Why? Why shouldn’t we be doing this anyway?’ So they set up MAPS (Multi Aid Programs) as a community organization to try and fix some of these challenges from within.”

Six years later, they have a health care program serving 15,000 patients a month, and nine schools, “teaching centers,” with 3,000 children in attendance. These schools operate within a mobile caravan, which brings education to informal settlements in Lebanon.

“It’s located right in the heart of these informal communities. The kids don’t have to walk or have to travel anywhere. We bring the learning to them, and it’s non-formal learning, but it’s Lebanese curriculum, and it’s brilliant.”

As the crisis in Syria becomes more protracted, however, and funding levels decrease, Lally says the community continues to come together to support itself, from funding schools through crochet characters to teachers working without payment.

“That level of commitment with the teachers, I mean, that’s deeply inspiring. You know this is, again, the dignity of the community. Sourcing solutions from within. And those solutions are all the more effective and more powerful because they come from within.”

And it’s not only the adults in the community. A group of Syrian refugee children took Lebanon by storm when they won the national robotics competition and got to visit the United States and meet President Barack Obama. These children then created a robot with artificial intelligence, so it would answer questions on what life is like as a refugee. This experience and the new character Robogee is where Lally sees new projects emerging out of this program.

The first partnership is with Diana Rodriguez-Gomez, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin. “She’s teaching on a program where she thinks some of her students might be not only interested but [also] good at picking up this idea of using [Robogee] as a vehicle for teaching specifically about human rights.”

Out of this, Lally hopes to work on new curriculum materials on this topic for younger children.

The next project is with Jim Pedrech, a teacher and ambassador for Project Kakuma. Lally hopes to bring in Pedrech’s input modeling expertise from Kakuma and create a 3D model of Robogee for animation. Lally says this project could involve tapping into existing or developing skillsets among older members of communities in Syria, who, in turn, can help drive this project further.

Next on Lally’s list is a partnership with Hands Up and Nick Bilbrough in Palestine. Lally sees an opportunity to combine their work through plays and performances with Robogee and refugee awareness. He says, “There’s a real opportunity using a character like the Robogee, or an extended world, that we might build around a Robogee in terms of creativity and maybe either using plays or possible animations or sketch designs…”

His ideas don’t stop there, but for now, Lally wants to ensure the projects mentioned become concrete outcomes.

Lally says the program has been massively stimulating and thought-provoking for both him and his organization. He says, “We’re really, really grateful for the opportunity.”


The Salzburg Global Seminar Program, Education and Workforce Opportunities for Refugees and Migrants, is part of the Education for Tomorrow’s World multi-year series. The program is held in partnership with ETS, Microsoft, Qatar Foundation International, Porticus, and the LEGO Foundation.

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