Twilio has teamed up with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) to enable the digital transformation of its services across the globe and to accelerate the delivery of humanitarian aid through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
In response to COVID-19, the NRC needed to digitise its comms, so not to rely solely on the ability of refugees to be physically present. The NRC and Twilio have together built a number of contact centres around the world, leaning on Twilio’s cloud-based contact centre solution, Flex, for rapid customisation and deployment. The “Digital Communication Hub” now provides two-way omni-channel communication to refugees in need across 25 countries, wherever they are, helping to save lives.
The project has enabled the NRC to manage calls at scale, exceeded expectations; the Libyan contact centre was expected to manage 400 calls a week, but has received and managed over 20,000 in the first two weeks of operation.
Today, 79.5 million people globally are fleeing war and persecution, and in 2019 alone the Norwegian Refugee Council assisted 9.1 million individuals and families. Refugees are often forced to focus on surviving one day at a time, and COVID-19 restrictions have had a significant impact not just on their health but also their livelihoods. Many are therefore experiencing even greater difficulties in feeding their families, keeping a roof over their heads and sending their children to school. At the same time, as for many other organizations, COVID-19 has made NRC review its way of working to adopt approaches that don’t rely solely on the ability to be physically present.
To overcome issues impacting the delivery of aid during the pandemic, NRC and Twilio joined forces to build a number of contact centers, leaning on Twilio Flex for rapid customisation and deployment. NRC’s Digital Community Hub uses Twilio’s services in countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Myanmar and Libya, to expand the reach of humanitarian response beyond in-person contact, working alongside consulting partner Zing. The new contact centers have enabled NRC to reestablish communication and assistance services to displaced people whose difficulties were further exacerbated by COVID-19. This has allowed NRC to deliver on its vision of providing help to those for whom survival has been further exacerbated by COVID-19, ensuring they continue to be able to access crucial information and assistance.
The results NRC has seen were delivered at scale and with impact exceeding their initial expectations. A contact center in Colombia has managed over 8,500 calls since late July and supports both conflict affected Colombian communities and Venezuelan refugees. NRC is enhancing its programme with a range of social, legal, and educational services that will be delivered via the contact center, providing solutions both in Colombia and in neighbouring Ecuador and Venezuela. NRC’s DCH in Libya supports refugees and asylum seekers facing great risk of abuse, exploitation, trafficking and serious harm. The contact center allows them to access crucial legal information and receive assistance with asylum claims. NRC had expected the Libyan contact center to manage 400 calls a week, but it received over 20,000 calls during its first two weeks in operation.
NRC was able to take advantage of the new capabilities to complete a survey to understand the impact of the pandemic on displaced people’s livelihoods. This phone-based survey, which allowed respondents in 8 countries to select their responses using their keypad, highlighted that 77% had lost a job or income, and 30% said that they had to borrow more money now than before the pandemic. The survey findings will enable NRC to enhance the humanitarian response to the impact of Covid on vulnerable communities, as well as to secure funding to respond to increased demand.
Paul Cornu, emergency response adviser at Norwegian Refugee Council comments, “NRC delivers assistance to people displaced by conflict in some of the hardest to reach communities. Our goal was to ensure that those whose need for help was even greater during the pandemic crisis could continue to get assistance. Working with Twilio, NRC has been able to achieve this by taking advantage of digital communications to reach more people faster and with greater efficiency. We are incredibly proud of this result and expect the relationship with Twilio to provide NRC with the foundations to transform aid so that it can be connected to people rapidly and in a way that suits them. Furthermore, with help in the form of a grant from Twilio.org’s impact fund, we have been able to add human capacity to set up and staff the contact centers.”
Erin Reilly, chief social impact officer at Twilio, adds “Twilio.org, Twilio’s social impact arm, exists to help organizations like NRC use communications to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems and change people’s lives for the better. Being able to work with NRC to deliver vital assistance, especially during COVID-19, highlights the vital role that social impact programs can play and why this is such an important area for Twilio. The work that NRC has done to transform refugee crisis lines puts them at the forefront of the digital transformation of humanitarian services, and brings help and hope to those forced to flee. ”