Tech Heroes is an initiative that aims to create opportunities for members of different ethnic communities in Kosovo to work together to design technological solutions with the purpose of improving society.
This project uses technology as a common denominator for the first time to raise awareness of the need to work together for a better future, which will require digital skills. It was designed by jCoders Academy and IOM, and is supported by the British Embassy in Pristina.
"We started this project in 2019 and so far we have implemented 3 editions. The third edition of "Tech Heroes" started in October 2020 and lasted for six months, until March 2021. As a result of the third edition, we hired 210 participants from 9 municipalities divided into 22 teams; 14 teams qualified for the final event ", explains Fiona Shehu, one of the founders of jCoders Academy.
Shehu states that all participants in the program had the opportunity to go through the entire cycle of project development, from training, conceptualization, design, development, testing to launch.
At the very beginning, the participants went through a general training where they acquired a basic knowledge of programming. In this initial phase, an assessment was made of their commitment and interest in becoming real "technological heroes".
All participants chose three topics that included social issues that they considered relevant, on the basis of which they were grouped in the next phase.
Topics that were part of the third edition of Tech Heroes were: environment, tourism, health and well-being, response to the pandemic and recovery, education, people with disabilities, social inclusion, arts and culture, and youth empowerment.
In the next stage, they learned about techniques that help them solve problems. They identified a certain problem in their community and came up with ideas that would contribute to solving that problem. Only the best ideas went to the next stage.
In addition to advanced trainings in technology, participants were enabled to participate in specialized trainings on social networks, business development, "UI UX", "Adobe Illustrator", "FireBase" ...
Participants also learned to use collaborative and organizational tools such as GitLab. Thus, they prepared for the next phase where they took on roles and responsibilities in the implementation of projects.
During the implementation phase, they attended planning meetings and took on tasks and responsibilities. Each team member had a specific role and tasks to perform to ensure that the team delivered the final project.
The teams that were successful in creating the functional project were part of the final competition, and their project was judged by an expert jury.
"Tech Heroes" strives to create a more inclusive society for all communities in Kosovo by strengthening cooperation and enabling joint initiatives, and as Shehu states, they have already seen positive results after the implementation of the two previous editions of the project.
The previous two editions of the project gathered all participants in one place, however, due to the COVID 19 pandemic, they had to transfer the entire Tech Heroes methodology to digital form. All trainings and phases of work were adjusted to that, except for the final event.
"Our main concern due to the new adjustments was how to keep participants motivated to perform desirable behaviors during learning, but also to maintain a component of social interaction among participants, because as we know, nurturing relationships is a little harder online, but we were very aware of this risk and this pushed us to introduce new innovative methods into the program. One of the methods was the gamification of our program, which showed that it increases determination, internal motivation, and especially cooperation," Shehu points out.
At the final event held in early April, the three best teams were selected.
The first three places were won by "Guardians of Knowledge" (I), "CultKos" (II) and "Cov-Aid" (III).
Shehu is especially proud of the new friendships made during this project.
"I am especially proud to have seen new friendships being built between all ethnic groups, cooperation, and we have often had the opportunity to witness how participants overcome language barriers in order to achieve their common goals," she said.
In addition, groups with a more diverse background created more creative solutions.
"Proving this hypothesis makes me personally really happy!" - Shehu added.
JCoders is working on the next edition of this project. Calls for applications will be published on the website:
"We invite all young people in Kosovo who want to make a positive contribution to their society and develop technology skills to apply for our next edition of the project. We are very excited about the next edition", concluded Shehu.
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This project is supported by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and is implemented by the New Social Initiative. Expressed opinions represent the authors’ views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations, UNMIK or New Social Initiative.