Silicon Valley plays matchmaker to help millennials affected by Syria conflict

By Amanda Cupido

It’s the classic “chicken or the egg” dilemma. What comes first: a job, so you can get experience? Or experience, so you can get a job? The average millennial knows this quandary all too well. 

According to No Lost Generation research, it’s also a concern for youth and adolescents affected by the conflict in Syria.

Hatem Mekkawi is a 24-year-old refugee from Syria, living in Jordan. He was one of the people who helped conduct the research about what challenges refugees his age are facing. Here’s the video he produced, with his findings.



This month, Microsoft, UNICEF, World Vision and NetHope co-hosted the No Lost Generation Symposium in Silicon Valley. It provided a space for private-sector companies to be paired with humanitarian work to help address some of the challenges faced by refugees like Hatem.

“We are playing matchmaker,” said Mark Chapple, to the room of more than 50 attendees, representing organisations like HP, Dropbox and Accenture. As the head of No Lost Generation for World Vision’s Syria Response region, Chapple highlighted the need for partnerships.

“We want to bring together the expertise, the innovative approach and the ideas from the tech community, and how they can address some of the key challenges for some of the world’s most vulnerable people,” he said.

The key challenges, as identified by UNICEF’s No Lost Generation Advisor, Katy Barnett, include

  1.      Access to quality, post-elementary education
  2.      Access to dignified work
  3.      Young refugees feeling isolated and negatively portrayed in the media
  4.      Discrimination against women and girls

“This is a very results oriented community.… I really loved the blend of expertise, practically and emotion that I saw at the tables,” said Barnett.

Hatem’s message was tied to the first two challenges, which resonated with most people in the room, including Microsoft’s Senior Director Global Programs, Jane Meseck.

“We were engaging around the issue of ‘how do we help with skills training outside of formal education?’” said Meseck. “There was a lot of great conversation about the different elements at work, the possible gaps, and how we could help,” she said.

Some of those possible solutions included making resources available in Arabic, providing training for more teachers and developing a career pathway program that connects “learning to earning” for displaced youth.

It’s the kind of conversation that NetHope’s Leila Toplic was hoping for. As the No Lost Generation Tech Task Force lead, she says events like this are two fold.


“We structured the event so that private and humanitarian sector attendees have a shared understanding of what the challenges are facing displaced youth and adolescents. From there, we wanted them to have an opportunity to really activate around these challenges and focus our collective resources and expertise on solving them,” said Toplic. 

The ideas that come to fruition will be presented in February 2018 at the No Lost Generation Tech Summit in Jordan.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the private sector can provide support, take a look at the No Lost Generation Private Sector Guide.