I am new to this community, but reasonably familiar with the principles of couch surfing. I’m interested in the technical solution and open source nature of the project, which is why I am wondering what folks here think about its potential for refugee appeals and the like. You probably know why this thought comes to mind now. Maybe you’ve seen what AirBnB dot org is offering - huge respect and support for this. But: would there also be value in a more independent, open source alternative? I think so. Especially if we can bring in some added data protection features, a few more languages, and perhaps a few complementary bits of info online. I have read several past threads on topics of disaster response, and certainly it is not my intention to divert any focus. So maybe just take this at least as a bit of appreciation for the high quality effort and adhesion to principles going on in this team!
Hi @loleg, welcome to the forum and to Couchers. Thanks for bringing this up.
We’ve had some similar thoughts here. Our platform could be used to help displaced people, and there have been discussions about what we could do. There are a few options we could consider. One is creating a fork of Couchers to focus purely on refugees, though we frankly do not have the resources to do this. Another would be to integrate extra features for this purpose on the main Couchers platform, but again we have similar problems, and this would likely only be useful once we gain a critical mass of other users.
For now we should move quickly and focus on non-technical solutions, and then learn what we can do in the future and other present crises.
We are going to email the userbase and share a blog post around social media saying that people that want to host refugees can register on the platform and mention this purpose on their profile. And then that people can sign up to look for people to temporarily shelter them. We will be having a discussion later this week with some people organizing the refugee sheltering effort in Ukraine about how we can coordinate in the best way.
Thank you for the thoughtful response and excellent initiative. I do not think that a special fork necessarily makes sense (even if that is too my own first reaction), but at least a web page with guidance for people who want to host refugees: asking them to check with local organizations, who may be in the best case able to put someone on your Couch without much fuss. We should - not uncritically, nor unsupportively - entrust the refugee process with the authorities, especially from the financial angle. Focus on the strengths of this community: welcoming, hospitality, orientation. If I have something else online to add to this discussion, I will let you know.
We actually host collaboration spaces for member groups like Community Builders and Translators here on the forum. Right now these groups are hidden from users that don’t participate in them, but we are working on a re-design that will improve visibility for existing groups and generally offer a more flexible architecture around workgroups. Here’s a small preview of this:
This could probably be a good use case for our workgroup approach? We could add a group category like Crisis Hospitality and offer a space for interested members to discuss and collaborate on our options as a community project and platform?
Thank you very much for the public statement and resources this morning:
In light of recent conflict, we strongly encourage people with means in nearby countries to temporarily host refugees and displaced people in their homes.
At least on my side I think this answers most questions - for now!