Monash University researchers partnered with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Innovation Team to design, implement and deliver Limitless – a a year funded by the World Health Organization, aimed at stimulating youth innovation around the fight against COVID-19.
The IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, supporting National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (RCRCs) and their more than 14 million volunteers in 192 countries around the world. In May 2021, Limitless was launched to help young innovators, among volunteers, to propose and develop solutions to challenges faced in their local communities during the pandemic.
Over 1,000 young volunteers from 72 countries have applied to join Limitless. After a year-long program of supporting and developing 333 successful projects, ten shortlisted innovators will showcase their projects at the IFRC General Assembly from June 19-21 in Geneva this year.
The shortlisted projects include combating gender-based violence, mental health advocacy, greening city balconies and many more initiatives started by volunteers from Thailand, Egypt, Colombia, Nepal, Uganda, Kenya , Ecuador and the Philippines.
Researchers at the Faculty of Information Technology (IT) Action Lab have designed and developed a new digital pipeline through which the video submissions of the many volunteers can be automatically transcribed, translated and edited. More than 150 translation students from the Faculty of Arts volunteer to translate not only the videos (into English for evaluations), but all of the program’s communication materials.
Action Lab project manager Dr Tom Bartindale, who worked with researcher Joshua Seguin and research engineer Harrison Marshall to implement the initiative, said it is unique for a project at the global scale to be open to applications in so many different languages, such as Swahili, Bahasa and Mandarin, as well as the four official languages of the IFRC.
Another major challenge was designing a system that would support multilingual participation, even in remote locations with limited internet infrastructure.
“We’ve created a system that accepts video submissions from volunteers in the language they’re most comfortable with, styles and stitches those videos together to form a cohesive story, and transcribes and translates its content to make their story unique. innovation accessible to evaluators and other volunteers,” said Dr Bartindale.
“We also included processes to give each volunteer high-quality video feedback on their submissions, as the procedures weren’t just to facilitate a contest, but to encourage innovation.
“As human-computer interaction researchers, the goal was to create technology that would be well suited to the unique needs of participating volunteers from various remote locations around the world.”
Shaun Hazeldine, Chief Innovation Officer and Head of IFRC’s Innovation Center – Solferino Academy – said the implementation of Limitless has already helped launch many impactful projects through RCRC National Societies across the world.
“The design, technology and translation work provided by Monash researchers and students has been crucial in ensuring linguistic inclusivity and accessibility for young people in vulnerable and remote communities around the world. We are very proud and amazed by the creativity, passion and innovative ideas that young volunteers around the world have presented throughout this program,” said Mr. Hazeldine.
Action Lab director and human-computer interaction expert, Professor Patrick Olivier, said the lab was proud to support this vital IFRC initiative.
“This collaboration is a shining example of the kind of tangible impacts that well-designed technologies can facilitate. This is an example of an approach that helps build capacity at the community level,” said Professor Olivier.
Action Lab, is an interdisciplinary research group whose mission is to undertake impactful digital innovation in partnership with communities and NGOs.
Monash University researchers and students have dedicated their time, research, and pro bono efforts to the Limitless project.
Dr. Bartindale is available for interviews.