Social Hackers Academy : Changing refugees' lives with tech education

Teaching coding as a way to integrate in Greek Society !

Photo of Tiana Milville
1 3

Written by


  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Aggelina Mila

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative’s representative gender

  • Woman

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • Greece

Where are you making a difference?


Website or social media url(s)

When was your organisation founded?


Focus areas

  • Helping people adapt to technologies of the future
  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce
  • Creating digital tools

Project Stage

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $50k - $100k

Organisation Type

  • Non-profit / NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

In 2017, our 2 founders Damianos and Michael met by accident. Indeed, they both had booked a meeting at the same time with Frederic Bardeau, the co-founder and president of who was visiting Greece for an event. They both wanted to talk about their idea: creating the first coding school for refugees in Greece. Instead of being rivals they joined forces, Michael brought his entrepreneurial skills and Damian his knowledge of the Greek ecosystem. They also needed a third co-founder who could be able to assume the technical part. Chris, a talented web developer, found them after the creation of their website and offered to volunteer for them for two months. He stayed a year to help set up this innovative school for refugees.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

Since 2015, a crisis of unemployment and displacement has struck Greece. Pictures of overcrowded refugee camps and drowning migrants have shocked millions around the world. Yet, one crisis remains a story untold. It’s a crisis of refugee education and employment. Lacking access to the labor market, refugees are often caught in a vicious cycle of social and economic exclusion.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

In addition to the humanitarian crisis, digitization is on the rise. So is the need for e-skilled employees. We believe that tech education is the best turning point towards a dignified life. It helps refugees to sustain their families through stable employment which is the first step toward sustainable integration.Our main program is an intensive 7-month web development Bootcamp focused on fostering student’s employability. This course focuses both on digital hard skills and interpersonal soft competences. Students are taught web technologies like HTML, CSS, and Javascript as well as more advanced, particularly used by companies like React and Node.js. During the program, students are offered 40 hours of soft skills training. They are taught how to use LinkedIn, how to behave in a job interview and many more communication skills. In our experience, students particularly need these training because of cultural differences or long periods of unemployment. Upon graduation, students are assisted during their job search by SHA’s team. Every month SHA organizes events to gather tech professionals and companies, where students create a network among the tech ecosystem in Greece.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

The innovation lies in the holistic approach of the bootcamp. Greeks and refugees are mixed in the classroom, enabling them to create meaningful relationships and a first network of future tech professionals. Students are also taught by volunteer professional developers, who bring their hands-on experience.The program also emphasizes on interpersonal competencies that refugees and unemployed Greeks often lack, which can hinder their job market integration even if they have the required technological skills. Finally, the program connects students and graduates with the tech industry, allowing them to have a better overview of what will be expected of them and to find new opportunities.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Specific digital skills such as programming and web development are highly valuable in the current job market. However, acquiring those skills is particularly difficult for social vulnerable groups, as similar programs are charging tuition. For refugees and asylum seekers, university is not an option since all computer science degrees are taught in Greek. On the other hand, a majority of unemployed Greek cannot dedicate 3 years to obtain such degrees. Those two vulnerable groups have different needs that can be fulfilled with a simple solution: a 7-month bootcamp, focusing on the latest technology to rapidly grow students’ employability. Through problem solving quizzes and exercises, students learn step by step how to create fast and efficient websites and applications. 40 hours of the program are dedicated to interpersonal skills to ease their job market integration.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

The program focuses on web technologies. The first 2 months are dedicated to HTML and CSS, the basis of web development. The next 3 are focused on javascript, a programming language that enables students to create responsive websites. Then, the last 2 months are dedicated to more advanced web technologies that are widely used in companies. Students’ progress are tracked through monthly tests and feedback forms at the end of every module. Thanks to our experience and the monitoring plan, we are able to determine the most challenging part of the program and provide support to those in need.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

In Greece, coding bootcamps are usually too expensive for students. The free of charge ones, are restricted to web-development basic principles, not targeting employability. In Europe, different schools are offering the same services (eg. Simplon, HackYourFuture). Our specificity stems from the Greek context. Greece hosts the largest number of displaced people in Europe and most of them will spend between 1-5 years waiting for the refugee status. This delay could be seen as a waste of time but SHA enables them to take advantage of it and start early on their integration process.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Since 2017, 150 students have acquired coding skills and 44 have successfully graduated. 31 of them have been placed in the job market. 70% of our students reported having a better overview of their career and 60% improved their communication skills. We have also expanded our educational model, by similarly educating 30 people in Crete (GR) and in Barcelona (ES), partnering with local NGOs. Graduates, placed on the job market, are giving back to the students through teaching, mentoring or being part of the Social Hackers team. AbdalRahman Hamami, a former graduate is now managing the education programs. Mohammed is now a junior web developer working for Artlimes in Greece and a mentor for the students. In this way we multiply impact, while we nurture the values of solidarity and collaboration

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Since its launch the school has been funded by private donors (companies, foundations and crowdfunding). However, SHA is currently implementing new business models to rely less on fundraising. We are now offering website design services provided by our graduates to companies and NGO which need a website at a smaller cost. This new service enables our students to gain experience and helps the organisation self-sustain.To ensure long term sustainability, we are preparing the implementation of a new model in 2021. The next class will be composed of both vulnerable students and regular individuals. The people who do not belong to an underserved group will pay a tuition to enable SHA to provide the class for free for refugee and unemployed.

10. Team

- Project Coordinator (full-time): plans/monitors/evaluates the educational program, manages the funds and the HR involved. Will manage SHA’s geographical expansion and will coordinate the Web Development Services. - Head of Education(full-time): supervises students' selection process, education cycle and homework tracking. Coordinates the teachers. - Employment Manager (Full-time): manages corporate partnerships, securing employment opportunities & students’ soft-skills acquisition.

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • This does not apply to me

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Ashoka page or contact

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

SHA provides equipment, knowledge and support for refugees to become the next generation of web developers. In addition to classes, happening every evening, SHA provides a classroom space open for 12 hours a day for students who need a laptop, internet connection and support. SHA also acts as a bridge between beneficiaries and the tech industry. The industry’s representatives often come to the classroom to talk with students or interact with them during events organised by SHA. Thanks to these introductions, in 2018 Mohammed met the CEO of a company and got hired. Since then, he is financially independent and fully integrated in the Greek society. To create more success stories like this one even in difficult times, all classes have been moved online and laptops have been given to students who needed one to ensure the continuation of the program during the COVID-19 situation.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Planning & Strategy
  • Monitoring Impact
  • Program Design
  • Research
  • Legal Services
  • Brand Development
  • Multimedia
  • IT Infrastructure/CRM

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

For 2019, the sources of income & the percentage of each source, are:

foundation or NGO grants:  53 %

corporate contributions : 31 %

grants or contracts (European Union): 13%

Other : 3 %

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

SHA’s yearly budget for 2019 amounts to 71000 euros. 97% of this budget is dedicated to our programs and our biggest expenses are personnel costs and rent. In 2019, 93% of SHA’s income took the form of grants from either foundations,companies or the EU. In 2020, SHA strives to increase its self-sufficiency and to rely less on fundraising. SHA now offers web development services executed by our graduates for NGOs and small companies. Each project is sold between 500 and 1000€, depending on the specifications needed. This amount keeps our product competitive compared to Greek web agencies. SHA will implement one project every 2 month in 2020 and one project per month in 2021 onwards. This new source of income will enable SHA to self fund 6% of the expenses in 2020 and 14% in 2021 onwards. Our objective is to self fund 25% of our expenses in 2025.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

In 2018, SHA received funds from the EU to help set up a coding school in Barcelona partnering with a local NGO. SHA continues to get involved in EU programs, sharing its knowledge with NGOs willing to start coding schools for vulnerable groups. 

Social Hackers Academy also wanted to reach refugees in camps, to start their integration process early on. SHA is currently building an e-learning platform where refugees will be able to access learning material and support from professional developers. It will be made accessible to NGO managing camps or delivering programs near refugee camps. 

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

SHA’s priority is fostering self-reliance. We aim to help students enter the job market to be socially and financially independent

We have found that 40% of applicants knew about the program from a graduate. Hence, graduates who find a job are our best advocates. They give back to the community by mentoring or teaching. The main example of this is the position of Head of Education in SHA’s team which has always been given to a graduate. Ahmed, Zohir and now AbdalRahaman, because of their migration background, know student’s needs and are able to deliver the best program to fit them. 

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

Social Hackers Academy has been selected by Hello Greece,an accelerator program dedicated to migration solution part of Hello Europe an initiative by Ashoka

Social Hackers Academy is also part of HIGGS accelerator, a Greek ecosystem focused on empowering initiatives tackling social challenges. 

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

SHA partners with

- Local NGOs both to encourage their beneficiaries to take part in the program but also to share expertise. For instance, a digital literacy program for women was created with an NGO specialized in women’s rights. 

- Tech companies to create opportunities for graduates and co-create events.

- European NGOs to create a network of coding schools and through capacity building activities, to enable them to start their own coding school. 

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

In this video Aggelina Mila, managing director of SHA will walk you through the mission and vision of this innovative school.

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 25%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%


Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 66.7%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 66.7%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 33.3%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 100%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 50%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 0%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 100%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 0%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 100%

Other option - 0%

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Jimmy

What a truly amazing concept you have. We read in the news every day of the painful issues they face having fled violence. I am pleased to read about the work you do.