Tasha is a social entrepreneur with fifteen years experience in technology, bringing her skill set to social good.
Me: What inspired you to do this work?
Tasha: In the autumn of 2015, like thousands of people across Europe, I was moved to take action to support refugees. I founded a local solidarity group near my home in Southwest France, and we quickly found ourselves providing direct aid to a group of Syrian refugees in a nearby city.
We were in complete crisis mode and I was quickly overwhelmed by how difficult it was to track and update donations of material items. One family needed a fridge, another needed size four diapers, another little boy had no sandals. The group needed a website, translators, and regular food deliveries.
The needs changed week to week, day to day. Meanwhile, people wanted to help, but they kept bringing items we didn’t need, or volunteers would duplicate efforts. I just kept thinking, “if only we had something like a wedding registry to track needs, it would be so much easier.”
I come from a tech background and assumed there was something like that out there, but I searched and searched but found nothing. So that’s how NeedsList was born.
Me: Why is it important to connect these two? What are you up to?
Tasha: I have been on both sides of the equation – needing help immediately and wanting to help in a crisis situation. I know from my own experience that people and companies are looking for better ways to meet needs.
I also know that trust in our institutions is at an all time low – so we need to make it as easy as possible a) for people to find a way to help that is meaningful to them and b) to increase transparency in the process.
We also wanted to reduce waste by allowing donors to purchase goods locally. We figured, if we can buy flowers online from anywhere, why can’t we buy diapers for a refugee family in Greece?
We now have over 100 organizations on NeedsList who are working in ten countries. Since our launch in 2017 users on our platform have met over 32,000 needs for people displaced by war and disaster. These range from sleeping bags to SIM cards and represent over $150,000 value.
Me: Can you share a story/anecdote on how you/your organization in the last year has grown? Whether it was handling a crisis or a challenge… A light bulb/aha moment if you will.
Tasha: From the very beginning when we started working on NeedsList, we were thinking it could be eventually applied to disaster relief, but wanted to wait a year or two. Last summer, we had barely launched our platform when hurricane after hurricane struck the US and Caribbean.
NGOs on our platform began to ask if they could create NeedsLists to engage their donors in relief and recovery work. We decided to go for it, and found that actually – immediately after a crisis is when NeedsList works best. One of the NGOs on our platform was based in Sonoma and within ten days of the Sonoma fires, over $25,000 of resources were channeled to affected families through NeedsList.
That experience helped cement our vision – we want to be the go to place that people turn to support people displaced by conflict or climate change. We want people to take out their phones and say “how can I help on NeedsList?”
Me: What have you learned?
Tasha: I wish I had known just how hard it would be! But seriously, what we have learned is that even having the word “refugee” associated with your business is a huge red flag for financial services and other institutions, so we are consistently required to go through a level of due diligence that is a typical for a small organization like ours.
We are white and have U.S. Passports, and the entire process has made me very aware of just how challenging it must be for migrant entrepreneurs who come from countries deemed “high risk”. I am so happy to see so much interest in refugee and migrant entrepreneurship, but I hope that these programs provide the support for this added layer of bureaucracy from everything to setting up a bank account to launching a website.
Me: How can people get involved and support the work that you do?
Tasha: There are so many ways people can get involved. Jump on Needslist.co and you can purchase supplies, donate your time, or funds. Churches, synagogues, or schools can also sponsor lists and individuals can create wishlists for their birthdays or weddings.
If you know of businesses that offer supplies or services needed by people on the move, please feel free to make an introduction. You can reach me at [email protected]