Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Yuri Milner’s Vision: Transforming Refugee Support Through Tech For Refugees’ Initiatives

Julia and Yuri Milner launched Tech For Refugees in 2022 in response to the war in Ukraine. The non-profit initiative seeks to transform global refugee support through technology. Yuri Milner is a Giving Pledge signatory and the author of Eureka Manifesto. He has also founded the Breakthrough Prize and the Breakthrough Initiatives.

Here’s an overview of Tech For Refugees and its partner organisations and programmes.

Addressing The Global Refugee Crisis

The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that there are currently 100 million displaced people in the world. 27 million of those people are refugees seeking safety in foreign countries. At least 41% of those refugees are children.

Tech For Refugees’ goal is to address this global emergency and improve the lives of displaced people everywhere by leveraging the power of technology.

In April 2022, Yuri Milner committed $100 million toward programmes for refugees from the war in Ukraine and people in other crisis zones worldwide.

As a Giving Pledge philanthropist, Yuri Milner has donated to various humanitarian causes. However, the plight of the Ukrainian people in particular moved him, as his father’s family is from Ukraine.

When launching Tech For Refugees, Julia and Yuri Milner said: “We have been devastated by the heartbreaking suffering of the Ukrainian people. We believe that this initiative, in partnership with some of the world’s most creative technology companies and organisations, can provide practical assistance for people living in turmoil outside their homeland.”

Tech For Refugees’ Partners and Programmes

Tech For Refugees currently supports the humanitarian relief work of these eight partner companies and organisations.

1. Airbnb.org

Airbnb.org facilitates temporary stays for people in times of crisis. The organisation operates independently from Airbnb and leverages the company’s technology and services.

Airbnb.org became one of Tech For Refugees’ first partners in April 2022. As part of Tech For Refugees’ inaugural programme, Airbnb.org offered free, short-term housing to up to 100,000 refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

In November 2022, Airbnb.org reached this initial goal. The organisation drew on Airbnb’s global network of accommodation and Hosts. Over 33,000 Airbnb Hosts from more than 90 countries and regions — including Germany, Canada, Romania, and Hungary — opted into the programme.

Airbnb.org and Tech For Refugees continue to support refugees from Ukraine and worldwide by offering them safe, secure temporary housing.

2. Flexport.org

The impact arm of Flexport, Flexport.org optimises logistics for environmental and social impact. The organisation works with trusted non-profits and aid agencies to deliver relief supplies to those in need. Flexport.org also helps organisations meet their sustainability goals more easily and cost-effectively.

Flexport.org is another inaugural Tech For Refugees partner, having joined the non-profit in spring 2022 to deliver essential aid to Ukraine. Over 6 months, Flexport.org coordinated 409 aid shipments to 6 countries that had taken in Ukrainian refugees. These shipments contained millions of pounds of aid, including hospital beds, ambulances, and emergency supplies.

Tech For Refugees and Flexport.org have extended their partnership several times. New funding from Tech For Refugees has enabled Flexport.org to:

  • Expand the programme supporting refugees from Ukraine.
  • Deliver aid to refugees from Pakistan and the Horn of Africa.
  • Coordinate aid shipments to people in crisis zones worldwide, including communities impacted by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

3. Spotify

The audio streaming service Spotify joined Tech For Refugees when the non-profit announced its $100 million seed donation in April 2022. Spotify offered its Premium plan to Ukrainian refugees for free.

Spotify has also launched a multi-year programme with UNICEF. The programme acknowledges the positive impact of music and audio on mental health and leverages this power to support young refugees, displaced people, and migrants.

4. Welcome.US

Welcome.US is an initiative that unites, inspires, and empowers U.S. citizens to support those seeking refuge in the United States. Tech For Refugees has supported the development of the initiative’s new platform Welcome Connect.

Announced on World Refugee Day 2022, Welcome Connect is a first-of-its-kind sponsorship platform. The user-friendly platform helps Ukrainians searching for refuge in the U.S. connect with U.S. citizens who want to help and become refugee sponsors.

5. The International Rescue Committee

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) helps people who have faced conflict and disaster survive and rebuild their lives. In February 2023, Tech For Refugees announced a three-year financial commitment to support the IRC’s work.

So far, the funding has enabled the IRC to expand its Signpost platform in 10 new locations in Africa, the Americas, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific. Signpost is a tech-enabled “helpdesk” that offers support and information to refugees and displaced people. The platform won a prestigious award at the 2023 United Nations SDG Action Awards.

6. NeedsMap

NeedsMap is a Turkish data-matching platform that connects people in need with those who want to help. In May 2023, Tech For Refugees announced a new partnership with NeedsMap and the ride-hailing company Uber.

Through a grant from Tech For Refugees, NeedsMap users in regions affected by the February earthquake in Turkey can buy Uber ride credits.

7. Uber

As part of the NeedsMap programme in Turkey, Uber covered all fees and costs for any rides taken by NeedsMap users. Uber also forwarded payments directly to local drivers.

In August 2023, Uber extended its partnership with Tech For Refugees to support clients and staff of the IRC. Under the new programme, the IRC can access Uber ride credits to address refugees’ transport needs.


UNICEF USA, the United Nations Children’s Fund, became a Tech For Refugees partner in June 2023. The partnership brings essential educational support to children in Ukraine. Many of the country’s young people have seen conflict disrupt their education and destroy their schools, colleges, and universities.

A grant from Tech For Refugees helps UNICEF USA support Ukrainian authorities and communities to make learning safe and accessible for the nation’s children.

Expanding Tech For Refugees’ Reach

From coordinating resources to offering shelter and access to education, technology plays a critical role in humanitarian relief efforts. There are many ways innovative tech-focused companies and organisations can improve the lives of displaced populations around the world.

To increase the diversity and scope of its operations, Tech For Refugees continues to seek new technology partners.

Become a partner of Tech For Refugees.

About Yuri Milner

Yuri Milner is a billionaire, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who primarily invests in science and technology-related enterprises. He founded the successful internet company investment firm DST Global. He has also co-founded several philanthropic initiatives, including the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, the Breakthrough Initiatives, and the Breakthrough Prize.

In 2012, Yuri Milner and his wife Julia became members of the Giving Pledge. Many of the world’s wealthiest individuals, such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates, have joined the Giving Pledge to commit the majority of their wealth to charitable causes. The Milners’ Giving Pledge mainly focuses on philanthropy that advances science and celebrates scientists.

To fulfil their Giving Pledge, the Milners — together with Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan, Sergey Brin, and Anne Wojcicki — established the Breakthrough Prize. The Breakthrough Prizes are the largest scientific and mathematical awards in the world. Several brilliant researchers in life sciences, fundamental physics, and maths receive Breakthrough Prizes worth $3 million each year.

In 2015, Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking announced the first Breakthrough Initiative, Breakthrough Listen. This $100 million project has reinvigorated the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). There are now four more Breakthrough Initiatives: Starshot, Watch, Message, and Discuss.

Julia and Yuri Milner created the Breakthrough Junior Challenge in 2015. The global science video competition for students aged 13-18 receives thousands of submissions each year. Breakthrough Junior Challenge winners receive a $250,000 post-secondary scholarship and other prizes for their teachers and schools.

Yuri Milner is the author of Eureka Manifesto: The Mission for Our Civilisation (2021). A short, compelling read, Eureka Manifesto argues that we need a mission to unite and galvanise humanity, driving our progress as a species. You can read, download, or listen to Eureka Manifesto for free online.

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