In the bag: Oxfam Australia recognised in top innovator list for 2018

Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 31 Jul 2018

Oxfam Australia was last night recognised as one of Australia and New Zealand’s most innovative organisations after it was ranked 96 in the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Most Innovative Companies List for 2018.

The annual innovator list, judged by leading innovation consultancy Inventium, looks at the top innovations across Australia and New Zealand in the past year. Specifically, judges look at the value of the problem that an innovation is attempting to solve, the quality and uniqueness of the solution, and the level of impact it has had.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke said Oxfam earned its place on the top innovator list for its work tackling poverty and striving to work with communities to achieve tailored solutions, including a program supporting women refugees in the Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan to transform old UNHCR tents into fashionable tote bags.

Oxfam’s work with Syrian refugees in the Za’atari camp in Jordan over several years had taught us that many women refugees faced particular barriers to generating income, including work facilities lacking adequate safety and protection,” Dr Szoke said.

“In collaboration with the women, and in part owing to our work in waste management in the camp, Oxfam helped identify an opportunity to up-cycle old UNHCR tents into tote bags for sale in the local and international market.

“The project has seen about 280 Syrian refugee women trained in sewing and production of the tote bags, which have been designed by a Jordanian fashion designer.

“More than 3000 bags have been sold in local and European markets thus far, with 80 per cent of profits from bag sales going back to the Za’atari tailors themselves. By helping boost the earning capability of women in the camps, household income for refugee families has increased, as has a sense of purpose.”

The project was supported by the Australian Government, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit and implemented by Oxfam.

“Being recognised in this way is not only acknowledgement of Oxfam’s willingness to tailor programs with the aim of improving the effectiveness of aid to the world’s poorest people, it also speaks to the vital role Australian-aid funded projects continue to have in some of the most vulnerable communities,” Dr Szoke said.

This is the second year in a row Oxfam Australia has ranked in the AFR Most Innovative Companies List. Last year Oxfam Australia won the award for best social innovation of the year for work helping farmers in Sri Lanka adapt to climate change.

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