Skip to main content?

114 | Hacking Tech to Assist Refugees

Initially a “wedding registry for humanitarian aid,” NeedsList is software that any organization can license to match needs and offers in real-time for urgent local needs.

114 | Hacking Tech to Assist Refugees

The idea for NeedsList came in 2015 at the height of the refugee crisis in Europe. Co-founders Tasha and Amanda were both trying to help Syrian refugee families. The needs were overwhelming and constantly changing, making them hard to track. As a solution, Tasha hacked a wedding registry to communicate needs in real-time. 

Now, anyone on the site can pledge to fill a need, and the need is ultimately fulfilled by a supplier on the ground or in the area. The process cuts down on shipping, lag times, miscommunications and waste. 

In response to the influx of Afghan refugees in the fall of 2021, NeedsList created a custom, branded marketplace for refugee resettlement agencies and businesses across the country to post needs and make offers for Afghan neighbors. Even prior to launch, over $2 million in resources had been committed to welcome refugees. 

Currently, the team at NeedsList is working on a project focused on Venezuela, where the crisis and mass displacement have made it difficult to identify the resources needed at the community level across Latin America. Red Recuperación is an online marketplace that will aggregate needs from frontline workers, and match them with offers from local businesses and the Venezuelan diaspora. 

Recently, NeedsList announced they will be receiving a one million dollar grant and a pro bono team of software engineers from to scale their platform globally. They will work with Google Fellows on a software deployment to address the crisis in Ukraine and bordering countries. Engineers will incorporate AI solutions and cloud optimization and will add multilingual support to initial work in Ukraine response and to the free, public version of the software for future crises that is set to launch later this year.

NeedsList software has now been deployed in over 20 countries worldwide, directing over $20 million in resources to local communities. 

Co-founder Tasha has studied and worked in communities including the U.S./Mexican border, the Dominican Republic, and Thailand, and spent 2006-7 on a Fulbright Fellowship in Tarragona, Spain. She speaks regularly about the role of tech in the refugee crisis. We were fortunate enough to have her visit our show, Social Design Insights.


Our opening theme music for 2019 is "Bang Bang" and our closing theme is "Salvame" both by Eljuri from her album "La Lucha." The break music for this episode is "Lodestar" by Sarah Harmer from her album "You Were Here."