The public sphere is a powerful tool for weak ties to connect and become strong ties. In the case of refugees, it has played an integral in allowing citizens to communicate with and campaign for refugees. Social media is a key part of allowing people to assist refugees and can be instrumental in the campaigning for individuals to gain crowdfunded assistance.

Crowdfunding relies on “the power of crowds and networking” (Bannerman 2013) and is a great tool to provide widespread grassroots assistance for those who otherwise would not have access to much needed assistance. Crowdfunding is not only the result of networking, but also acts as a political tool through “activating social capital” (Díaz J.R. & Cacheda B.G., 2016), whereby people are able to orchestrate assistance for refugees outside of institutional constructs. The case of Adbul Halim al-Attar highlighted the power of social capital to facilitate a movement through #buypens, which allowed Twitter user Gissur Simonarson to not only find Abdul, but also set up a crowdfunding campaign for him. While the crowdfunding campaign highlighted the power of social capital to help an individual, the payments still had to be made through an institution (Paypal). As indicated through the screenshots below, this made and continues to make the actual payment process difficult and limits the political power of crowdfunding.

At the peak of social capital is the use of open source websites and apps to provide up-to-date, decentralised and immediate information for refugees. The recognition of this need and supplying the means to meet this need reflects the ideology of people looking to assist refugees. As stated by IRC’s technology coordinator, Rey Rodrigues, in Assist, open source works to enable refugees to be self-sufficient and have safe access to important information.

Reference list:

ABC News. 2016. #LetThemStay: Thousands gather in Australia-wide protests against return of asylum seekers to Nauru, ABC News, available at:

Bannerman S. 2013. Crowdfunding Culture, Journal of Mobile Media, available at

Butler J. 2015. Crowd-Funding Campaign For Phone Credit For Manus And Nauru Refugees, Huffington Post, available at:

Carfrae P. 2015. Driving lessons for refugees are set to change lives through crowd-funding campaign, Courier Mail, available at:

Dearden L. 2015. #BuyPens: Syrian refugee photographed selling pens to feed children uses crowdfunding to start businesses, Independent, available at:

Díaz, J.R. & Cacheda, B.G., 2016. Financing Social Activism: Crowdfunding and Advocatory Social Movement in Spain in Times of Crisis. In Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance, pp. 139-148, available at

Doyle E. 2015. Crowdfunding Campaign To Celebrate Asylum Seekers In Australia, B&T, available at:

Foyer K. 2015. Kate on the development of the project, Tumblr, available at:

Karas T. 2015. How entrepreneurs and aid groups are helping refugees with digital tools, Mashable, available at:

Milk C. 2015. How virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine, TED Talks, available at:

Migration Aid. 2015. Available at

SBS2Australia. 2015. Airbnb For Refugees: The Feed, Youtube, available at:

Zappone C. 2015. Migrant or refugees crisis: what’s in a hashtag?, The Sydney Morning Herald, available at:


Rafi:ki. 2015. rafi:ki / mixtape 015 / instrumental hiphop / trip-hop, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0), Soundcloud, available at

Footage in order of appearance:

Dolan Mahmoud. 2015. “Refugees are welcome here”, Youtube, available at:

SBS2Australia. 2015. Airbnb For Refugees: The Feed, Youtube, available at:

AJ+. 2015. German Website ‘Refugees Welcome’ Matches Refugees With Available Rooms, Youtube, available at

Vrse, 2015. Clouds Over Sidra, Youtubeavailable at

Milk C. 2015. How virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine, TED Talks, available at

Images in order of appearance:

[Screen recording] #refugeecrisis tag on Twitter, Twitter, available at

[Screenshot] New Humans of Australia, Facebook, available at

Syrova/AP O. 2015. Jonas Kakoschke (right) and Bakary Conan chat at Kakoschke’s flat in Berlin. Kakoschke gave shelter to Conan with his initiative Refugees Welcome, which has now placed 26 refugees in private homes, available at:

Simonarson G (@gissisim). 2015. [Screenshot] “Gotten a lot of requests to help this man and his daughter. Anyone know people in Beirut able to locate him? #BuyPens”, Twitter, available at:

Simonarson G (@gissisim). 2015. [Screenshot] “Finally found him =) Been a lot of work, but it was worth it! Now lets help them!”, Twitter, available at:!%20Now%20lets%20help%20them!%20from%3Agissisim&src=typd&lang=en   

Simonarson G (@gissisim). 2015. [Screenshot] 3 hours in. 3x our goal =) How many x the goal can we go? #BuyPens, Twitter, available at

Simonarson G (@gissisim). 2015. [Screenshot] #BuyPens Campaign Stats, Twitter, available at

Simonarson G (@gissisim). 2015. [Screenshot] Photos of Abdul’s new restaurant opening with the money raised through #BuyPens! Good job everyone =) Video soon., Twitter, available at

Project Open Network. 2015. Project Open Network volunteer talking with refugees and migrants in Tovarnik, Croatia, on September 20th., abc NEWS, available at:

[Screenshot] WIFI/CHARGING INITIATIVE AT KELETI, Tumblr, available at

[Screenshot] WIFI?CHARGING INITIATIVE AT KELETI, 11th September, Tumblr, available at

[Screenshot] WIFI?CHARGING INITIATIVE AT KELETI, 11th September, Tumblr, available at

[Screenshot] homepage, available at

[Screen recording] Greece, available at 2015. Refugee Phrasebook Cover, CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0), Wikimedia, available at:

Affect Lab. 2015. Migration & Mobiles, Affect, available at

[Screenshot] #refugeesnotwelcome, Twitter, available at

[Screenshot] @alxfraser. 2015. #refugeescrisis serious question, syrian man seeking asylum in germany on @BBCNews, how does he afford a Samsung smartphone?, Twitter, available at


About intersectionalalien

Hi hello people of earth/space/cyberspace, intersectional alien here. I’m still trying to figure out my place on this earth. I like intersectional feminism, feminism in popular culture, LGBTQ+, refugee rights, veganism, mental health, nihilism, travelling, unlearning institutional conditioning, good tunes and consuming and creating stories.
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