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OCC: Improving Life for Refugee People With the Help of Automation

Aug 21, 2023
Improving Life for Refugees With the Help of Automation

Welcome back to our series of Impact Stories, where we introduce organizations that serve their communities - and the world - for the better. The common thread in this series is the power of automation, and how it can help organizations achieve their goals in a fast, efficient manner. 

Fleeing your country as a result of war, persecution, or other violence is unthinkable, but that’s the reality for some 117 million people, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC). 

Escaping is just the beginning, though, for these millions of individuals, families, and children. The next step is often being confined to a refugee camp in an unfamiliar country, followed by…well, that’s often unknown, too. 

So, aside from temporary shelter, meals, and basic health necessities, what can today’s people with a migration background expect from their stay in places like Greece’s Idomeni, Cherso, Sounio, and Nea Kavala refugee camps? 

Open Cultural Center (OCC) popped up as a collective of volunteers in 2016 to offer comprehensive support and resources to the migrant and refugee communities of Greece and Spain. 

With a focus on social and labor inclusion, OCC provides cultural and non-formal educational events and activities, including language classes, technical workshops, sports activities, and cultural events.


Moreover, they have also taken their efforts a step further with two programs in Spain:

MigraCode - the first free coding school for migrants and refugees 

CodeWomen - an empowering community for women in tech

How does OCC use Make? 

The main challenges of an organization like OCC are fundraising, ensuring a solid roster of volunteers, and making sure their efforts have the greatest possible impact. 

So, they looked to Make to handle processes involving donation management, HR functions, and other admin and finance operations.


With limited financial and human resources, they turned to Make and Airtable, specifically, to: 

● Automate payslips 

● Send payment reminders for project expenses 

● Generate and store invoices and certificates 

● Sync Airtable with bank transaction movements 

The results of OCC’s automation efforts 

With a small staff of 20 employees and only 10 long-term volunteers, OCC has its hands full managing everyday operations and social programs in Greece and Spain, as well as developing and maintaining its tech and coding programs. 

They confidently estimate about an 8-10 hour-per-week time savings thanks to their use of Airtable and Make. Automation has enabled them to improve processes related to volunteer management, grant opportunities, and much more, all while freeing their small staff to focus on more impactful work in the active project and programs, instead of repetitive, administrative tasks in the back office. 

What’s next for OCC? 

The organization is focused on improving and professionalizing its systems and protocol. The use of automation is set to allow them to better measure their effectiveness, sustainability, and overall impact of their work in the coming months and years. 

With the data from these measures, they’ll soon be able to pursue a corporate social responsibility strategy to bolster their fundraising efforts. 

And, they’ll enjoy more day-to-day time to promote and enhance their tech and coding programs. 


Where many of us might not see optimism, OCC is working hard to improve the lives of refugees in meaningful ways with the help of automation.

Open Cultural Center is a non-profit organization active in both Greece and Spain, working toward the inclusion of people with a migration or refugee background through educational and cultural activities. OCC is committed to creating awareness about the situation of refugee people while working with many European partners in order to increase their social impact. 

To apply for Make’s NGO program, click here.


Elizabeth Ludrick

I'm an editor and copywriter at Make. I'm also a Texan and long-time Prague transplant with an interest in fashion, global press freedom, and finding the best Mexican food in any city.

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