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Trendsetter through innovative app

Netherlands Refugee Foundation

Netherlands Refugee Foundation

Trendsetter through innovative app

Netherlands Refugee Foundation


Due to the coronavirus, the 11th edition of Night of the Refugee couldn’t take place. At least, not in the traditional form. 7,000 walkers would walk 10, 20 or 40 kilometres together to draw attention to the problem and collect money for refugees.

"Doing nothing was not an option; by mid-March, over 2,000 participants had already registered. We really wanted to organise something for all those people," says event manager, Zinzi Klaverweide, from the Netherlands Refugee Foundation. She and her colleagues came up with #NVDVgoesdigital, a clever alternative, where everyone could participate individually, in their own environment.

This required an app, and Harborn was chosen to make this. "We had a good click straight away," says Zinzi. "All the companies we had approached said they could make the app. At Harborn, they had already thought carefully about the form of the app during the introductory phase. If you can sense the target group and their wishes so well at the start of such a process, that gives confidence."

It was immediately clear that there were two major challenges. The deadline was very tight: the app had to be ready within six weeks, and no similar app had ever been developed. The steps of thousands of users had to be counted in real-time and this data had to be translated into the donations that went with their steps. Zinzi: "With privacy and GDPR legislation in mind, we absolutely wanted our own app. It's safer that way."


Using the NVDV app, participants could still take part in the walk in their own time and location and be sponsored by family, friends and other acquaintances. They could already start in the weeks leading up to Night of the Refugee. The finish could be followed via a livestream on World Refugee Day: 20 June.

Participants could be tracked using GPS. Integration with the standard Apple and Google pedometers on the smartphones of participants, enabled the app to record the distance automatically. This data was sent every 30 seconds to the back-end, for which we used Amazon Web Services. Thanks to this cloud solution, Harborn not only had reliable and lightning-fast storage, but also the capacity can easily be scaled up for large numbers of users. Just as important: customers never pay unnecessarily for storage they don’t use.

Then there was a link to Kentaa, the fundraising platform that the Netherlands Refugee Foundation was already using. The donations could therefore be settled quickly and correctly.

Due to the limited time available, it wasn’t possible to test the app according to the procedures we are normally used to. For example, we missed out the test panel phase; instead, we incorporated feedback from the first users. But very quickly, so that the app functioned flawlessly and handle the growing number of users.

"The capacity can easily be scaled up for large numbers of users"


  • Python
  • AWS services (Amazon Aurora, Lambda’s, AppSync)
  • Flutter (iOS & Android app)


Een groep mensen die in een geel hesje.


  • Scalable app for iOS and Android
  • Integration of Apple and Google pedometers
  • Settlement of donations through link to the Kentaa platform
Mobiel met daarop 'Jouw profiel'. Een app voor Stichting Vluchteling.

What the client says…

Zinzi Klaverweide: With accessibility and privacy in mind, we absolutely wanted our own app

Mobiel met daarop een plattegrond. Een app voor Stichting Vluchteling.
De zonsondergang over een weiland. Op het wandelpad lopen mensen.


Despite COVID-19, there was still a lot of interest in Night of the Refugee, and the Netherlands Refugee Foundation managed to reach new donors thanks to #NVDNgoesdigital. Zinzi Klaverweide looks back with satisfaction: "We are extremely proud of the result. Harborn did a really good job. They were available 24/7 and always open to feedback."

The foundation received much praise from colleagues in the fundraising world, for the creative and practical solution in the time of corona. The Hague-based charity organisation was the first to have such an advanced app. It will not be the last.

The Netherlands Refugee Foundation is going to take it further. "The charitable sector is looking hard at how activities and events can take place digitally. Large-scale, mass events will not be returning any time soon, due to the virus. There are now more risks attached to anything you organise," says Zinzi. "We are working out various scenarios for next year. Physical, digital and also hybrid solutions."

Harborn already has ideas to enrich the app. For example, with information about the location where someone is walking. Video messages from ambassadors of the Netherlands Refugee Foundation, or the mayors of participating cities. Basically, we can’t wait. We are already looking forward to making it an even greater success next year.

kilometers miles walked throughout the Netherlands

Want to know more?

Thanks for reading our case. Have you become so enthusiastic that you want to know more, or are certain parts of the case not clear? Please feel free to contact me.

+316 4126 4306harmjan.roskam@harborn.com