Launching the Rape Crisis Counseling Website

We're proud to announce the launch of the website for our Rape Crisis Counseling platform. The project website will be the go-to place for media and advocacy materials, training resources and news about the global coalition partnership that is co-creating the app.

Currently more than a dozen organizations are working together to internationalize the US-focused training content, generously released into the Creative Commons by the following leading US advocacy organizations:

As we compile the community's feedback, we'll be working to align agreements around key themes.

The focus on our v1 is to create a training curriculum for women's rights organizations to give trainings to their staff and volunteers. We will also have the basic outline of a in-hand learning use case for survivors and their advocates.

Over time, the platform will seed networks of organizations that use the app to create in-depth trainings that empower advocates. As communities to holistically respond to gender-based violence, not just at the level of the health system, but also within the justice and law enforcement systems, we will create forward momentum towards gender equity everywhere (SDG 5). 

We want to thank all of our partners and supporters, including the Imago Dei Fund who continue to support our work on the crisis counseling platform this year. With their generosity, we were able to include the intimate partner violence response and safety planning modules in the v1 app, as well as the material around supporting during a forensic medical exam.

We hope you'll have a look at the new platform and let us know what you think about the site!

And we're actively looking for partners to engage with us to pilot the app with their staff and volunteer communities, so get in touch to learn more. 

Leveraging Women’s Self Help Groups with a New App

This article by Courtenay Cabot Venton originally appeared on the Imago Dei Fund's blog and is reposted with permission.

I met Meseret for the first time in Nazareth, a town south of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Meseret is a member and leader of a Self Help Group (SHG) approach that I had been asked to evaluate. We were sitting in a small room, rain falling on the tin roof, as she told me about her journey with her SHG. It is a story that will stay with me forever – and inspired me to develop tools that could help to share this approach with as many people as possible.

Self Help Groups (SHGs) are groups of 15-20 people – mostly women – who come together to save, invest in small businesses, and support each other and their communities. By saving together they are able to lend to each other for small business activities. But more importantly, by working collectively, the women feel empowered to create change in their communities. What’s more, the approach tends to go viral once seeded, with existing groups helping to set up new groups.

Determined to do something more, I pulled together a team and we collectively developed an app that would help facilitators to strengthen and spread the Self Help Group model. The app is designed for the facilitators of the groups, and digitizes the weekly content that they use to run a meeting; we could see the potential for an app to help to deepen and strengthen the spread of the approach.

At the time, I had no idea where this would lead, or if we would be successful. With seed funding from private donors, we started small and developed a prototype. That led to catalytic funding from the UK government. Three years in, we have funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a vision for a digital platform to help scale the Self Help Group approach globally.

The Inspiration: Meseret’s Story

Meseret came from a poor family, but they managed to get by. Her parents supported her and her four siblings to go to school, and Meseret had plans to go to university. That all changed when her father unexpectedly died when she was 14. Meseret had to work in the evenings after school to help support her family. Her mother wanted to marry her off to an older, wealthy man, but she resisted and married Belay, her childhood sweetheart, when she was 18.

The next year they had their first child – a daughter named Kalkidan – and moved to Nazareth to find work. They slept on the floor of a rented room. They had no money or food, and Meseret was struggling to nurse their baby. Belay would bring home the lunch that he received at work, and they would share that one meal.

Some of the local women invited Meseret to join their Self Help Group. They were meeting each week and working together to save, start small businesses, and create change in their community. Meseret was skeptical – she was very poor and didn’t see how she could change her life. Nonetheless, she began to save a small amount of money – as small as a few coffee beans a day – and quickly realized that by working together with the women in her group, she was growing in confidence.

When she applied for a local government job – and got it – her husband began to beat her. She was disrupting the traditional role for women, and he didn’t like it. He finally gave her an ultimatum – him or her work. She chose her work. She knew that she deserved to be independent, to honor the education given to her by her parents, and to provide for her children.

Her Self Help Group was her lifeline. Meseret’s savings and income grew, she was able to buy a small house, and send her daughter to school. But more importantly, the women had become her family. When I ask Meseret how long she thinks her Self Help Group will stay together, her first response is a confused expression. Then the smile creeps across her face, and she begins to laugh. “We will be together forever. We are sisters.”

Disrupting traditional approaches to aid

As an economist, I have been asked to evaluate many different types of projects – from water to health to education. And while there has been a lot of success, there has also been a lot of failure.

I have lost count of the number of times that I have been in poor communities around the world, and witnessed perfectly constructed schools, standing out amidst a horizon of mud huts, but with no teachers or teaching materials…

Hospitals with no medical supplies…

Water pumps that are no longer delivering clean water…

The Self Help Group approach instantly caught my attention. It was the first time, ever, that I sat in a village, speaking with a group of people affected by poverty, and not a single person asked me for assistance. Quite the opposite, they were talking over each other, overflowing with examples of the ways that they were creating change in their communities, bursting with ideas for how to do more.

The approach disrupts the ways that we typically provide aid to poor communities. First, it believes in the power of the poor as change agents themselves. It breaks the cycles of dependency that are so rife in many developing countries. Change is truly grassroots, led from the bottom up, as opposed to activities being driven by external agents. And it’s scalable – once seeded, Self Help Groups can become viral, with rapid replication, often growing organically as SHG members from one group seed a new group.

Self Help Groups unleash transformative change. At the heart of the model is a focus on empowerment. Women have worked collectively to stop female genital mutilation, and have run campaigns to ensure that people with HIV/Aids are taking their anti-retrovirals. They have stopped child marriages from taking place, opened preschools, and advocated with local governments. They are driving change in their communities that we could never hope to do from the outside. They are transforming poverty from the inside out.

Building an SHG Digital Platform

When I returned from that first trip to Nazareth, I knew that I wanted to do something to help to bring this approach to more people. I started by talking to as many people as I could about the Self Help Groups, and a partnership started to emerge. Tearfund, the relief and development agency that was implementing the SHG model in Ethiopia, understood how the process worked. One Hen, a US non-profit that works with youth around starting their own businesses, offered to incubate a pilot. Code Innovation, a company that develops technology solutions in developing countries, saw the potential to build an app that would help to strengthen the SHG approach.

I was incredibly lucky that the concept resonated with a couple of private donors – friends of mine who don’t even work in the international development space but could see the potential and had a heart for seeing women empowered.

And so we embarked on building our first iteration. The app focuses on content – it provides a facilitator with the materials that they might need each week as they meet with the Self Help Groups. It gives them games and resources, at their fingertips. While mobile phone use is growing rapidly in developing countries, the cost and availability of data can be a blockage, so the app works entirely offline, making it accessible even in very poor and rural locations.

The first version of the app was enough to catch the attention of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), who gave us catalytic funding to scale our pilot by 1,000%, expanding to Tanzania and adding a new implementing partner. The process is heavily driven by user feedback, and we were able to start to respond to some of the facilitators’ requests by adding in significant amounts of content and functionality.

Last year, the project secured funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We just held a co-creation workshop in Nairobi with 18 implementing partners across Africa and as far afield as Haiti. We have over 200 groups in India who are using the app – despite the fact that we have never seeded nor sensitized any Indian partners.

The journey has been intense. I am so grateful to friends who provided the seed funding at the early stages when I was trying to develop the concept. But it was daunting to accept their funds, knowing that even the best projects can fail. I knew that the project would be far better served by bringing together a group of partner organizations who collectively delivered the expertise that would make this fly. But institutional donors were reluctant, wanting to fund a single dedicated organization – we were lucky to have partners like the Imago Dei Fund who valued our collaborative approach. And navigating the team’s different ideas and ways of working stretched our boundaries repeatedly. The team worked tirelessly, well outside the bounds of our funding, to get this project to each next step.

I am still pinching myself. It is amazing to see a concept grow into something that can help to bring the SHG approach to more and more women, and hopefully strengthen and deepen that process. Every step has felt like a leap of faith – and every step has been worth it.

Sankofa mHealth Innovation Brings PTSD Support to War-Impacted Communities

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Monrovia. 3 May 2017 – Second Chance Africa and Code Innovation announce our partnership on the Sankofa project to create a mobile application of an innovative clinical curriculum that helps people recover from trauma in war-impacted communities.

The mHealth curriculum pioneered by Second Chance Africa will be used by the organization’s cohort of mental health facilitators, half of whom are graduates of the program. Since 2008, they have reached more than 7,000 war-impacted Africans on a shoestring, crowdfunded budget. Participants in one of their clinical outreach projects report a 65% reduction in the debilitating symptoms of trauma like intrusive memories, hyper-arousal, and avoidant behavior, a difference that allows them to return to a more stable life in their families and communities.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex trauma and extreme stress are common outcomes of war and debilitate a person’s ability to function in society. In West Africa, the recent Ebola outbreak worsened existing war-related PTSD, compounding long-lasting community mental health issues that remain unattended. In post-conflict areas, trauma often becomes a silent epidemic and while some people get better with time, many do not.

In some areas, rates of PTSD diagnosis are close to 100% based on the nature and severity of events, and trauma symptoms have been documented in refugee groups decades after traumatic exposure. PTSD may heighten the risk for poverty, aggravating the consequences of war and conflict.

“Approximately 17.6 million people are currently impacted by war and conflict across East, West and Central Africa,” says Second Chance Africa founder and Executive Director Jana V. Pinto. “Yet despite the clear need, trauma relief is not yet a humanitarian priority, as current efforts are expensive and there is no evidence base available to guide treatment choice. We urgently need more scientific research to develop best practices around trauma relief interventions in war-impacted communities.”

“While it may seem secondary to investments in maternal health or child survival, research has shown that communities with a high prevalence of trauma struggle to progress economically,” says Elie Calhoun, Director of Code Innovation. “Trauma becomes a piece of the poverty trap and needs to be addressed before war-impacted communities can make lasting social and economic progress.”

“The Sankofa mHealth app is designed as a tool for civilians and community health workers to lead local trauma relief groups independently and without prior training or experience,” says Calhoun “The 10-hour protocol directly addresses major PTSD symptoms without one-on-one psychotherapy or drug interventions. Digitizing this model on a free mobile app makes the approach accessible to health systems and organizations all over the world. It is a truly game-changing model.”

“Although feature phone handsets still significantly outnumber smart phones in Africa, we expect to see a gradual shift to smartphones as they become increasingly available and affordable. Because the Sankofa mobile app is designed to be used by one facilitator working with many groups over time, the program model leverages what is still a relatively rare technology to harness its impact.”

Field testing of the digital tool will begin in June in Northern Uganda with South Sudanese refugees fleeing current conflict, and in Monrovia, Liberia with a core team of Second Chance Africa facilitators who have been with the organization since its inception in the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana in 2008. As early recipients of the intervention, the facilitators are a testament to the transformative potential of the Second Chance Africa model and have dedicated themselves to ensuring that others in their country receive the same life-changing services.

The Sankofa digital tool will help them and other heroes in the battle against trauma to reach more people and help more people impacted by war regain their lives.

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Sankofa is crowdfunding to cover its program costs: https://www.razoo.com/story/Sankofa2017

For more information about the Sankofa project, visit http://secondchanceafrica.org/sankofa

Second Chance Africa After six years delivering hands-on clinical services, Second Chance Africa’s team of scientists and health workers now focus on rigorous research and development of innovative, scalable and culturally-adapted intervention tools to advance trauma relief for African communities impacted by war. For more information, visit http://www.secondchanceafrica.org.

Code Innovation’s team of ICT4D experts specialize in helping high-impact development solutions go to scale. Our projects have been supported by UNICEF, the UK Department for International Development and major philanthropic foundations. For more information, visit http://www.codeinnovation.com.

For more information, contact:

Jana V. Pinto, Executive Director, Second Chance Africa, jana@secondchanceafrica.org

Elie Calhoun, Director of Operations, Code Innovation, elie@codeinnovation.com

Version 1.0 of Curriculum for our Digital Resource for Rape Crisis Counselors

A year ago at Code Innovation, we started a crowdfunding journey to create a digital resource for sexual assault survivors who seek medical care and the volunteer advocates who support them. With the support of rape crisis centers across the United States and the US Department of Justice, we have created a concise, four-part curriculum to guide volunteer advocates through a training primer in how to advocate for rape survivors in health centers in different contexts and communities around the world.

This digital intervention guides volunteer advocates on how to offer psychosocial support and medical advocacy, which empowers a rape survivor with the agency to make their own health decisions on the road to healing.

Research shows that rape survivors who have an advocate in the emergency room are significantly less likely to experience post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.

 

We also share this video to thank all of our crowdfunding supporters and also the Imago Dei Fund for creating the seed investment for this global digital resource.

Sign up for updates.

Supporting Self Help Group Facilitators with our Digital Platform

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facilitator trainings are an important part of leading SHGs Over the next year, we will be actively building the ecosystem around our Self Help Group Digital platform.

Our free digital app helps SHG facilitators mentor new Self Help Groups that mobilize the poorest of the poor to save and loan to each other.

SHGs are self-governing and by saving with and lending to each other for microenterprise projects, they create social bonds that signficantly improve their family's economic situation.

The net benefit of SHGs is not just in the financial empowerment experienced by its mostly women members, but the social networks of empowerment and lasting bonds that they create for women in underserved areas.

The use case for our Self Help Group app is SHG facilitators who, through the digital platform, have access to a job aid for the functioning of SHGs and supportive supervision by a network of their peers.

SHG facilitators use the meeting guide as a job aide

Objective of the SHG Platform

With our early adapter partners, we built the Self Help Group app with the support of expert SHG facilitators and program coordinators.

The hypothesis was that a digital guide for SHG facilitators would help to scale the self help group model and raise the quality of the group's experience by providing the very best learning content to groups.

As the SHG facilitator uses our app to prepare meeting content and lead members through the basics of forming a thriving self help group, they grow their professional skills as social sector leaders in their communities.

 

 

Experiments in Collaboration

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proportional piling helped us visualize what indicators were the most important to capture in the app Early this month, we invited nearly 50 people to join us in Nairobi for a two day “Co-Creation Workshop” in order to help us determine development and partnership priorities for our Self Help Group Digital Platform.

This mobile app began as a simple directory of content, tailored to the cultural context and organizational needs of Tearfund in Ethiopia (who have great expertise with the program model). But we built for scale and our app is becoming a multi-lingual, content-rich digital platform capable of meeting the needs of a much wider partner ecosystem.

There are hundreds of millions of people around the world who participate in savings groups and self-help groups. And there are scores of organizations who devote time and money to founding and supporting these groups because of the transformational impact such groups have demonstrated in vulnerable communities.

There is a diverse and fast growing ecosystem of technologies being built for these groups, often focused on digital bookkeeping, mobile money transfers or enabling monitoring and evaluation protocols to provide transparency into group health and function.

We’re focused on providing a content-rich, field-tested volume of curricula specifically crafted for facilitators to use during group meetings, along with curricula that helps facilitators to develop their skills outside of the meeting context.

The organizations that joined us in Nairobi included large international organizations that are already household names, to smaller national NGOs that may be focused on spreading just a few hundred groups per year. A few donors, technologists and government organizations rounded out the field.

Nathaniel Calhoun leading a discussion on development priorities for the next version of the app

Different NGOs have different thematic priorities like improving conditions around water and sanitation, for example, or improving maternal and neonatal child health. They also run different varieties of group, for different durations and with different norms and expectations around interest and “pay-outs” or “graduation.” On top of that diversity, organizations operate in a variety of linguistic and cultural contexts.

When we received funding late last year, we made it clear that we’d need to gather together our potential partners in order to take direction from their needs and perspectives. That’s what this workshop was all about: bringing organizations together to look for areas of consensus that can determine where we invest and develop.

In advance of the workshop, there was trepidation among organizers and participants. After all, in other contexts, these organizations can emphasize their differences and their special ways of modifying the basic programmatic nugget: people saving small amounts of money together each week for their mutual benefit.

Although 90% of the people in the room focus many of their working hours on promoting and supporting self help or savings groups, when we asked people to raise their hands if they knew five or more people in the room, only a handful could do so.

We thought it would be helpful for these different organizations to learn about one another's (sometimes competing) priorities for (at least) two reasons: first, it will help our user community to understand that our development priorities are not set at random and that things which might not be immediately helpful within one organization’s context might be critical to another; second, we hoped to see priorities converge.

Our sessions focused on a few key areas:

* The front-end of the application—what you can see if you download the app from the play store (link)—which is what our facilitators and group members see;

* The back-end of the application—what you see if you have a password-protected coordinator login. Dashboards and panels that give you an indication of how your groups are functioning and what sort of data has been gathered from them.

* Different methods for monitoring and evaluating the groups, whether to validate the program model in general by surfacing increased resilience and prosperity, or whether to track aspects of the impact of our involving technologies in particular.

* What sort of thematic content is most urgent for these groups? What is most live-saving? What brings the greatest prosperity and health?

We assigned seating so that people from the same organizations and countries were rarely together and relied heavily upon table discussions to fill out worksheets that would then be presented to the larger group. We’re still chewing through roughly 150 pages of concrete and quality suggestions and perspective from the event.

And one of our favorite event innovations was to leave the last two and half hours relatively free on the second day, a Friday. We asked each organization to sit with one of our team members for 15 minutes at a pre-agreed time and provided a table of 15 minute time slots—all the rest of which were open. We encouraged participants, throughout the event, to make meetings with one another and to use those two and half hours to connect with one another.

But this was a Friday afternoon after the formal closing session of the event; so there was, understandably, some worry that people might pull a vanishing act. Instead, organizations sat together in all sorts of combinations even past the time we’d allotted for the meetings.

Having been at a ton of conferences that generate momentum and then end with some calls to collaborate afterwards, it felt great to move the “end” forward by a few hours and actually give that collaboration a chance to develop.

We’re grateful to all those who attended and to the Foundation support that it made it possible for us to hose this event. Stay tuned to hear what development priorities float to the top and which organizations join us soonest to continue improving upon this powerful open source tool for development.

Diverse partners implementing self help and savings groups came together to inform our app development process

PRESS RELEASE: Self Help Group Platform to be Further Developed as a Digital Financial Resource for the Poor

Self Help Group app in food insecure regions of Tanzania (www.codeinnovation.com) 11 November, 2016 – Code Innovation is pleased to announce that it has received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further develop our Self Help Group digital platform. The grant will help to improve the free and open source Self Help Group mobile application while increasing its accessibility and partner ecosystem, with an initial focus in reaching women and girls in South Asia and Africa.

“Self Help Groups have a unique ability to teach business and financial literacy and to seed new ventures while reducing risk to the individual,” says Nathaniel Calhoun, Director of Strategy at Code Innovation. “In the process of improving the platform, we anticipate growing our global coalition of participating organizations from the NGO community, the donor community and also from relevant private and financial sector entities. We aim to build momentum behind this coalition of beneficiaries and benefactors who see value in lowering the barriers to scaling and spreading the Self Help Group model to reach more women and girls. We look forward to developing this into a key platform for the low-risk, scalable and cost-effective delivery of digital and financial services to populations that have not previously benefited from financial services or digital technologies.”

Over the course of the 18-month grant, improvements will focus on building out tools that support Self Help Group processes, as well as incorporating additional thematic content around financial inclusion, women’s and girls’ empowerment, family planning, HIV and other risk reduction behaviors, maternal, newborn and child health, agricultural practices and other areas based on users’ expressed needs. Development priorities will be informed by the Principles for Digital Development and determined by our growing coalition of global partners who are seeding and supporting Self Help and similar groups in an effort to help vulnerable populations lift themselves out of poverty.

The platform, originally built as a simple content app for guiding Self Help Group facilitators through the process of forming new groups, has evolved to support wider facilitation needs. The Self Help Group app is currently reaching over one thousand English, Kiswahili and Amharic-speaking users, and new language versions will be added so that a wider range of communities can access and use the tool.

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To download the app on Android devices, visit: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.self_help_group_code_innovation_one_hen&hl=en

For more updates on the Self Help Group digital platform, visit http://codeinnovation.com/blog/.

About Code Innovation: Code Innovation digitizes and scales programs that help vulnerable populations. We create educational materials and social innovations that strengthen communities and enable them to lift themselves out of poverty. We’ve had projects in more than a dozen countries and specialize in challenging, low-resource environments.

For more information, please contact: Elie Calhoun, Director of Operations, Code Innovation, Tel. +64-27-460-8994, email: elie@codeinnovation.com

NZ Herald Interviews Code Founder on Tech Innovations

The New Zealand Herald interviewed Code Innovation Founder, Nathaniel Calhoun for a lengthy piece in the weekend's Business Section available here. The questions focused primarily on how New Zealand could exercise greater positive impact in the world via their citizenry, their business community and their approach to international development.

This country, in particular, is already leading in two particular regards: first with novel and trend-setting approaches to building the commons; and second, with regards to innovating on cooperative business models and the technological tools to support them. New Zealand granted legal personhood to a disputed natural area earlier this year.

This bold precedent has already drawn the attention of foreign governments who are seeking to learn more about NZ's approach. Meanwhile, the folks at Enspiral Collective in Wellington have been leading edge thinkers about the 21st Century Cooperative for several years. Their products like Loomio and Cobudget are sturdy, market-proven resources that change the way that people cooperate and collaborate.

Nathaniel Calhoun will elaborate on some of the points in this article at his opening address to the people gathered in Christchurch, New Zealand next week at the Singularity University Summit.

JOB POSTING: Project Coordinator for the Self Help Group Digital Platform

*** JOB POSTING *** Title: Project Coordinator for the Self Help Group Digital Platform

Thematic areas: Education, m-learning, poverty alleviation, entrepreneurship, ICT4D, women’s empowerment, micro-finance, micro-savings, Africa, India

Commitment: Half-time, with some international travel

Location: Location independent, with Internet access required

Duration: 18 months, starting in November 2016

Salary: USD $4,000 per month

Project overview: In 2013, Code Innovation partnered with Tearfund Ethiopia and One Hen, Inc. to digitize a powerful development program called Self Help Groups (SHG), creating a free and open mobile resource in Swahili and Amharic to help these groups self-organize and self-advance. To date, the Self Help Group mobile app has reached over a thousand users with its curriculum and facilitation guide. For the next 18 months, we will be significantly building out the app, including new language versions, new thematic content and new features and functionality, so that it can be used by new global partners implementing SHGs and similar approaches.

Activities: The Project Coordinator will support the SHG Digital Platform team with the following:

  1. Test new versions of the app for quality assurance before they are released. This includes formal bug and issue tracking;
  2. Coordinate User Acceptance Testing with teams in the field before each new version can be released with our implementing partners;
  3. Track and report on the statistics generated by the app’s admin dashboard and Google analytics;
  4. Train new partners in how to use the app and assist in the creation of digital training materials;
  5. Help to provide ongoing technical and program support to facilitators and coordinators in the field;
  6. Assist with developing new content for the app and ensuring quality of different curricular texts in a variety of languages (translator-assistance will be provided);
  7. Draft internal communications materials for our coalition of partners and stakeholders; Moderate the social section of the platform to encourage purposeful sharing of stories and best practices between facilitators;
  8. Contribute to the team’s day-to-day discussions and problem solving.

During the last 6 months of the project, the Project Coordinator will train and supervise a Product Tester to assist her with quality assurance and app testing.

Qualifications: We’re seeking a Project Coordinator who is engaged in using technology for social impact. As our product scales and attracts wider buy-in and support, we need a technical, detail-oriented Coordinator to keep track of all the moving pieces of a significantly complex build and to shepherd the SHG app through this exciting phase of development. Attention to detail is a must, combined with the ability to organize and maintain large, dynamic spreadsheets and databases. You will be working on your own schedule without close supervision, so you will need to show that you have experience working in this kind of open environment successfully. Because our partners are scattered around the globe, you must also be willing to join phone calls at awkward times of day, at least a couple times each month. International experience is highly relevant, particularly in the ICT4D sector. A track record of working in Sub-Saharan Africa is a big advantage.  Experience training people in the use of complicated technology is also an advantage.

There is room for growth within our organization, up into strategic and leadership positions. If you’re interested in development work and program design and in becoming more expert in any of the areas that we operate, please describe this ambition within your cover letter so that we see your motivation and growth potential. This is not a requirement by any means, as we will also have a steady supply of positions like this one.

To apply: Please email your CV and cover letter to Elie Calhoun, Director of Operations at Code Innovations: elie@codeinnovation.com. Applications should be submitted by COB on 11 November 2016. Shortlisted candidates will be contacted by 18 November 2016. Strong candidates who respond quickly may be interviewed and accepted even quicker.