our program includes
Essential Digital Skills
“How do you Google?”
- Salih, Age 16
Like many teenagers, our students are on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, but they are unfamiliar with the basic productivity tools that can help them create a better future. Most of them do not have an email account nor do they know how to perform a Google search. While UNHCR’s “Connecting Refugees” report estimates refugees spend upwards of 20% of their limited resources on connectivity, they experience the Internet as observers and not creators.
Modern work is built around email communications, productivity tools and collaborative work. Remote work, a growing worldwide trend, relies even more on these skills. But the majority of refugee youth have never been exposed to these fundamental tools. Mastering these basic digital tools can mean the difference between inconsistent manual labor and an entry-level office job that could make moving out of refugee camps a reality.
“We want to be seen as smart, talented and kind. We are more than refugees.”
- Arwa, Age 16
Our first lesson starts with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.” We ask our students for their thoughts and reflections. How do they feel about others’ perception of them as a refugee, as a Syrian, as a teenage boy, a teenage girl? More importantly, how do they want to be seen? This has proven to be a lively conversation in every class. The students have answers at the ready, as if they were just waiting to be asked.
Students learn the basics of storytelling and recast themselves as a hero on a journey. One with a destination that they control -- thereby regaining the sense of agency they lost when their lives were upended.
It’s hard to be what you cannot see. In a refugee camp, role models are limited. The Triumphant Hero lesson is a photoshoot where we costume each student as the future selves they imagine themselves to be: doctors, lawyers, teachers, body builders, detectives and much more. (back to top)
“We did the math and it wouldn’t have been a good business, so we came up with a different idea.”
- Jiman, Age 14
The $5 Business Challenge is frequently taught in MBA programs. We added it to our 2019 curriculum for our refugee students. Working in groups, students are given $5 USD/ 6,000 Iraqi Dinar as seed money to start a business of their choosing. They have five days to plan and two hours to execute on their ideas. The goal is to make as much money as possible within those two hours of activation.
During the planning process, the students are asked to survey their community for unfilled needs, as well as strengths and weaknesses of potential competitors. They document each step of the process, their findings and the final business outcomes in a Google Slide presentation and calculate their business profit and loss in Google Sheets.
Through the successes and failures of each group, we highlighted the noteworthy ideas for the class. They saw risk rewarded and sure-bet businesses return a steady, but modest profit. Some students demonstrated advanced entrepreneurial notions such as letting the customers set the price point and reinvesting profits to purchase additional inventory.
The $5 Business opened up our students imaginations on what is possible on a meager sum, boosted their confidence to try new ideas and allowed them to engage with their community in a deeper way. (back to top)
“We feel empowered to take on problems in our community and not wait for NGOs to come and help us.”
- Neroz, Age 16
The education system in the Middle East is based on rote memorization. Students are not encouraged to speak up in class and critical thinking is simply not taught. They know the answer to “what is 4 times 4?” but they could not explain why the answer is 16.
We first introduce critical thinking in our lessons through photography. By understanding how every detail holds meaning, our students’ perspectives evolve to see a picture they first interpret as “a woman sitting in a chair” to one that represents “power.”
Design Thinking is a process that is used frequently by technology start-ups, social impact ventures and legacy corporations in need of innovation. We bring Design Thinking to our refugee students. It is by far the hardest lesson for them and also the one they find the most useful.
Each group starts by identifying a problem in their community they would like to solve. As they go through the Design Thinking process, they solicit insights and feedback from the community, they break complex problems down to something smaller and more tangible, and iterate until they reach an actionable solution. (back to top)
Learning to Learn
“Duolingo is great. I like learning in these small does everyday.”
- Helin, Age 17
Online learning platforms are flourishing. The potential for these portals to close the world’s largest education gaps, including for refugee youth, is immense. So, why don’t underserved youth take advantage of the wide variety of formal and informal learning opportunities available online?
The answer is simple: they don’t know what they don’t know. How can one take advantage of something one does not know exists? If our students are not aware of the existence of language learning applications, then they would never think to look for them.
Duolingo is one of the online learning platforms we introduce to our students. Each day, as homework, they are asked to practice a language of their choosing on the app. A Hello Future course requirement is for our students to reach 25% proficiency in Level 1 by the end of the four-week course. (back to top)
“I like knowing something that is unknown to the adults.”
- Yousef, Age 16
The developed world is moving at hyper-speed towards becoming cashless. PayPal, Venmo, Square, Apple Pay and other platforms are part of everyday life. From transactions between businesses and individuals to completely cashless experiences like rideshare apps. Yet, 2.5 billion adults worldwide are unbanked (McKinsey). The situation is even worse for refugees.
Living unbanked limits a person’s employment and education opportunities. They couldn’t work remotely because there is no easy way to get paid; they wouldn’t be able to pay for online courses as they don’t have credit cards.
Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency are re-creating the Internet as we know it. Web 3.0 will be based on these new technologies.
In partnership with bitfwd, we added a cryptocurrency lesson to our curriculum. We introduced this new technology to our students to give them an advantage over others who may not have experience in this new frontier. The goal is to plant these early seeds with the hope that when web 3.0 arrives, our students will be ready to seize the moment and help uplift their community. (back to top)