One-line solution summary:
Thaki bridges the digital gap by bringing e-learning and digital literacy to refugee and vulnerable children in the Middle East while reducing e-waste.
Which Challenge does your solution most closely address?Equitable Classrooms: How can all young learners have access to quality, safe, and equitable learning environments?
Pitch your solution.
Thaki acts as an educational bridge between the latest in ed-tech solutions and vulnerable communities, enabling children and teachers to interact with the digital world that would otherwise not be available to them.
We tackle essential learning gaps for those whose education has been compromised through a unique technology-based model by:
- Filling an essential learning gap for those with limited or no access to education.
- Offering an off-line solution to address poor internet connectivity in recipient communities.
- Creating a circular economy model of hardware reuse and lifetime extension by repurposing donated laptops and turning them into valuable learning tools using a bespoke content platform in Arabic and English.
- Building the digital competence and skills of poorly trained educators to better support students for a rapidly changing world.
- Providing educational content and teaching training resources (Digital Toolkit) that empower teachers and children to self-learn through the equivalence of hundreds of books and tools teaching about the UN SDGs, digital literacy, STEM, life-skills, values, coding, language, and many other competencies.
Our circular economy model is based on collaboration and low-effort contributions from the private sector along the entire value chain, leading to huge social impact.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?The Hague, Netherlands
Our solution's stage of development:Growth
Is this a new solution, an existing solution, or an adaptation of an existing solution?New solution
How does your solution incorporate research?
Thaki was born out of a need to respond to the refugee crisis in the Middle East where Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita. In 2015 there were 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 350,000 of whom were out of school children. Thaki founder Rudayna, daughter of Palestinian refugees who herself was displaced from Lebanon during the civil war, started making ‘sensing’ trips to Lebanon to understand the context, needs and challenges on the ground. Her initial investigations led to a model of collaboration has been foundational to address the need:
- Corporations and institutions have assets (laptops) that they retire when these assets still have a long shelf life.
- Vulnerable children are missing out on their education and do not have access to digital skills that, today, are essential for future employability.
Curated content that supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals, digital literacy and other future focused skills is sorely lacking in the educational offerings to these marginalized children. As is reliable internet connectivity.
Currently, we track and iterate our findings following a user-center approach collecting data directly from the teachers and partner organizations using feedback surveys, field observations and interviews. This year we will start collecting user feedback surveys from the students as well.
We are in the process of implementing a robust impact assessment system that will allow us to aggregate, manage and analyze data for monitoring, evaluation and insights to inform planning, design, implementation and decision-making. This impact assessment will form an important evidence-based component of our research and evaluation.
In a concurrent ongoing 15-month pilot study with 6 user organizations, the data collected will be systematically analyzed by a multidisciplinary team led by the Centre for Lebanese Studies, a research center, working alongside our team that includes the expertise of educators.
Who is the Team Lead for your solution?
What makes your solution innovative?
Thaki is unlocking the untapped potential of refugee and vulnerable children through a model that serves as a mechanism to lessen the strain on corporate and government financial solicitations and creates a circular economy model of hardware reuse for global benefit.
A number of other organizations recycle laptops for social impact while others focus on content creation (software). Our distinction is that we offer a low-cost solution based on the following 3 essential components:
- Hardware (used laptops): without which digital literacy would be impossible.
- Offline learning: a 'plug and play' system that is loaded with interactive, high-quality offline learning content in Arabic, English and (to a lesser extent) French.
- Training: a user-friendly, self-guided teacher training Digital Toolkit of courses, lesson plans and resources for teachers to become comfortable with computers and incorporate ICT pedagogy with their students – adapted for remote or hybrid learning. This is an additional part of Thaki's work to enable the teachers to support the young learners.
Our solution satisfies CSR for corporations while vastly reducing capital expenditure for electronic devices for recipient organizations.
Our solution is catalytic and we expect it to both change the market through the redirection of retired laptops to social impact (rather than private sector commercial benefit), as well as enable broader positive impacts from others in this space. In fact, we have been collaborating from Day 1 with others on all aspects of the value chain with partnerships from hardware to content to in-kind providers.
What is your theory of change?
Our long-term goal is that e-learning and digital literacy can help empower refugee and vulnerable children to learn and thrive through self-paced, motivational electronic tools and find a direct path out of the confinement of low-income livelihoods.
Refugee and marginalized children out of school are missing out on their education given the lack of tools and educational material.
Laptops loaded with educational content for offline learning are given to organizations that are working with the children.
Students get to spend some time working on the laptops every week.
Increase children’s ability to seek future employment outside of the confines of low paying jobs due to new skills and mindset.
Short term changes:
- Get laptops from companies
- Load the laptops with quality learning content
- Provide laptops to the children
- Teach soft learning skills to the children
- Teach digital literacy and other core skills to the children
Thaki will measure the impact on teachers by evaluating:
- Increased confidence in using digital learning tools [for teaching],
- improved attitudes towards ease and utility of digital tools,
- increased digital skill set,
- increased knowledge and confidence to apply their knowledge on how digital skills relate to their teaching practice and their students’ future plans.
The impact on students will be measured based on:
- Increased confidence in using digital learning tools,
- improved attitudes about learning and learning motivation,
- improved attitudes towards ease and utility of digital tools, increased digital skill set,
- increased knowledge and confidence to apply their knowledge on how digital skills relate to a variety of life and work settings.
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries do you plan to be operating within the next year?
What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?
In all future horizons our goal is to support disadvantaged young children in their education rights, personal growth and future economic aspirations with tools they would otherwise have difficulty accessing.
By May we will have reached an estimated 13,500 children through 78 organizations in schools and centers in marginalized communities in Lebanon and Jordan, with plans to grow further in the region. Our goal for the next year is to empower 14,000 children with digital literacy tools, and by the end of 2026 is to have reached 130,000 children and 4,700 teachers throughout the Middle East through our platform.
Thaki’s model is both scalable as well as replicable – in other regions of the world. It can be contextualized to other cultural and linguistic settings and our offline learning solution is relevant in every corner of the world since COVID taught us that almost half of the world is disconnected from the internet.
We would like to focus on securing a pathway of education that promotes the SDGs with a focus on gender equality for vulnerable girls in particular, by deepening our offerings and programs that focus on inclusion and leadership.
On the environmental sustainability spectrum, we also see Thaki becoming more directly active in electronic waste. The Arab world is far lagging in environmental stewardship with Lebanon grappling with a waste crisis for many years. We envision Thaki being integral in elevating environmental awareness and leading to a radical shift in civic behavior and outcomes.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
The demand for Thaki is growing, and we have never felt such a sense of responsibility to expand our efforts, especially given the global pandemic, the explosion in August that destroyed much of Beirut and crippled Lebanon even further, and the rise of poverty and educational inequity in the Middle East.
Thaki's current business model of charging $50 per laptop, inclusive of shipping costs, is limited when our turnover is low. This cost is multitude times lower than the market for second hand laptops – and those are laptops without all of the amazing content that we load and the teacher training resources that we are creating.
At our current charge rate, which is extremely low but sensitive to local market conditions, we can be financially self-sufficient if we can secure 6,000 donated laptops annually. At a higher charge rate, or with the addition of project funded support, we can reach financial sustainability sooner.
Sourcing viable laptops is at the core of Thaki's value proposition. The supply chain is fragmented and corporates do not always have a clear policy for donating laptops, or have complex internal sign-off structures. To address this challenge, we make it easy for organizations to hand over their hardware through our partnerships with logistics companies. But we require access to an exponential market. For the 5-year horizon, we want to have a model of predictable throughput in order to plan for operational, programmatic and impact growth.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
Thaki is taking a number of steps to overcome these challenges, noting that the current pandemic has put an unprecedented demand on laptops, including used laptops, making access to the second hand market much harder. We are taking a number of approaches to tackle this challenge. We recently retained 2 part time sales and communications consultants to pitch organizations for their retired laptops and secure partnerships for now and the long term.
We are focusing attention on geographies where we can consolidate donations and fill shipping containers. This has both cost efficiencies as well as a reduction in carbon emissions from transportation by using sea freight.
Currently, the Gulf region, and the UAE in particular, are our prime markets for retired laptops since the circular computing system there is not as mature as the West's and therefore opportune to capture. While we have been successful in the UAE, having sourced most of our laptops there, we are hitting dead ends sometimes as Thaki is not registered locally as a nonprofit entity. We continue to investigate the complex undertaking of making that happen as we understand the benefits it will bring to Thaki.
We are also seeking opportunities to diversify our stream of funding as a temporary cushion until a fully sustainable model is developed, applying for more grants and creating a new ambassador level of advisors who would bring money to the table through fundraising or bringing in significant funding and leads that would contribute to our operational costs.