One-line solution summary:
Thaki advances inclusion by enhancing women and girls’ digital literacy and skills among displaced refugees and vulnerable communities.
Pitch your solution.
A child’s demographics, gender and socio-economic backgrounds should do not define their learning outcomes and future. However, many refugee and vulnerable children are still deprived of their right to education. Most of those who are able to enroll in educational systems are attending over-crowded, under-resourced and impoverished schools where teachers typically have limited capacities to nurture and transfer the deep expertise needed towards gainful employment settings.
Thaki has established an innovative, scalable solution to break this cycle. We believe that one’s education and access to information plays a significant role in creating effective and righteous global citizens.
Thaki provides access to offline quality educational content that instills values and builds digital skills and learning capacity of disadvantaged children and youth through a bespoke platform that promotes remote learning skills needed to acquire employability and gain 21st century skills.
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
Lebanon is suffering from an extreme economic crisis and plagued by one of its worst unemployment crises in history. It currently hosts the highest rate of refugees per capita in the world with over 1.5 million registered Syrian refugees and over 200,000 Palestinian refugees. Presently, 76% of Syrian refugees and approximately 50% of Lebanese in Lebanon are living below the poverty line. This is particularly concerning when taking into account their education needs. Children who are out of school take to the streets, work at too young an age, become child brides, or fall prey to extremist groups and other dangerous fates.
A particularly concerning threat is the enrollment rates in secondary school which are drastically declining.
Research also demonstrates the disproportionate burden of working Syrian girls in agricultural settings, who are working in harsher conditions, being paid less, and are more likely to be exploited compared to boys.
In addition, the global pandemic exposed the failures of in the education system and those enrolled in state or informal education have been left without education for months. Access to equitable, quality education and digital literacy is dire as disadvantaged communities are threatened to become even more marginalized and isolated.
What is your solution?
Thaki tackles essential learning gaps for those whose education has been compromised through a unique technology-based model of social enterprise, Thaki:
- seeks donations of used laptops that are “fully amortized” and creates a circular economy model of hardware reuse as an e-waste solution,
- transforms these laptops into valuable life-fulfilling tools by loading them with rich content and software tools for all ages to enhance digital learning, instill values, develop skills, and support personal enrichment to help those who are deprived and in most need,
- offers an offline solution to address the unavailability or poor internet connectivity situation.Other benefits include a bespoke user friendly, searchable “plug and play” system, in Arabic and English,
- provides a teaching resource guide with tutorials and videos to empower both teachers and the children to self-learn through its equivalence of its hundreds of books and tools teaching digital literacy, life-skills, values, coding, language, math, reading, and provides access to audio e-books and educational games,
- distributes the laptops to organizations, refugee camps and centers to support pupils’ formal and informal education and even to underprivileged public university students who need an e-device to support their learning and build their futures.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
Thaki was founded to serve vulnerable children in the Middle East and prevent them from becoming even more marginalized. It helps disadvantaged Lebanese and refugee children from Syria and Palestine of all ages by providing them with their right to equity in quality education through e-learning.
Thaki also promotes the competencies of poorly trained teachers in formal and non-formal educational settlements through supportive training opportunities in digital literacy and effective methodologies in teaching.
Hence, Thaki acts as a bridge between education technology solutions and some of the most vulnerable communities. Thaki fosters an enabling environment for both teachers (who are mostly women) and children and equips them with remote learning skills needed to acquire employability, professional development and gain 21st-century skills.
Thaki remains connected to its beneficiary needs through partner organizations such as Anera and Teach For Lebanon, who are in the field daily and in direct contact with children and teachers. Thaki receives the requests, visits the setting and conducts a needs assessment.
To better tailor to the needs of our beneficiaries we gather user feedback through user evaluation surveys, field observations and impact stories from our recipient partners. We adapt trainings, resources, software and programs, accordingly.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?Increase the number of girls and young women participating in formal and informal learning and training
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Challenge and your selected dimension.
Thaki is a tech-based solution for those living in conflict by reducing the barriers that prevent children participating in learning and training. Thaki helps affected populations, including teachers, reach key milestones in 21 century skills by strengthening practical skills, competencies, and experiential learning opportunities in digital literacy.
Our work stems from deep belief that education is the pathway towards gender equality. Boys, as much as girls, especially in marginalized communities, need to be educated about gender equality and its applications in different spheres. Our educational tools promote equality, tackle gender norms and teach values, human rights and their underlying principles.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?Beirut, Lebanon
What is your solution’s stage of development?Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth
Who is the primary delegate for your solution?
Rudayna Abdo, Founder and President
If you have additional video content that explains your solution, provide a YouTube or Vimeo link here:
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?A new business model or process
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Thaki is unlocking the incredible yet untapped potential of refugee and vulnerable communities 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, such as Close the Gap and Labdoo. Our distinction is that we offer a low-priced offline learning solution, accounting for poor internet connectivity, for our ‘plug and play’ system that is loaded with 70GB of high-quality offline learning content for all ages and levels in Arabic and English.
Our solution satisfies CSR for corporations while vastly reducing capital expenditure for electronic devices for recipient organizations.
We developed instructional videos and a resource guide and were quick to put out “tech tricks” and other useful material in response to Covid-19 lockdown. We are creating a robust teacher training toolkit that will be released this summer.
In addition, we offer the following features to make the implementation of the technology a success with our end users:
- Creation of a Thaki app for a friendly user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).
- Ability for the user to download new content independently through our interactive app.
- Ability to measure the ‘clicks’ of the various programs in order to better understand their usage.
- Keeping in close contact with our recipients in order to better understand their needs to better serve them.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
We use technology as a tool to deliver education on four fronts: (1) hardware, (2) software, (3) content, and (4) training.
In terms of hardware, our circular economy model addresses e-waste by repurposing laptops as transformational educational tools. We are on a Linux based platform which is light and accepting of just about any device (our image is 70GB so we like a minimum of 160GB hard drive capacity).
The laptops are loaded with skills-building software programs that we believe are essential tools for pupils to transition towards professional settings. These include the rich and multi-platform compatible LibreOffice Suite (which is compatible with the Microsoft suite) and other powerful open source programs such as Gimp (photo-editing comparable to Photoshop), FreeCAD, LibreCAD and Blender.
With regards to content, our rich, bi-lingual and diverse resources are gamified and interactive and teach STEAM, coding, and other skills while instilling values and promoting self-learning. We want to encourage all learners, and girls in particular, to reach a level of comfort to consider tech careers.
With respect to training, our e-based training platform, whose primary aim is to build the capacities of inadequately-trained teachers and facilitators, will also serve our primary beneficiaries, the students. We are in the process of deepening our learner journeys and training toolkit, taking our current resource guide (http://thaki.org/resource-guide/) to the next big level - with the beta site to be launched this summer.
Provide evidence that this technology works.
All of our software programs are from credible educational partners with thoroughly evaluated programs that can be found here: http://thaki.org/resource-guide/
For example, one of our programs is 1001 Nights Life Skills Civic Education Program, developed by Big Bad Boo Studios, which is a multi-platform program that teaches 6-12-year old children life skills and civic values, including non-violence, inclusion and gender equality. They underwent a robust 3rd party impact assessment developed by data scientists from Oxford University and others. The studies have shown that the program effectively shapes civic values, promotes social cohesion, provides psycho-social support excites children to go to school and teaches empathy and inclusion. Their recent qualitative and quantitative evaluation from a 40-day intensive implementation in Syria found substantial increases in key civic values, including notions of gender equality (by 92%), preferences for non-violence to resolve disputes (by 56%) and inclusion of outgroups (by 122%). In a similar program with refugees in Jordan, data indicates that the number of children deemed vulnerable was reduced by 73% because of the program. More detailed overview of their program, including M&E Reports, can be found here: http://www.bigbadboo.com/lsceprogram.
Oxford University Press are a gold standard from the British system bringing together the world's leading scholars who evaluate their programs. Indisputably and similarly, National Geographic is renowned for its learning frameworks, offering high-quality, standards-based educational resources. They empower young girls through programs designed to break down the barriers of working within both science and engineering, such as “Women of NASA”.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
What is your theory of change?
Our model serves as a vehicle for bringing change on two inter-connected fronts. On one end, it works to solve previously mentioned problems by providing children access to quality education through self-paced, motivational, and resourceful digital learning tools. It provides them with a rich e-learning platform with which they can leapfrog over their missed gap in education and begin to reclaim their future. They’re provided with the opportunity to interact with the virtual world through a platform that develops skills, where the individual user, whether teacher or student, can reach beyond the confinement of low-income livelihoods. In addition to accessing these tools and becoming curious learners, they also learn how to navigate a digital environment. Without digital literacy, and with the threat that artificial intelligence (AI) will eliminate the bulk of the manual labor jobs that they are otherwise destined for, these children are destined for economic disaster.
On the other end, Thaki plays an environmental role by redirecting e-waste away from landfills, giving laptops a second life with huge impact.
Our unique asset-light model incurs minimal costs without heavy implications such as product manufacturing. Thus, we address fundamental stakeholder needs such as access to education and environmental sustainability, which does not require heavy sales or marketing budgets.
Our 360 degree evaluation approach includes tools to measure progress towards intended outcomes. They include both quantitative and qualitative approaches through annual teacher feedback surveys, field observations, interviews and testimonials that are continuously evaluated and modified with feedback from our partners, their teachers and students. For example, recent survey results show that 85% of teachers reported that the computers have had a positive impact on the children’s learning, and 86% of teachers said that computers have had a positive impact on student motivation. Teachers are also quoted saying: "Children who suffer from hyperactivity and movement, the computer is one of the interesting means that grabs the attention of the student and encourages receiving information better."
In addition, Thaki is currently planning for an external impact assessment by a third party.
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
Since 2015, Thaki has touched the lives of an estimated 9,000 children from over 40 organizations through the delivery of 850 devices.
In one year, we expect to have served a total of 13,200 people with an additional 600 laptops.
By the end of 2025 our projections are that we will have served a total of 130,000 young learners and 4,700 teachers with the deployment of an additional 17,000 laptops.
Our current numbers are calculated on one laptop serving an average of 8 young learners. This is based on the setting of the majority of our recipient partners whereby the laptops are set up in a computer lab and shared among many children. For future projections, we expect the average ratio of laptop per child to drop to 1:4 since we expect to serve more older learners who will have a one to one relationship with the laptops. We will, however, continue to serve younger learners as well. The ultimate population served will depend upon the final number of electronic devices deployed.
There is also a conservative estimate in our calculations whereby we assume an attrition rate of 55% year-on-year for each laptop. This attrition accounts for the carry-over of both non-functional laptops as well as repeat children year on year such that a child isn’t double counted from one year to the next.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
In all future horizons our goal is to support disadvantaged children and adults in their education, economic aspirations and personal growth with tools they would otherwise have difficulty accessing.
One particular area of focus is securing a pathway of education that promotes gender equality, for vulnerable girls in particular, by deepening our offerings and programs that focus on increasing confidence, self-esteem, and leadership development. Key to this is raising awareness and empowering girls to effectively address such issues as early marriage, sexual harassment and other forms of abuse that affect both girls and boys. 1 in 4 women in Lebanon are subject to sexual assault and those who are less-privileged, marginalized and live in communities with stereotyped mindsets and restricted access are even more susceptible to violence when they are not seen or treated as equals. We want to correct this imbalance through education, empowerment and awareness. We already offer some award-winning programs (from partner organizations) that deal with these topics and we want to take a deeper dive and expand the offerings, tools and trainings to get these girls and the communities out of this cycle of inequity.
On the environmental sustainability spectrum, we envision 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 see 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 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. At the current charge rate (which is low but sensitive to local market conditions), we can be financially self-sufficient if we can secure 6,000 devices annually. At a charge rate of $80 per laptop we only need 2,500 annual throughput. We are aiming for a much higher volume to grow our service offerings through training resources, etc.
Current staff payroll (in addition to volunteers) are secured through Q4 2020. Thaki’s Founder has not drawn a salary from Thaki and cannot sustain that for much longer. To grow Thaki to its full potential would require a model that can support the required full-time paid staff positions.
Nonetheless, 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 the first 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, program 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 a demand on laptops as never seen before, even used laptops, making access to the second hand market that much harder. We are taking a number of approaches to tackle this challenge: retaining part-time consultants to pitch organizations; partnering with larger organizations to campaign for laptop donations; targeting industries that are negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., aviation and service sectors). In addition, we are speaking with e-waste companies to see if we can secure partnerships for now and the long term.
We are putting extra attention on the Gulf region, and the UAE in particular, as prime markets for retired laptops since the circular computing system there is not as mature as the West’s therefore opportune to capture. While we have been successful in the UAE, having sourced most of our laptops there, we would benefit from registering Thaki locally as a nonprofit entity which is a very complex and opaque undertaking. We continue to investigate this avenue.
We are also seeking opportunities to diversify our stream of funding as a temporary cushion until a more 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/leads that would go to cover our operational costs.
What type of organization is your solution team?Nonprofit
How many people work on your solution team?
Currently, there are 2 full-time staff members, myself included, 2 part-time staff, 2 consultants, 2 interns, 6+ volunteers and a team from Accenture UK that is contributing pro bono services on graphic design and development of the ICT part of the teacher training program. In addition, we have 8 members on our Board of Advisors.
How many years have you worked on your solution?
Thaki was started by its Founder Rudayna in 2015 and immediately started attracting a team of volunteers with specialized skills to help build the organization.
Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
Thaki has a coherent, well-staffed and well-supported governance structure that fully supports and advises on its strategic objectives, its sustainability, partnerships and programs.
Thaki is privileged to have many highly skilled and senior specialized professionals who serve as advisors. They include a circular economy expert, CIO of the preeminent university in the Middle East, a wellness in education specialist, a school IT director and deputy superintendent and a global expert in Ed Tech. Please see our remarkable team and advisors here: http://thaki.org/our-team/
Thaki is a women-led organization with a leadership team with deep experience and skills in education for disadvantaged pupils. For example, two team members are alumna of the Teach For Lebanon program (partner organization of Teach For America, part of the global Teach For All network).
Founder and President, Rudayna Abdo, was a displaced refugee who refused to allow her traumatic disruption in her childhood limit her potential. She has 20+years of multinational experience in large, complex, multidisciplinary projects as an urban planner. She has a bachelor’s degree in Architectural Studies (BSAD) from MIT, a master’s degree in Urban Planning from McGill University, and is a graduate of Amsterdam’s THNK School of Creative Leadership.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
We have 4 levels of partnership which are defined through: strategic, educational content, educational provider, and donors of electronic devices.
Strategic partners are corporations that have either made in-kind or pro bono contributions to Thaki such as logistics, design, branding and legal services, or they are organizations with whom we have a special relationship that facilitates our services. For example, our partnership with Anera enables us to have the customs duties fees waived on our shipments into Lebanon which reduces our shipping costs by up to 45%. Our relationship to Aramex provides us favorable shipping rates.
Educational content partners are those who provide us with the e-learning content and training tools such as: National Geographic, Oxford University Press, Edraak – to name a few. Some of this is open source content while some is proprietary, donated to us due to our mission. This monetary value of this content on our laptops is $3,600.
Educational provider partners are the 40+ organizations on the ground that receive our laptops and are aligned with our mission. They deliver the programs to the children directly. They are schools, orphanages, youth training centers, entrepreneurship centers and women training centers that include TheirWorld, Girls Got IT, Teach For Lebanon.
Finally, our donors for electronic devices partners are just that and include: PwC, Strategy&, GE, Cambridge Assessment among others.
Please consult our partners page at: http://thaki.org/our-partners/
What is your business model?
Our business model is unique and yet quite simple and we have all the systems in place: We have a network of recipient partners – both INGOs as well as local NGOs. We have the logistics systems and partners tested and proven. We have rich content provision which is also a distinction from other organizations working in the circular computing space. We have a bilingual user interface. Finally, another notable distinction is the training program we have created and are deepening. In short, we deliver the ICT hardware with rich learning material and tools.
Our motto: We want to teach people how to learn not just what to learn.
Sold at $50/laptop (including shipment), Thaki is not only finding e-waste solutions for unneeded devices, but is saving organizations and their funders hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of time and money. We are offering them content and educational solutions with a device of proprietary content currently valued at $3,600/laptop.
Thus, our holistic approach serves as a solution of scarce resources at a global level. Inspired by our values of collective leadership and commitment to equality, we are aiding numerous NGOs and educational institutions by allowing them to save costs and enhance their capacities to focus on their mandates (instead of spending time, money and resources procuring laptops, e-learning content and teacher trainings).Hence, Thaki serves as a solution for humanitarian aid organizations and funders to scale their support and interventions in deprived areas by significantly reducing enormous budgets allocated for ICT.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?Organizations (B2B)
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We seek to scale laptop procurement. The more laptops -- the more revenue. However, on sourcing, we need a new and much larger market of retired electronic devices. We aim to have Thaki be the first to claim the Gulf market. Lots of work (and political changes) lie ahead but we are not deterred—Thaki would need the financial support to onboard a fulltime Marketing Director and other required positions to make this possible.
On price, most other organizations operating in the circular computing space are beyond reach for the organizations that Thaki is serving. Nor do they provide the software and educational content that we bring. At times we have offered free devices because we are very sensitive to the fact that some recipients are on very tight budgets themselves and have to constantly scramble to meet all their operational funding needs. However, that has added strain to our operational expenses. But we remain much more affordable than any device with most advanced and favored content. We need to reevaluate our cost structure without pricing out our beneficiaries – something that we are extremely sensitive to.
We are also entering more joint partnership proposals and seeking grants. However, our goal is to fully sustainable from our own services and not rely on external funding.
Why are you applying to Solve?
Thaki’s model and mission align perfectly with all the objectives of this prize. Thaki is a scalable tech-based solution which transforms unused devices into life-changing educational tools. It works in conflict-prone and marginalized areas which are plagued with inequality, illiteracy and gender-based violence. However, in order to help Thaki grow its impact in multiple countries and reduce the barriers that prevent girls and young women in conflict and emergency situations from reaching key learning milestones, it requires support on the various fronts that Solve is offering:
- Thaki requires current philanthropic and monetary support to uplift its operations to recruit the required and needed positions to direct operations and outsource for more laptops;
- Thaki requires a supportive network of educational champions and community of peers, collaborators, and experts that could help us in advancing our business model through Solves’ nine-month program;
- Thaki’s team would personally and professionally benefit from the mentorship and strategic advice of Solve and MIT’s networks to better build their capacities in emergency situations;
- Thaki would deeply benefit from MIT’s and Solve’s expertise to further develop our user interface which requires a dedicated design and programming effort;
- Solve could also help us develop an impact assessment to advance our monitoring and evaluation framework.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
Further to what is noted above, we would also like advice on our business model which is now tied to sourcing (donated) laptops.
While we have an impressive lineup of board members and advisors, this network can become deeper and richer to target different geographies and areas of expertise.
We are seeking proposals for external monitoring and evaluation but are looking to the Solve network to also help with that and ideally secure this pro bono.
Finally, we need to secure the resources to introduce aggressive new marketing and public awareness efforts to sustain our business model.
Solve can help us tremendously with all of these focus areas.
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
- We want to build strong relationships and build our brand among the UN, EU and other INGO entities as a supplier for their areas of intervention, with their respective partners, serving in similar areas of intervention such as Save the Children, CARE International, War Child Holland, Danish Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee, etc.
- Another reason for UN/EU/INGO partnerships is for tax and customs clearance waivers into all the countries we enter (as we currently enjoy in Lebanon with a partner organization).
- We would like to build strong corporate partnerships who have a high turnover on laptops which could include techies like Facebook, Amazon, Google; PC manufacturers such as HP, Acer, Lenovo, Dell; and multi-nationals like JP Morgan, Deloitte, McKinsey, PepsiCo.
- We would like to encourage these multinationals to also help cover incurred costs such as shipment through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs.
- We want to further investigate partnerships with e-waste companies as a source for laptops.
- We would like introductions to logistics companies with the intent of in-kind or deeply discounting shipping and logistics services for our laptop shipments. These include FedEx, DHL, UPS, etc.
- We would like a partnership with an M&E entity (university or specialist) for our impact assessment.
- We want to collaborate with child-protection organizations to create a tool that exposes children on how and when to report abuse, assault and gender-based violence. Marginalized communities are more susceptible to GBV and girls are not seen or treated as equals.
Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The Experian Prize to advance your solution?
Our primary country of implementation, Lebanon, has experienced a crippling financial crisis, compounded by the global pandemic and the recent devastating Beirut blast that has rendered more than 300,000 people homeless and devastated the capital city.
COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the inequities of society, not least of which is access to quality education during this time of disruption. Thaki's learning solutions focus on guided and self-paced learning material that is geared towards sustainability, peaceful coexistence, gender equality and future focused skills.
Our software tools include computer aided design and 3D rendering programs with the intention of building a training program for CAD operators, architecture and engineering skills, along with a wealth of other programs to enable offline learning ‚Äì a necessity in a country where internet connectivity is often inaccessible for our refugee and vulnerable recipients.
The Experian Prize will help us reach our goal of creating a certified training program for youth and young adults to learn basic and advanced digital skills and computer aided design alongside soft skills to train the next generation to become directly involved in the reconstruction and development activities of their communities, and to gain these valuable skills for remote work opportunities.
- Rudayna Abdo Founder, Thaki