Our solution:

Guided self-learning with disability-centric resources for employability skills through chat for disabled. Self-learning as an intervention for increasing self-confidence and self-upskilling mindset, impacting the ability to acquire new skills and adapt to work. Disabled, globally, become more confident, skilled, initiate proactively their own inclusion in society and workforce.

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Our pitch:

EmployED is a chat based (WhatsApp, WeChat, email + YouTube) guided self-learning for employability for disabled. 

Using our user-centered, well-researched SPECIAL methodology, we create disability-centered resources around life skills. (Think example of a communication scenario - a disabled employee and a manager 1:1 check-in at workplace). Our methodology is award winning and well-researched in local context in India (both rural and urban). Our results from 2010 till date show that resources created with our methodology have experienced 95-98% engagement levels in target communities (specific schools), measured on reuse and referrals. 

We collect positive user stories of successful disabled around core concepts. We curate the content into short digestible audiobooks, or chat transcripts in bilingual format. (Listeners listen to or readers read English language to help them with fluency, and local language to help them to understand concepts easily.) 

We currently share this on chat (WhatsApp, email with YouTube link, email text) on a weekly basis. What we learned in our testing and experiments is a new website or a new mobile app presents friction in usability. Therefore, we decided to leverage apps and email (and even Facebook in some cases) to pilot test our delivery. 

The above guided self-learning process is deployed as an intervention for increasing self-confidence and self-upskilling mindset, impacting the ability to acquire new skills and adapt to work. Our initial results show increase in confidence and students asking us to help them in language fluency through bilingual over traditional english and local language separate versions. 

Chat as a medium is scalable (or even email subscription) - with local community chat groups. We are developing systems to build pipeline processes to ensure a weekly or a bi-weekly delivery of our resource. Disabled, globally, become more confident, skilled, initiate proactively their own inclusion in society and workforce.

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The problem:

"The ability to acquire new skills throughout life, to adapt, and to work flexibly will be of particular importance. So too will be technical, social, and critical thinking skills." We are solving this for disabled. Challenge is lack of:

  1. Language fluency: low English fluency limiting available job opportunities
  2. Localized resources from the Disability lens: While the US has resources, others do not. There is lack of self-learning resources from disability lens (Perkins is picking up this curricula.)
  3. Technology access: Many disabled use email, WhatsApp and facebook, not others. We need new learning delivery formats on these apps. 
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Why our solution will solve the problem:

We share relevant, localized, disability-lens centered content, leading the disabled to engage with the content atleast 3-4 times (SEM - SPECIAL Research.)

We see high engagement of disabled on chat: 61% use WhatsApp, 28% email, and 11% texting as primary means of communication with friends. (NITTTR - ARISE Impact research in Chandigarh in publishing process). Field visits in Dhaka, Zimbabwe, Spain, Nigera, US also resulted in our greater understanding of WhatsApp, texting and email as delivery channels.

Through our self-learning SPECIAL audiobooks (2010-2013), we saw increase in test scores (21% average), higher confidence and disabled starting to speak in English. 

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Our solution's stage of development:

Pilot

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Target Outcomes

Our target outcomes:

Target outcomes:

  1. Disabled students from 8th grade - college become more engaged in their careers and start learning life skills: communication, working in a team, presentation, etc.
  2. Develop a self-learning mindset - rather than just relying on our resources, asking us about other resources and using those resources (and we then curate those into lesson plans or skill training modules in the long run)
  3. Disabled employees actively reach out and connect with disabled students through chat over time to mentor them and inspire them by sharing their personal stories - thus providing motivation for next generation.
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How we will measure our progress:

  • Outcome: # of disabled people subscribed to WhatsApp delivery (We want to reach atleast 2000 - 5000 disabled for the next year)
    Measurement Plan: Track subscription on our WhatsApp. Currently, Chandigarh: 114, Dhaka: 33; Nigeria and Zimbabwe: 22, Spain: 31
  • Outcome: # of disabled people subscribed to email delivery for YouTube videos or resources
    Measurement Plan: Track subscription for our email. - Through field visits and website Haven't started pilots yet
  • Outcome: Disabled become more inquisitive and ask questions, become more confident in expressing themselves, and become more career oriented (developing a motivation for self-learning mindset)
    Measurement Plan: # of questions or meaningful follow-on conversations / disabled # of questions asked related to their career / disabled
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The populations we will benefit initially:

  • Adolescent
  • Non-binary
  • Urban
  • Rural
  • Suburban
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The regions we will benefit initially:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • South Asia
  • US and Canada
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The countries we will benefit initially:

  • Bangladesh
  • India
  • Nigeria
  • United States
  • Zimbabwe
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Technology

The technologies we employ:

  • Consumer-facing software (mobile applications, cloud services)
  • Management & design approaches
  • Something so new it doesn’t have a name
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Why our solution is unique:

  1. SPECIAL methodology: Disabled user-centered self-learning content creation design and testing process
  2. Leveraging mobile apps which they currently use for informal communication - testing and validating best communication processes for guided self-learning intervention
  3. Innovative curriculum with a focus on income generation and employability: Developing role models through our user stories segments to profile the journeys and successes and failures of disabled individuals: employed, entrepreneurs, artists. Many disabled are artists. We can teach them how to monetize their art or freelancing skills and generate income)
  4. Design Innovation: We are figuring out how to design our content format for learning that feels native to chat.
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Why our solution is human-centered:

We created our disabled user-centered design process - SPECIAL. 

The core tenets of SPECIAL Methodology are:

  • User stories for personalization and relatability
  • Single consolidated bilingual module rather the separate translations
  • Multiple iterative testing on various parameters:
  1. Pace and pause
  2. Human narrated
  3. Vocabulary
  4. Clarity

(Start at 17th minute https://www.youtube.com/watch?...)


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How people will access our solution:

We will actively reach out on chat on daily or once in 2 days, and then on a weekly basis on email. 


We use apps and tech (andorid - WhatsApp, gmail, YouTube and other platforms) - what the disabled already use.


We are conducting pilot studies in Dhaka, Chandigarh, Delhi, Spain, Zimbabwe and Nigeria to validate our delivery mechanism/ communication processes and strategies; and develop best practices. 

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Technology-Readiness Level:

6-8 (Demonstration)
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Our website

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Business Plan

Our organization:

Non-Profit

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Where we are located:

United States
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How we will sustain our team financially:

Current Sources: Awards/Prize monies during the years, bootstrapped, donations

Growth: Grants, Corporate CSR (Dell, Microsoft, Cisco - we are establishing working relationships with Dell EMC, Cisco.)

Future - Value added services - charged to corporates for recruiting / access to disabled employee potential pool.


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The factors limiting our success:

Limiting factors include:

1. Adoption of already existing digital apps (and their usability features) in different countries (We are currently testing in India, Bangladesh. Next phase pilots in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, US and Spain (we have local team members here). 

2. Ability to continue to get language translations (would need partnership with Duolingo or someone like them)

3. Ability to scale up our team from a current of 30+ people to 50+ people in next 2 years, and then 100+ people

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How long we have been working on our solution:

5+ years
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How long it will take to develop a pilot:

We have already developed a pilot.
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How long it will take to scale beyond our pilot:

6-12 months
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Our expected annual budget:

$25000

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How much of our budget we've secured to date:

$10000

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Partnership Needs

We're looking for partners in these fields:

  • Technology Access
  • Income Generation
  • 21st Century Skills
  • Lifelong Learning
  • Online Learning
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Why we're applying to Solve:

We want to work with MIT Media Lab (Scratch/edX/others) to research development of self-learning intervention for coding, deliver assignments through chat for disabled across world.

Second, NGO partners who can work with us for beta (disability related) or replicate our model (refugees related).

Third, NGO partners in autism and hearing challenged - who have capabilities and better research than us. We are good with visually and physically challenged. We can train these partners on disabled user-centered content creation process: SPECIAL methodology.

Fourth, partnership with Duolingo, how can we deploy them as a solution for disabled's language fluency needs.

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Our current partners:

Working relationships:

  1. Bookshare
  2. Dell: TrueAbility (India, US)
  3. IndianNGOs: Institute for the Blind, Sarthak Educational Trust, NAB
  4. NITTTR, Ministry of Human Resource Development, India
  5. Office of Disability Affairs,  Zimbabwe (WIP), Dhaka 
  6. Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision, US
  7. Universia Foundation, Spain
  8. Others




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Solution Team

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