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Thaki: Unlocking their potential

Empowering refugee and at-risk children to learn and thrive through self-paced, motivational electronic tools through donated computers.

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Explain your project idea in two sentences.

Providing motivational educational opportunities to refugee and under-served children through electronic devices such as laptops that are loaded with engaging content.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

Thaki is an NGO registered in the Netherlands and Lebanon and operating mostly in Lebanon (for now).

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

No. The founder came up with the idea a little over 2 years ago and started executing on it 2 years ago on a part time basis; it has become full time for her in the last 1.5 years. We are now post proof of concept and post pilot stage. We are ready to scale!

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

The problem we are trying to solve is critical, urgent, pressing. We target refugee children in (for now) Lebanon who are not receiving a proper education. We are pushing the boundaries of how technology can help solve this problem and help the children leap frog, not just catch up, on lost years.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Our hope over the next 3 years is to deploy 6,000 devices that will reach the educational lives of 48,000 children. Our biggest current bottleneck is sourcing donated, well-functioning devices - we would like to speed that process up. We will also continue sourcing quality content, chase internet connectivity solutions, find training partners, add diagnostic tools to the computers, investigate other end-of-life recycling solutions; make Thaki a social enterprise that is financially sustainable.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

Rudayna (the founder) will continue being the main driving force behind implementing Thaki while working with her volunteer team. Funding will bring more dedicated staff time. Partnerships along the entire value chain will continue providing critical input to the development and delivery model.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Business Development/Partnerships

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Get feedback from experts

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

This is what we currently do: Field observations; discussions with partners; periodic user feedback surveys. In addition, we would like to use the deployed devices more effectively to extract data on how they are being used while working under the constraints of very limited human resources on the ground and the lack of internet connectivity of the devices. We want to know what and how much of the content on the computers is being used, and to what effect.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

We did extensive sensing initially and are in a constant agile mode to take on learning, feedback and observations from the field. The proposal submitted here shows where we are to date given our last 2 years of extensive sensing and evaluation. We will continue being open in our feedback and evaluation.

Refugee children are missing out on their education and we want to help.

Technology can greatly enhance learning especially to those with limited access to traditional educational resources. Thaki is a start-up non-profit organization whose mission is to empower refugee and disadvantaged children with extremely limited educational opportunities to learn and thrive through self-paced, motivational e-learning tools. We distribute donated computers loaded with educational content to education centers working directly with refugee and at-risk children. In addition, we provide computers to older students from similar backgrounds, such as university scholarship students, in need of a computer to support their learning. Thaki is currently focused on helping Syrian refugees living in Lebanon and Jordan but the model is fully transferable to other situations of similar need.

Thaki provides supplemental learning material to underfunded and poorly equipped education centers set up to assist the children, as opposed to offering a replacement for these valuable institutions. In addition to being used by students directly, the devices also function as aids to teachers in their daily lessons. We work primarily with NGOs interested in e-learning who work directly with the children in both formal and informal settings. The computers do not require an internet connection if it’s not available since they are loaded with offline educational content and links to and online resources. In collaboration with its partners, Thaki also provides tech training and support for both teachers and students. Both the devices and teacher training help benefit children who have extremely limited educational opportunities while living as displaced persons.

Explain your idea

Thaki operates on a donation model for second hand devices, with the requirement that the devices must be fully functional, young and robust enough to have a least another 2-3 year remaining life span. The availability of viable donated devices in-country (Lebanon and Jordan) is limited since devices are typically run to end of life by their primary users. We have therefore been targeting corporate and institutional donors in wealthier countries who typically have a 2-3 year retirement policy on their devices. Thaki also sources both open-source and proprietary e-learning educational content to place on the computers (and servers in computer labs) which will only get richer over time as additional content partnerships are forged. The technical issues of imaging computers at scale and across a range of different devices have been resolved, operational and logistical support is in-place, and the direct conduit to the children through the network of education providers is in place as well. Thaki’s non-profit education partners are in great need of devices to further their work, with demand substantially outstripping supply. They operate under severe resource constraints in difficult circumstances and value the contribution of Thaki’s e-learning material to their mission. The current demand is for 1,400 devices, and as word spreads about Thaki`s work, organizations continue to contact Thaki for additional support. Many months of work went into establishing the computer imaging process at scale. Imaging is the process of taking a model computer and making an exact replica of it on other computers in an automated fashion. Using the free Clonezilla software, we are able to make the imaging process simple and fast across a vast variety of different makes and models of computers. While there will, no doubt, be ongoing technical challenges, we are essentially at the “plug and play” stage with the computer imaging. We decided to use the Linux/Ubuntu platform as the operating system for the following reasons: The open sourced aspect of Linux is complementary to Thaki’s philosophy because it is free, adding no extra capital costs. Viruses are also not a concern in the Linux environment. Ubuntu offers the LibreOffice suite, which includes programs that look, feel and import/export similarly to the Microsoft Office suite of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and CAD (drawing program). In addition, Ubuntu offers a number of free, offline educational games, some of which are available in Arabic (such as the coding program Scratch). These games are loaded onto the computers providing easy access to the children.

Who Benefits?

Thaki is currently focused on assisting school aged children who have been displaced by the conflict in Syria and now live precariously in Lebanon and Jordan. We have 25 partner NGOs (primarily in Lebanon) who have received, or are waiting to receive, computers from us. Current assumptions are that each device distributed by Thaki positively impacts the life of more than one child. In a computer lab setting, the metrics indicate that, on average, one computer serves 8 children for 1 hour each per school day for a total of 160 hours of e-learning per month. This equals 1,920 hours of e-learning per device per year total. The impact of this year's target of 2,000 computers will therefore serve 16,000 children, providing 320,000 hours of e-learning per month, and 3,840,000 hours of e-learning per year total. The Thaki model is scalable and transferable to other places in the world where children and families are unable to access formal education.

How is your idea unique?

We have yet to find another organization that does what Thaki is doing in the Middle East with a focus on serving refugees. Innovations include: • The “plug and play” system means we are now set up to capture the “perfect image” from a computer and “deploy” that image simultaneously to multiple computers. • Computer donations are easier to secure than funding requests. • Donors become regular and cyclical as they continue retiring old devices. • Computer donations reduce capital costs, conserving funds for operating needs. Thaki is a tech-based social enterprise that does not purchase its core operating platform: the electronic devices. • Establishment of computer labs due to poor internet availability. We have partnered with Internet In A Box to establish a computer lab in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon that’s connected with a local server providing rich educational content in Arabic and English. • Satisfies Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

As a daughter of Palestinian refugees, myself displaced from Lebanon during the civil war in the mid-1970s, and as a mother, I felt the need to contribute to the plight of children whose education has been stolen from them. Therefore, a little over a year ago, I resigned my executive position in the corporate world to found Thaki and dedicate myself to it fully. One of my dreams is not only to help children regain their lost years but to unlock their potential and help them leapfrog over the gap. I’m a big believer in using technology to ignite the passion for learning and growing and nothing has opened my heart more than seeing refugee children in Lebanon just wanting to live normal lives and get on with their education. I truly believe in leveraging partnerships and one another to sustainably balance the inequity in this world. [Rudayna Abdo] Collaboration is at the core of the Thaki business model, and through the goodwill and hard work of many Thaki has developed a scalable program that is in a position to immediately increase its operations once the principal bottleneck – namely securing access to sufficient quantities of devices in-country – is overcome. The successful completion of Thaki’s proof of concept foundational year was fully leveraged on volunteer, yet highly skilled, support as well as corporate partnerships providing in-kind contributions. Please visit the website for more details at www.thaki.org. In its first year of operation Thaki deployed 265 devices to 11 organizations. At this small scale, volunteer efforts alone suffice. The model has shown that scaling the operation is technically feasible but to reach the desired scale of deploying thousands of devices while providing the appropriate support will require a small team of paid staff and training partnerships in order to operate efficiently and reliably. Thaki is a Dutch registered NGO and its operations are coordinated and overseen by the full-time commitment of its founder, Rudayna Abdo (currently based in Abu Dhabi, UAE), while Thaki’s partnerships include experts in fields of education, technology and logistics. The operation is lean and efficient, leveraging Corporate Social Responsibility goodwill to serve the targeted beneficiaries. Rudayna does not collect a salary from Thaki and the rest of the Thaki team has graciously given hundreds of hours of pro bono service to set up and run the operation. Please visit the website for a list and biographies of these wonderful individuals: www.thaki.org.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

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Hi,

I am just tagging Jake Bronstein here with who has this project - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/education-emergencies/ideas/free-literacy-resources-for-beginning-readers-and-their-teachers - in the education challenge. i see a connection between his literacy resources and the Thaki laptops.

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