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Talent Beyond Boundaries: Linking the Global Labor Market to Refugee Talent

TBB is linking skilled refugees with companies in countries that need their skills in order to pioneer labor mobility for refugees.

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Key insights from our User Experience Mapping include: 1) Ongoing communication with our candidates is critical for both them and for us; 2) We need to strive to create value for our candidates throughout our processes given uncertain outcomes; 3) We need to be aware that technology touches several steps of our process and take active steps to be inclusive of less digitally literate candidates; 4) Through partnership with orgs with expertise, we can best serve our candidates.

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

Our target community sees the lack of access to legal, reliable work and a sustainable future as the greatest challenge of living as a refugee in a host country. Lack of work affects their abilities to provide for themselves and their families; even those who have found work fear for their futures remaining in countries that have limited resources and infrastructure to support them, and restrictive policies that make it impossible to integrate over the long-term. Many have unsuccessfully explored several options to move to opportunity and stability including resettlement, humanitarian visas, scholarships, and smuggling. TBB views refugees’ skills as assets which, when recognized, can be leveraged to find opportunities to migrate for work. We are overcoming the barriers that keep refugees from accessing international labor mobility and pioneering an urgently needed solution for refugees to rebuild their lives.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

There are 25.9 million refugees globally. As conflicts stretch on, global resettlement numbers shrink, and political division grows, our world is in desperate need of additional ways for refugees to move safely and legally to rebuild their lives. Governments are finalizing agreements on two Global Compacts on Refugees and on Migration. Both compacts call for the expansion of labor mobility for refugees and vulnerable migrants. TBB is the only global entity dedicated to making this a reality.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

Matching refugees with international jobs is just the tip of the iceberg. We are highlighting the tremendous human potential in refugee populations, developing ways to overcome the persistent barriers that keep refugees from migrating on the basis of their skills, and engaging both the private sector and, critically, governments in the development of an additional durable solution for refugees. We envision a future where labor mobility options are a part of standard response to refugee situation

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

For our candidates, international migration represents a restoration of rights and expansion of options to determine their own futures. The average salary offer to our candidates to date is approximately 52,000 USD; for many this allows for a return to self-reliance. As international labor migration proves to be a sustainable solution for refugees and for countries with skill gaps, additional countries, including some currently without refugee programs, will have compelling reasons to do more.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

We used this phase to aggregate and synthesize insights over many months of feedback collection via focus groups, semi-structured interviews, surveys, and online feedback, and to strengthen our systems for collecting feedback on an ongoing basis. During this phase, we revised our standard candidate surveys, designed and created an implementation plan for an additional survey to gain deeper insight into candidates’ motivations for seeking international employment, and developed plans for an upcoming focus group. Key insights from our exercises include: 1) because of the lack of guarantee of job placement or visa access, it’s important that we create value for our candidates at each step of the way; and 2) the decision to migrate internationally is a complex one affected by multiple factors and relationships - we must communicate consistently with our candidates to understand their concerns and motivations and ensure we are best supporting their ability to make informed decisions.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

Through December 2019, TBB will be finalizing visa and migration processes for our first cohort of candidates to both Canada and Australia and solidifying the partnerships needed to make these first placements as successful as possible. With this phase of our demonstration project complete, we will synthesize and share learnings broadly with governments, partner organizations, multilateral organizations and private sector partners, and use the data we have generated as well as design workshops and conversations to begin designing for effective scaling.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

We are a team of dedicated professionals as well as a network of committed organizations leveraging our respective expertise for excellence. Please see the attached for a summary of our team members and partners. We are starting to bring refugee-centered design into our discussions and to identify additional resources to use for including the voices of refugees as we design operational processes.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

During this key phase of our demonstration project as refugees move using labor mobility pathways, we would use BridgeBuilder funds to expand our network of partners in our destination countries, including Canada and Australia. Partnerships with legal, settlement, and community support will enable us to work more effectively and prepare for scaling. We’d also engage refugees, partner organizations, and HR departments in design workshops or conversations to guide our scaling process.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

For companies that agree to work with us, we have a 6-18 month gap between identifying candidates that they would like to match to immediate jobs and the processing phase (security screening, etc). HR departments are traditionally very focused on filling current jobs, so working with us is not seen by them as a value proposition. For the largest potential impact, we want to be integrated in their daily hiring process. How might we work with corporate HR departments in a way that they see value and want to engage more? How could we best engage with displaced refugees who don’t have any extra time and resources to spend with us? The refugees who can engage with us may represent the most secure of refugees. We don’t want to exclude the most at-risk because they are engulfed in their daily survival.

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

The Beneficiary Feedback phase was an opportunity to reflect on feedback we’re receiving from our candidates and to plan ahead for how we’ll continue to incorporate their voices into the final phases of our demonstration project and scaling. For example, we began planning for what methods we’ll use to keep candidates engaged during the period after they receive job offers but are awaiting visas. The Expert Feedback phase has helped us have important conversations about our path to scale and the leverage points we target to create broad and lasting change in options for displaced people. We've added to our submission more information about work we do to identify and engage governments in creating solutions to systemic barriers that make economic visa streams inaccessible to refugees. We have reflected on the importance of our government engagement to making our program possible and, similarly, the need for our program to ground our work on policy engagement at all levels.

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

More than 25 million people are refugees. Less than 1 percent will have the opportunity to be resettled on humanitarian visas, and these opportunities have been cut drastically in recent months. Many refugees have job skills, work experience, training and education and had successful careers before they were forced by conflict to flee. They are rarely allowed to work legally in host countries of first asylum. They are dependent on humanitarian aid and irregular labor. Their talents are going to waste and they cannot create secure futures for themselves or their children. In addition, global labor markets are closed to them. Neither they nor international employers have access to each other. Refugees are stereotyped as dependent and lacking skills. Businesses do not currently think of refugee populations as sources of talent or potential employees. Meanwhile, forty-five percent of global employers report talent shortages and difficulty filling employment positions. Many countries provide immigration visas to skilled workers to help fill these skill gaps but these pathways pose barriers to refugees who may lack documentation of their work or educational experience, may have breaks in their employment history due to work restrictions, or face other unique challenges due to their circumstances. Talent Beyond Boundaries is working with governments to overcome administrative barriers, increase refugee access to global employment and open immigration pathways for skilled refugees and their families. We are currently implementing a pilot project in which we are identifying skilled refugees in Lebanon and Jordan; recruiting businesses in Canada and Australia with hiring needs; and matching refugee talent to employment opportunities. Our solution is scalable and has the potential to engage new countries and new companies in creating a new solution to the refugee crisis for the first time in decades.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

TBB has three core kinds of stakeholders. One is refugees. Refugees need additional options for regaining self-reliance and stability. They are often prohibited from working or educating their children in neighboring countries. The pathway TBB is forging leads to legal residence and employment abroad. For our pilot, we're working with refugees currently residing in Jordan or Lebanon. Another target is employers. Employers globally need skilled workers; TBB facilitates remote recruitment and migration. Furthermore, many employers are seeking meaningful ways to fulfill social responsibilities and contribute solutions to the refugee crisis: TBB offers them a direct, impactful way to contribute. The third target is governments. Governments have dual imperatives to support their employers by addressing talent shortages and to fulfill their international obligation to share the burden of the global refugee crisis. Facilitating labor mobility for refugees is a way to show global leadership.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

TBB is the only organization in the world using international employment of refugees as a tool to meet their protection needs, effectively increasing the number of ways that refugees can move safely and legally to rebuild their lives. We are also the only group engaging with governments to develop practical and systemic solutions to integrate refugees into their economic migration pathways. There are local job matching services for refugees in resettlement countries and there are employers examining skills of privately sponsored refugees; there also are many livelihoods projects for refugees in first countries of asylum. But no other organization has collected comparable data, or is actively forging a new and needed durable solution for refugees through employment. By designing a solution that benefits all stakeholders outlined above, this approach can scale to many countries, permanently relocate many more refugees, and become a standard approach to future refugee situations

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Talent Beyond Boundaries is the only organization in the world connecting refugees to international job opportunities, opening labor mobility as a complementary solution to traditional refugee resettlement. Visit us online at

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Mary Louise and Bruce Cohen attended a UNICEF fundraiser for Syrian refugees at which the speaker noted that many of the refugees she'd met had been skilled professionals who were now reliant on aid. From their work in development, Mary Louise and Bruce knew that skill gaps hinder growth in countries around the world. Surely, they thought, someone is connecting skilled refugees with opportunities globally where their skills are needed? Turns out it had been talked about but never tried.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Jordan and Lebanon are currently hosting over 5 million refugees between them. As the Syrian and other regional conflicts continue, and resettlement pathways around the world (for example, to the US) grow more limited, most refugees find themselves without any path towards rebuilding self-reliance and stability, and host communities feel the strain of population influx and tension between local and refugee populations. Though efforts have been made to open up more economic opportunity, in both Jordan and Lebanon, most refugees face serious restrictions to legal work and according to UNHCR are, on the whole, more vulnerable, less able to support themselves, and less able to access rights and services with each passing year. More options for refugees are desperately needed. Labor migration is an option that could contribute not only to the prosperity of individual refugees and their families, but also helps receiving communities and governments access workers with needed skills.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Facilitating labor migration, effectively opening a new way pathway to prosperity for refugees, takes multi-sectoral, global collaboration. Refugees living in Jordan and Lebanon were involved in all aspects of early project design, serving on focus groups for TBB's technology, and conducting the majority of TBB's outreach to potential candidates. As TBB looks to scale from a successful pilot to broader impact, the organization will always include refugee voices. Alongside refugee candidates, companies in both Canada and Australia are serving as critical design partners, helping TBB refine our recruitment processes. Legal professionals in both Canada and Australia are key partners in navigating visa processes. Representatives within the national and provincial governments of Australia and Canada have been collaborators in identifying and addressing barriers to economic migration for refugees. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has a collaboration agreement with TBB to facilitate the pilot.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Refugees living in Jordan and Lebanon have an enormous diversity of skills which are too often invisible to international employers. Among the 12,000+ refugees registered in the Talent Catalog, more than 50% speak English proficiently and there are 200+ professions, including software engineers, skilled tradespeople, medical professionals, and others. These individuals are competitive international talent who are often resilient and resourceful.

Geographic Focus

Now we're linking refugees in Jordan and Lebanon to jobs in Canada, Australia, and elsewhere.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

TBB is in the midst of a 3 year demonstration project to develop the systems and build the evidence-base to catalyze labor mobility for refugees. The next year, through December 2019, we will be completing our demonstration project by finalizing visa and migration processes for our first cohort of “pilot” candidates, synthesizing our learnings, sharing them broadly, and designing for scaling.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No
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Attachments (6)

TBB Expert Feedback Response.pdf

We've added here our response to one of our very thoughtful experts who offered feedback. This was a great opportunity for our team to reflect on the value of our approach and ask new questions.

Including Refugees in Canada's Economic Pathways Discussion Paper DRAFT.pdf

Here's an example of how we're leveraging what we're learning from our work with candidates into direct policy engagement that will affect access to economic pathways for refugees globally.

BridgeBuilder Feedback.pdf

Our program has been shaped at every step of the way by the talented people with whom we work everyday. Here's some background about how we collect feedback, what we've learned so far, and what we're hoping to do next.

BridgeBuilder User Experience .pdf

Follow the TBB journey of one of our candidates!

BridgeBuilder Team.pdf

Meet our team - a group of passionate individuals and a network of diverse organizations leveraging our respective skills and expertise to pioneer change and expand available options for refugees.


There is competitive international talent unable to access the global labor market because of their refugee status. There are skill gaps that can't be filled because we aren't taking full advantage of our globe's human capital. TBB is helping to change that!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Patricia

Dear TBB4Talent ,

Congratulations on a great initiative! It's been inspiring to see all of the tangible progress you have made over the past number of years. What do you hope the three year demonstration, once completed, will achieve? What are the next steps after that?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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