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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.

Photo of Madeline Holland
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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 http://talentbeyondboundaries.org/

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.

TBB-Analytics.pdf

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!

47 comments

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Photo of Patricia
Team

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!

Photo of Richard Seshie
Team

Bravo, you may want to have a look at this opportunity https://www.lsc18.org/

Photo of Auden McKernan
Team

Dear TBB Team,

Best of luck to you in helping refugees. Regarding your two questions:
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?
I would recommend seeking out stable communications with HR departments, to they view you as an employment organization. Send regular weekly or monthly updates to them, highlight the success of some of the refugees you placed. Become a known quantity to them, and seek out recommendations from other companies so that they see the value of working with you. I am not sure what you mean by security screening but perhaps partner with an organization that provides security clearances and see if they would do pro bono work? By the time these refugees arrive in most countries (at least Canada and the United States) they have been vetted for security concerns.

On your second question: Partner with front line relief organizations who are supporting refugees. Become part of the packet of information available to them as they sort through what is left of their lives. Be seen as much of a resource as food tickets, medical care, etc. Be seen as their hope for the future.

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Dear Auden McKernan 

Thank you for your well-wishes and your feedback! Your emphasis on becoming a “known quantity” through “stable communication” with both HR departments and refugees makes good sense, and is a strategy that our team will certainly work to employ. We’ve built many relationships in the early phases of our project – turning these into lasting relationships or partnerships will be a critical piece of our work upcoming.

All best,

Madeline

Photo of Matthias Scheffelmeier
Team

Dear TBB Team,
I'd like to first express my respect and admiration for the effort you are making and for tackling a very important, yet extremely complex societal challenge. Thank you! While i like the overall approach and think you're on the right track, there's two key pieces of feedback I'd like to share. Looking into the future I have doubts your model is scalable the way it's designed right now, the administrative, logistical, bureaucratic burden of matching job-seekers with employers will become too tedious, complicated and resource-intensive. Plus it's already becoming clear that the many challenges on top of the actual core challenge of matching people with a job (e.g. no valid passport, lack of financial resources to even engage in the job hunting process, language barriers, expired residency and more) means you'll have to provide lots of additional services or work with partners that provide these, making the process even more resource-intense. If I were you I'd rather analyse in a lot more detail what the systemic barriers are to the employment of migrants and refugees and try to find the highest-leverage systemic intervention to overcome these. You mention you do work already with governments, in my eyes that's probably where the highest impact touch point is - helping governments figure out, implement and run effective 'systems' of how to match migrants/refugees a lot more effectively with the companies in need of qualified staff. Instead of you running the process I believe it should be you showcasing the way it can work and lobbying/training governments, ministries and such in how to implement solutions. Otherwise you run the risk of successfully matching maybe a few hundred people with jobs, but will fall short of the goal of solving the issue overall. Also, I can really see how the "gap" between finding a candidate and an HR department being ready to employ a person can become a huge and critical barrier to your model (I've in fact seen this happen in many other cases of refugee-employment initiatives) - two ideas here: One would be, again, to focus on the high level systemic work with governments and changing the systemic barriers to employment from the inside-out, the second would be to reposition yourself and actually become an/the employer (in form of a temporary work agency), meaning you'd actually hire the people and take care of all the bureaucratic processes and then 'lend' the staff to companies, effectively bypassing the 'gap, by having taken care of all the processes beforehand. In that scenario you could then actually try and support the company in finding ways how to take over the employee longterm, but without having to wait 6-12 months before being able to employ them. (However, again, in this case, the 'scaling' question remains and while that model may prove to be more effective it's just as resource-intense as the other approach). Hope this helps. Keep up the great work. Best wishes

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Dear Matthias, thank you for this very thoughtful feedback. We’re grateful for the care and seriousness you’ve brought to thinking about the major questions and challenges our organization faces in creating systemic and lasting change for displaced people, and also grateful that you landed right on some of the fundamental questions we are engaging as an organization. Your point on focusing on the “highest-leverage systemic intervention” to overcome barriers to labor migration is well-taken; we’d love to share with you some background on how we are engaging in this work, and invite your further feedback. We will also revise our submission with your insight in mind to better reflect our work to tackle this problem “from the inside out”.

From the outset, our goal has been to identify and overcome the barriers that keep refugees from moving on the basis of their skills. These “barriers” can vary in scope from the profound to the mundane. In the earliest stages of the project, we identified two barriers of large scale:

1) if there are refugees with employable skills living in host countries, international companies do not know it, and do not have a method to access it.
2) Either economic migration pathways are accessible to refugees but not being taken advantage of in a systematic way, or they are inaccessible to refugees.

Our goal was to respond to both of these barriers in such a way that is not going to create a solution for just a small number while leaving the fundamental challenges in place, but is rather aimed at tackling these barriers in a lasting way.

On the first challenge, we found there was profound skepticism as to whether or not there were skilled refugees living in host countries, and a belief that those with globally relevant skillsets had certainly found their way out of border countries in the earliest years of conflict. Our goal was not to demonstrate that there were a handful of candidates who could be matched with jobs, but rather that there was a veritable pool of people with skills and professional experiences to offer who found themselves now largely cut off from the global economy; that there is a population that, if made visible, can and should be part of a global talent solutions. Rather than starting with a few individuals and matching them to jobs, we created the largest talent-mapping of its kind, capturing information from 10,000+ refugees in a format that is relevant to and accessible by global employers. This Talent Catalog is a critical tool for making this talent visible not only to employers, but also provincial/regional/local and federal governments who, not unlike companies, have talent acquisition and retention goals and needs. The Talent Catalog has built a persuasive case to several governments and companies to date that taking advantage of international refugee talent is an opportunity heretofore overlooked; the lessons we learned in building and deploying this Talent Catalog are ones we are sharing broadly with partner organizations and governments.

The second challenge was also a large-scale barrier; what was most notable about it was how difficult it proved to be to find clear answers. Early on we worked with teams of lawyers to analyze of skilled migration pathways globally, specifically with a goal to determine what challenges refugees would face in accessing those pathways. We consulted multilateral organizations, governments, civil society organizations, scholars, research institutions, refugees, and everyone in between to get input on which economic visa systems were accessible to refugees, and, for those that weren’t accessible, what the barriers were that rendered them inaccessible.

We ran into the same challenge again and again as we dug into our research: nobody knew what barriers refugees faced to accessing specific economic pathways because nobody had tried it. Even governments who were supportive in theory of facilitating labor mobility for refugees had no clear sense of what this would require in practice. There were high-level analyses of what barriers people might theoretically face. These, like an MPI report “Protection through Mobility: Opening Labor and Study Migration Channels to Refugees” often concluded: “The obstacles preventing refugees from moving as labor migrants or as students are not insurmountable; they are mostly of a practical rather than legal nature. A great deal could be achieved by more effectively linking qualified refugees with existing opportunities for movement…”

(cont'd in additional reply!)

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

It became clear to the team that only through the practice of matching candidates with jobs and applying for economic visas could we generate genuine learnings about and potential solutions to the barriers -- practical, administrative, legal – that keep refugees from accessing labor mobility opportunities. It was also clear that it was only with these genuine learnings that we could be effective or credible advocates or consultants to governments and help them better understand where systemic barriers lie.

We are wholeheartedly in agreement with you that to change the landscape in a way that is lasting, we need to showcase to / work with governments to develop systems to effectively link qualified refugees with employment in such a way that benefits refugees, companies, and destination communities, while also helping government fulfill international humanitarian obligations.

We also firmly believe that we cannot be credible in such a role unless we ourselves observe first-hand how the systems we currently have fall short of this goal; unless we ourselves can see where barriers that may not exist on paper exist in practice; unless we ourselves understand the viewpoints, roles, and challenges of the many diverse actors whose work intersects with this complex issue.

As you note, the work we are doing to match candidates with jobs, to facilitate their international migration, and to identify and collaborate with the partners that will ensure their success is resource-intensive. We believe that the impact of these resources spent on individual candidates goes far beyond the outcomes of that individual or family. The learning generated in the process of working with these candidates creates the foundation for the systemic change that is our broader goal. The work we do with individual candidates generates an invaluable evidence-base needed to make informed recommendations to governments, multilateral organizations, partner organizations, and others who have a role to play in changing the systems that affect not just a few hundred, but potentially tens of thousands of refugees around the world.

We are active participants in the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), and have used this platform to engage in negotiations for the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), and also to showcase to governments the potential of a program like ours as a solution to talent demands as well as displacement. As the international community shifts its focus to implementing commitments made in the GCM, we think we will be uniquely well-positioned to share with governments and others what we have learned about facilitating labor mobility for refugees, and assist them in implementing their own programs.

We would welcome your feedback on how we might identify the appropriate balance between practice and higher-level engagement. Looking to the future, we believe this work will remain mutually reinforcing. Maintaining a program gives our work with governments credibility and relevance; working with governments supports our program and, more importantly, helps governments alter their own systems in such a way that they may eventually obviate the need for our program. As we move forward, what tactics might you use to determine what the appropriate scale for the program side of our work?

We’ve added in the attachments to our submission a discussion paper we’ve shared with our close collaborators within the Canadian immigration department. It’s intended as an example of the kind of learning we have generated so far in our work with candidates, and how we’ve gone about translating that into recommendations for systemic change.

Thank you again, Matthias, for your time and your expertise. Participating in the challenge has been a great experience and we’re grateful to have been able to exchange with you!

Best,
Madeline

Photo of Kelly Lynch
Team

This is a wonderful idea! It is so unjust that refugees are often severely underemployed in the countries where they settle due to so many barriers. Often, applicants to our program are refugees who were experienced doctors or healthcare practitioners in their home countries. When they came to the USA they did not have the resources/supports to go about getting their credentials transferred and pass US exams for certification to work as doctors here.

You mention that many of your participants have healthcare experience - is this something you are looking into as well? Not sure how it works for other countries or professions, but healthcare is a hard one to transition as it involves so much education.

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Hey @Kelly Lynch, thanks for checking us out, and we're glad to check out your impressive work! Seems like we have a lot of similar principles underpinning our work.

For healthcare specifically, we've certainly run into what you're talking about -- certification / credential recognition can be a challenge. To date, we've had interest in candidates to serve as Personal Support Workers or to provide end-of-life care, etc. These are roles that draw on peoples' healthcare experience but require less significant credential recognition. Many of the employers we've spoken to have set up systems to help candidates recertify in nursing, for example, during their tenure as a PSW or aide.

Fields with less need for formal credential recognition, including most notably IT / Tech, have been where we've had early success, but with creative partnerships with employers and credential recognizing bodies, we're hopeful about seeing people employed across a whole range of industries. We can definitely keep in touch about any lessons learned on this front!

Photo of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO)
Team

Congratulations on developing your idea! Bridging unidentified refugee talent with employers in need is such a unique and powerful solution. I wish you the best of luck carrying out your project!

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Thank you so much for your kind words Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) !

Photo of Anubha Sharma
Team

You are doing fantastic work for a community that is suffering greatly, there is no better help for refugees than to give them a chance to rebuild their lives by using their talent and abilities to become self reliant and independent. Id really like to know what platform are you using to connect with potential employers

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Hey Anubha Sharma thanks so much for your kind words! We have teams in our destination countries doing on-the-ground outreach to employers. Because what we're doing is new, personal outreach has been important. We've also partnered with impressive groups like Jumpstart in Canada and Refugee Talent in Australia to do further corporate outreach, and as we grow anticipate more local partnerships like these to multiply our work.

Photo of Marnie Glazier
Team

I really admire the work you're doing and would love to talk more about how we might be able to learn from one another's projects. Our goal with the Salinas Arts Hub is in some ways similar. In the shadow of Silicon Valley, we are seeing so many out of work artists, and I am confident we can help create a more sustainable ecosystem locally, though I love your idea of connecting talent on a global level.

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Hey Marnie Glazier ,we'd love to connect! You can reach me at mholland at talentbeyondboundaries dot org.

Photo of Mike Niconchuk
Team

Hello friends. Mike from Questscope/Beyond Conflict here.

I worked in Za'atri for 4 years, and am so glad to see this taking off. It has such potential. Some of my employers are also in the situation of having to work around Ministry of Labor regulations to hire some refugees as "stipended volunteers" or "consultants."

My question is...how do these company's work out payments to their new hires in Jordan and Lebanon? Do all TBB beneficiaries have bank accounts in their countries of first asylum?

Best of luck and I hope can collaborate!

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Hey Mike Niconchuk , great to hear from you! We'll be sure to check out your project and would love to learn more! Partnerships with local orgs in Jordan and Lebanon have been very important for us, and Questscope is doing great work!

Many of the candidates we work with, like you mentioned, have real challenges opening bank accounts in their countries of first asylum, and/or are only able to work as 'volunteers,' 'consultants,' etc. Because we're looking to help people migrate for work abroad, our partner employers don't need to worry about making payments to our candidates while they're still in Jordan or Lebanon -- work and payment wouldn't begin until our candidates had relocated to Canada, or Australia, or wherever the employer was based. That said, not having access to a bank account can make some skilled immigration applications complicated, since money in one's bank account can be a pre-requisite to international skilled migration; we're working with the governments of destination governments to figure out possible solutions to this. One of our partner orgs, Workaround, which is working on remote work, may have more info about how they help candidates receive payment for remote work while still based in Lebanon or Jordan. We're happy to make an intro if that would be helpful! http://workaroundonline.com/ We have an office in Amman and would also be happy to have our team mates meet up there to exchange lessons learned and explore ways to support each other's work!

Photo of Mike Niconchuk
Team

Hello TBB4Talent ! Great to hear back from you--and really, I wish you the best of luck. I'm happy to connect to Workaround. It is a really important gap they're seeking to fill. As I'm also employing some refugees remotely, I have some mechanics questions for them. Can you send me a contact there? I'm happy to email them and just say your referred me. Don't need to give you more work :) I really appreciate it!

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Hey Mike Niconchuk you can reach out to Wafaa at workaroundonline dot com.

Photo of Gayanjith Premalal
Team

Hey TBB4Talent  team! It's wonderful to have you in the challenge proposing a strong idea like this. Really nice to see the human centered approaches you have used and I like the idea of having the users of your solution in your team which would shape up the solution in a very practical way.

I would like you to have a look at Alex Alden 's submission "Common Ground Labs" https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/bridgebuilder2/ideas/common-ground-labs-driving-entrepreneurship-that-bridges-social-divides which I think can learn from you and also influence you.

And also the model proposed by Ghislain TAKAM in his submission "OmniJobber" https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/bridgebuilder2/ideas/omnijobber can be inspirational.

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Hey Gayanjith Premalal thanks for this advice and ecnouragement! Great to check out other initiatives we can learn from and collaborate with. We'll reach out to both teams!

Photo of Hannah Tsadik
Team

A related idea from Sweden that was very successful around linking competence that wouldn’t be thought of otherwise to employment opportunities: https://rattviseformedlingen.se/equalisters/

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Hey Hannah Tsadik , thanks for this link! This looks like a really interesting initiative, and you're the first to send us here! We'll definitely spend some time digging around -- looks like we could learn from their communications, their use of social media, and probably other elements of their work as well!

Photo of Kevin McCann
Team

Hi - this seems like a great idea and I hope it gets off the ground. I completely support the fact that you're not just challenging the rhetoric around the (very depressing) narrative that refugees are a burden on host countries, but actually putting into action a mechanism to demonstrate the opposite. Good on you.

One question / comment I'd have - it sounds like you've done a great job of addressing the economic and business aspects of the issue, but I assume you'd also provide cultural / psychosocial support to refugees to integrate into their host countries? Also, from a family context, would the idea be to support one individual first who would then be able to bring family members over later? I imagine that despite the support on the employment front it might still be an extremely isolating and stressful experience. You do allude to it as I assume these issues would come under identifying barriers to economic migration - but interested to hear your thoughts. Thanks and good luck.

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Hey Kevin McCann thanks for your important questions! Because we're starting with small numbers in order to generate learning, we're able to do pretty customized settlement planning at this point, working with our candidates and employers to determine which services are desirable and which are less relevant, and developing the appropriate plans and partnerships with settlement service providers, mentors, and community organizations accordingly. As we build data about this new kind of newcomer, we'll be able to share lessons more broadly about how employment-pre-arrival facilitates integration but also, as you mention, where additional support is likely still desirable. To your second question, whether or not someone can travel with their family is visa-dependent. Currently, the visas our candidates are applying for allow for movement with one's immediate family. That being said, a narrow definition of dependent family can be a barrier for refugees to international skilled migration since refugee circumstances can create higher dependencies among family members beyond the nuclear family. This is an area where TBB is identifying concrete examples and pointing out the need for policy flexibility to make economic pathways accessible to refugees.

Photo of Abby Nydam
Team

I love this idea and wish you the best of luck!!

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Thank you so much Abby Nydam ! We look forward to keeping you updated on our progress!

Photo of Pride Yanu
Team

the ideais great. my worry is will identified refugees pay for say flight expenses in the case where they are hired or the hiring company will foot all expenses upfront?

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Hey Pride Yanu thanks for raising this important point. We have definitely found that financial barriers can be part of what make international labor mobility difficult to access for refugees. For the course of our pilot project, we did budget for candidate migration costs, but we are also trying out multiple solutions to address these financial barriers in the long run. Some of our pilot corporate partners have committed to covering all costs of migration as part of their relocation package including flights, medical checks, an initial housing stipend, etc. For other corporate partners, often smaller businesses, covering those costs would make hiring prohibitively expensive. In those cases, we're looking to philanthropy as well as, for the long term, researching how loans can be part of a sustainable model for covering upfront costs. The World Bank has given us a grant to investigate how a revolving loan fund could be part of a sustainable model to support the costs of labor migration for refugees. We will share our lessons learned on how we're addressing financial barriers through strategic partnerships, loans, philanthropy, or other means!

Photo of Guy De Koninck
Team

Dear tbb4talent team,
at the european business summit today in Brussels There was a panel session on how business can support refugees, eg with hiring. I heard the story of the Tent foundation, www.tent.org, who focus on employment in the host countries where refugees already are, but they do have connections with companies like Starbucks and Microsoft, who joined them for the session and have a global presence. I understand that your focus is on helping refugees get hired into another country, but your offer could be really complementary. Did you talk to this or similar organisations about partnering and bundling your offers towards refugees and businesses?

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Hey Guy De Koninck ! Thanks again for thinking of us! We're lucky to be a grantee of the Tent Foundation this year, and are working with them to engage their very impressive corporate members! We've found that some companies who have made large public commitments to hire refugees locally are not always also ready to commit to piloting hiring refugees internationally, but we've also found that some have had such good experiences hiring locally they're eager to find additional ways to recruit the right talent and contribute to additional solutions! We're working in our destination countries with groups like Refugee Talent (Australia) and Refugee Career Jumpstart Project (Canada) to partner with us in our corporate outreach to identify those latter kinds of companies, which has been extremely useful to us! When we don't have candidates who meet the needs of some corporate partners, we're also able to refer them to those partners, so it's a great relationship!

Photo of Guy De Koninck
Team

That is great news. Thank you for sharing this.

Photo of Abby Nydam
Team

You mention that this idea has been talked about, but never tried. What were the reasons other people have decided not to pursue this idea? Or put another way, what do you see as the initial obstacles to this program?

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Thanks for this great question Abby Nydam !

There were some early barriers we encountered that may have dissuaded other actors from pursuing the challenge of making labor mobility for refugees a reality. One early challenge we faced was lack of data about refugees' skills and work experiences -- while there was high level data about professions, employers really need granular details of job responsibilities and skills. There was also real skepticism from employers and governments alike about whether or not there are skills in refugee populations -- many believed that those who were educated or skilled would have found ways to leave in early years of a conflict, and that there weren't employable refugees still in need of durable solutions. To overcome this, we had to invest resources to create a major mapping of refugee skills.

Now we can say with confidence there are many skilled refugees still in countries of first asylum! Of the 11,000 refugees who have signed up in the Talent Catalog (a tiny fraction of the 22.5 million refugees globally), there are nearly 700 skilled trades workers, 316 healthcare workers, and 331 engineers. Over 1/3 report English language, and many other languages besides.

Another part of the why this likely hasn't been taken on by others is that there are real administrative barriers that make it difficult for refugees to access skilled pathways -- as visa systems around the world exist now, facilitating refugee labor mobility can be a real challenge. Matching refugees with international jobs is only a piece of the work that we're undertaking to make this a reality. Part of our work is to bring together the actors needed to find solutions to the barriers that make these pathways inaccessible to refugees.

To give a small example of this kind of barrier, for many skilled visa pathways, candidates have to demonstrate that they have sufficient money in their bank accounts to support themselves for several months. This can be impossible for refugees who may be prohibited from opening bank accounts in their host countries or have spent down savings. We are securing partnerships with banks and philanthropists to provide guaranteed loans and are working with various levels of government to ensure these loans are accepted as “proof of funds.” Another example is that valid passports are required in most immigration systems, and many refugees have difficulty procuring or renewing their passports after fleeing to a first country of asylum. TBB is coordinating with multilateral organizations and governments to have alternative travel and identification documents (or expired passports) accepted.

A big part of our work is to organize the high levels of coordination between diverse actors required to overcome these and other practical challenges. It's not always easy, and we understand why others may haven't yet tackled it, but we think this is an idea whose time has come, and we are the team to see it through!

Photo of Abby Nydam
Team

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

Photo of Jaskeerat Bedi
Team

Dear TBB4Talent team! Thank you for the amazing work that you are driving and sharing your idea for the BridgeBuilder Challenge. Your idea is a great intersection of peace-prosperity-planet. The video that you have uploaded summarizes really well the impact and the mission of your organization. It seems from your post that you have captured the needs and concerns of the refugees really well and am curious to learn if you have spoken to potential employers and learn what their perspective is. Would be great if you could share some concerns/ biases that employing organizations may have.

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Hi Jaskeerat Bedi , thanks so much for your kind words and your thoughtful question! Learning from employers has been a really important piece of our work over this past year. We have found that different employers have a range of motivations for partnering with us. Some companies simply cannot find the talent they're looking for, or may be based in places where they have trouble retaining talent. Small and medium-sized companies in particular can be disadvantaged in the talent search because they often don't have a human resources team to identify and recruit international talent. By taking on the talent sourcing work, TBB helps these companies meet a pressing need. In addition to real talent needs, many companies partner with us because of complementary values and a sense of social responsibility. Hiring with TBB has the significant social impact of enabling a refugee and their family to immigrate to a new home to rebuild their lives and careers. An international employment opportunity, for refugee candidates, is a lifeline. Companies find their staff are proud to work on a team that is pioneering a new pathway for refugees. Staff are also proud of charting a new frontier in inclusive hiring, by opening their recruitment and acquisition practices to include international refugee talent. Overall, we find our partners are excited about the opportunity to see the private sector play a critical new role in finding durable solutions for refugees. Is it easy? Yes and no. Finding talented refugees is the easy part. Helping them to immigrate is the challenge because our immigration systems were not designed with refugees and their unique circumstances in mind. Among the biggest challenges employers face to recruiting refugees from abroad is the timeline - international recruitment can take a long time, and longer still for refugees. As TBB continues to identify and develop systems to overcome the barriers that refugees face to international immigration, corporate partners have to operate with uncertain timelines. This can be a challenge for some companies. As we refine our processes and learn more, we are hopeful that we can operate with more predictability, making it easier for companies to partner with us to find talented employees while providing a life-changing opportunity.

Photo of Jaskeerat Bedi
Team

TBB4Talent Thanks for sharing this perspective. I will look out for ideas in the challenge that address the employer's perspective and see if we can bridge these together.

Photo of Jaskeerat Bedi
Team

I came across a cool start-up trying to build tools that help people articulate their unique personal skills for professional use-cases. The Product is called - 'WholeStory' (http://tellyourwholestory.com/) and might inspire the tools that you are building to for refugees to share their unique experiences!

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Thanks @Jaskeerat Bedi , what  an interesting tool! I went ahead and signed up for the beta -- we might be able to learn something about how best to present our candidates. Really appreciate your thinking of us!

Photo of Guy De Koninck
Team

Dear TBB4Talent team,
In your first year you focused on mapping skills, which is indeed not an easy task. I recently learned that for Europe, a tool was created with that very purpose, albeit for migrants who have already come to Europe. It is available in multiple languages and on different platforms and could help you with gathering the info on education and skills. There is more detail on the website. https://ec.europa.eu/migrantskills/#/

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Thanks for passing this along, Guy! Our team had launched the Talent Catalog right around the same time that this tool was launched, which I think speaks to the general global recognition that our institutions can and must do more to recognize and deploy skills of migrants and refugees more effectively. The tools are pretty similar with a few minor differences. For example, the EU tool is designed for use by a social worker or an employee at a social-services organization, whereas the TBB Talent Catalog was designed to be filled in directly by the refugee job candidate. As a result, the EU tool eventually produces a kind of social services roadmap with suggested next steps in someone's integration process, whereas our tool produces a CV that a candidate can use for their own international or local job search, and that we can use to connect with employers on their behalf. But the tools are mostly very similar and there are some features of their tool that may be good for us to replicate or build on! Our real goal is to catalyze labor mobility for refugees, so following our pilot project, we will try to find ways to make our software available to others whom it might help to link refugees with viable employment options.

Photo of Guy De Koninck
Team

Great to read your reply so fast. Indeed, good to see solutions built for different uses and to learn from each other. We are planning a platform to connect migrants to neighbours and civil society organisations in their host country based upon shared passions. You could call it a small cv not of skills but of interests. We have sofar tested paper and sticker versions in real in person meetings and we are very interested in hearing what, from your experience, is essential to make an online tool usable for migrants - l already noted language - and what you are using as a technical platform.

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Great question. Another feature that's been important to making the platform usable is making the site mobile-friendly -- the majority of our users visit the site on their phones. We also tried to not ask for too much information, which might discourage people from completing. Sounds like you guys are already keeping it short and sweet. One of the ways we went about finding users was having teams of volunteers from their own communities who could present on the tool and explain the project. Maybe that would be relevant in your context as well! Partnerships with other local orgs and online outreach via Facebook for example has also been important for reaching users.

Photo of Guy De Koninck
Team

Thank you for your answer. It is very appreciated.

Photo of Steve
Team

This is an excellent idea. I have worked with several professionals over the years who have been refugees. The people I met were excellent, motivated colleagues, with a very different perspective. Thanks for tapping this underutilised resource!

Photo of Madeline Holland
Team

Thanks for your kind words, Steve! Companies around the world are recognizing that diversity and inclusion leads to more creativity and greater productivity. We think it makes good sense that someone's refugee status shouldn't keep them out of the running, and in fact may mean that they have a needed perspective to bring to the table!