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NaTakallam: Sustainable livelihood opportunities to refugees & host communities as online language tutors and translators

NaTakallam hires refugees & host communities, providing them access to global income opportunities in the language sector

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Where are you located (country)?


Where are you located (city or town)?


You are submitting as:

  • An organization

If part of an organization or group, what is the name?


What is your organization or group’s website? (If applicable)

How does your proposed solution support emerging middle-class families in urban areas in the Global South to adapt and thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Refugees, displaced people and their host communities have been among the most vulnerable and marginalized job-seekers, often struggling to access labor markets while on the move or even when resettled. As many communities that host displaced people are also suffering economically from the impact of the pandemic, with rising unemployment and as borders close and opportunities for resettlement shrink, refugees are met with even bleaker prospects of finding sustainable livelihoods. Our work has impacted refugees around the world, based in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, but most of our learners and educational partners are based in the US and in Europe. Throughout the pandemic, many of NaTakallam’s online tutors and translators lost income opportunities and reported to us that NaTakallam had become their main source of income, as well as a life-line. By focusing on remote opportunities in the global market for language services, NaTakallam provides a sustainable livelihood model that has proven its power during the COVID19 crisis.

What stage of development is your Idea in?

  • Full-Scale Roll Out: I have already tested and scaled this idea significantly with the intended user base.

What tier are you applying to?

  • Global South Open Prize Tier: Open to submissions focused on any country in the Global South, at any stage of development.

Do you intend to implement your idea in Peru?

  • Yes

In what countries do you expect to implement your idea initially (in the first 2 years)?

While initially born to support Syrians resettled in Lebanon in 2015, NaTakallam’s one-on-one language sessions are now also offered in Spanish. We are already active in Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Uruguay, providing global income opportunities to refugees and host communities from Venezuela, Colombia and Nicaragua.

Feasibility: where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve accomplished to date, what barriers to implementation might exist, and what next steps you plan to take.

To date, NaTakallam has enabled displaced people to self-generate more than US $850,000 in total income. NaTakallam’s 100+ translators and tutors have worked with 8000+ individual users in 90+ countries, as well as 200+ companies and organizations. Our Spanish program offering is still in its early stages and we would love to scale up in order to provide more livelihood opportunities for the growing number of displaced people in Latin America.We currently offer Spanish conversation sessions provided by refugees and displaced people from Venezuela, Colombia and Nicaragua. We believe that winning this challenge will assist us in further expanding our presence and impact in Latin America and will help us strengthen our Spanish programs as we traditionally come from a MENA background. Our programming in Spanish remains young and small but we hope to keep growing it with the right partners and supporters.

Viability: what needs to be true for you to be able to implement your idea? What stakeholders, partnerships and resources might be required to implement this solution?

In our planning for the next stage of scaling, we assume that the global demand for virtual language services will continue to increase. As the pandemic has demonstrated the viability and importance of online-based learning, education, and interpretation tools, we assume that many new opportunities for growth will follow in the next years in these sectors. There will not be a return to the ‘old normal’. In order to be fully prepared for these new opportunities, we will need a stronger technological foundation for our entire operations. A strong technological basis will require collaboration with developers, UX/UI experts, as well as an exchange of lessons and insights with other organizations and startups that have gone through similar technological scale-ups to enable growth.

Adaptability: how does your idea adapt to frequent changes within the context you are implementing, due to COVID-19? Consider the rapidly shifting government policies, and healthcare economic realities that might influence end users.

The idea for NaTakallam came about due to the fact that Syrian refugees in Lebanon could not access the labor market due to the Lebanese government not providing them with work permits. Refugees and displaced persons can apply to work at NaTakallam regardless of their location and status-- all they need is an internet connection and a laptop. As a virtual program even before the era of Covid-19, NaTakallam maintained its work bridging cultures and changing the narrative around refugees and the “other”. NaTakallam has been a fully functional, virtual model specifically geared towards refugees and displaced people in rapidly changing circumstances. Throughout the pandemic, many of NaTakallam’s online tutors and translators, lost their other sources of income and many reported to us that NaTakallam had since become their main source of income. For our University and K12 programs, we supported educators in the rapid creation and implementation of virtual summer camps and study abroad programs as they grappled to keep students engaged in an age of social distancing.

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