Many obstacles exist to making remote work a livelihood opportunity for refugees, in this post Lorraine Charles reflects on what her organisation, Na’amal, is doing to address these challenges.
Employment provides refugees the ability to access a dignified livelihood. Essentially, livelihood activities are important because they allow individuals to build functioning social networks based on mutually beneficial exchange of labour, assets and food while providing the opportunity for self-reliance.
When refugees have access to employment, it reduces the burden on the host country by decreasing refugees’ dependence on public assistance and contributes positively to the economy of the host community. More importantly, it enhances the wellbeing of refugees by boosting their dignity and confidence and by providing a sense of control over their lives.
In many refugee-hosting countries, refugees are denied access to employment due to a combination of legislative and structural barriers. International attention has become focused on viable options for livelihoods for refugees and other displaced populations. At the same time, struggling host economies and governments have become stretched in their capacity to provide employment for native populations, and the presence of refugees have complicated solutions. There is a growing interest to find innovative and viable solutions for employment, not only for migrant and refugee populations but also for host communities. There is an urgent need for a scalable, sustainable and replicable model for job creation. Remote work has been touted as a viable solution to provide employment to refugees and other vulnerable populations, captivating the international community and many in the private sector.
Many initiatives have emerged to provide refugees the technical skills required to work remotely; coding academies are one notable success in this sphere providing training and also direct links to the private sector. Other initiatives centre around creating opportunities for refugees to connect directly to companies for freelance remote work. However, there has been no large scale employment of refugees as remote workers.
The reality is that many challenges hinder a scalable and sustainable model for refugee remote work. Research into these challenges leads to the realisation that refugees need more than just access to digital opportunities and technical skills training for successful, sustainable and scalable remote work. Thus, Na’amal was born in March 2019. Na’amal is an ecosystem for refugees and other marginalised populations to be successful remote workers.
The core of Na’amal is the belief that along with the technical skills, individuals need the soft skills to be successful remote workers. We have worked with Workplaceless, which provides certified learning programmes to transition individuals to remote work, to develop a programme suited to the context of the beneficiaries, taking into account the challenges that they potentially face when working remotely. Through blended learning instruction, we can further contextualise the learning to suit the location of the population. Upon completion of the programme, learners are provided blockchain certificates through our partner Learning Blocks.
Language is one of the key challenges that our beneficiaries encounter when working remotely. Thus, Na’amal works with Paper Airplanes to provide individuals a personal English tutor to guide them through an individualised curriculum aligned to the Common European Framework and contextualised to their specific workplace needs. This training continues for up to nine months after the initial training is completed.
In order to support their remote work journey, our partner Thaki provides recycled computers so that our beneficiaries can immediately embark on projects, earn and save to eventually buy their own new devices.
Most refugees and other vulnerable communities do not have bank accounts. AlgoPay, which specialises in providing financial services to the unbanked, is our payment partner. Through their digital wallet, refugees can be paid for their work, obtain cash through registered vendors in their location, save as their money is permanently stored, and make online transactions with the AlgoPay debit card.
Included in this ecosystem is the psychosocial support that our beneficiaries need to scaffold their remote work journey. Na’amal supports graduates in their entry into remote work via mentorship, the option of continued training and links to the remote work global community.
Remote work is not a silver bullet for employment, nor will it provide jobs at scale. This is not the nature of remote work. Instead, for those who are skilled, yet do not have the opportunity, Na’amal aims to provide the skills required for an alternative form of employment, leveraging the advantages of technology and enabling refugees and other vulnerable people to be part of the workforce of the future. While challenge remains to convince the private sector to hire refugees and other vulnerable populations, the fact is that research has shown that organisations with a more diverse workforce are more successful. Remote work provides an innovative solution to bring jobs and change the narrative of employment for vulnerable populations.
Na’amal, piloting and implementing soon; updates to follow!