Konexio promotes the integration of refugees in France through tech and innovation. We offer programs that give our students essential skills, professional opportunities, and a supportive network.
Refugees face a number of tough challenges once their asylum status has been obtained, but one of the most critical and challenging will be that of economic integration through job opportunity. We tackle this by providing refugees with opportunities to learn and connect through computer literacy and code. Our vision is a world in which every individual is able to realize their own potential and to feel a sense of belonging in their community. Through action and example, we hope to break down stereotypes about these individuals and highlight their potential for contributing to their host country.
Konexio was started by our founder Jean Guo, who is a researcher studying migrant health. She realized in discussing with refugees that finding professional fulfillment and economic self-sufficiency was a huge challenge, with ramifications for the health, wellbeing and social integrationof refugees. Having lived and worked in Silicon Valley, Jean realized the potential of information and communication technology (ICT) skills to help overcome these challenges and decided to start a non-profit organization.
Konexio first launched coding classes for 15 students in June 2016 in collaboration with an EPN, a computer lab financed by the City of Paris. Since then, Konexio has had over 30 students learn coding skills through our classes. Most recently, Konexio has launched a program focused on digital skills—which was started because of the number of students we saw struggling with a lack of basic computer literacy. Working with a number of partners, including Singa and France Terre d’Asile, Konexio has had registration for classes fill up in just a few days. We would like to scale-up our efforts to be able to reach more students!
Why Digital Skills?
Digital skills are both a universal language that bridges the gap between foreign and host cultures, and a valuable and long-term asset on the job market.A basic and necessary component of modern society for every citizen today, digital skills are becoming increasingly important— affecting how we learn, interact, work, and live day-to-day. These skills can help those facing language and education barriers successfully find professional opportunities. In fact, 90% of jobs require a basic level of ICT literacy in Europe, which is expected to face a shortage of more than 800,000 professionals with digital skills by 2020. Given that it can take almost 20 years for refugees to have employment rates comparable to nationals, gaining useful digital skills can also help them to highlight each person’s potential for contributing to their host country.
Konexio's digital program
Our digital program is original in that we are developing it with an integrative learning approach: we have developed original pedagogical material with a simultaneous focus on French language acquisition and use of digital tools and web applications. We are working to further develop this material and make it available online via a creative common license to share with others.Developed in line with standards set by the French Ministry of Education and in reflection of the current demands for ICT skills, our digital skills program consists of a sequence of cumulative courses. The following is a brief description of the skills taught, with a focus on French language learning (simple computer terms, professional workplace language):
- Introduction to computers: digital literacy, computer navigation, typing and mouse use
- Internet literacy: email account creation, internet navigation, web research
- Microsoft Office: utilization of Microsoft Word/Google docs for text creation and collaborative work
- Real-world learning applications integrated into the curriculum: exercises adapted to students’ practical needs (targeted internet research, development of a resume, creation of a cover letter)
The certifying program, based on the internationally recognized European digital competency ECDL standards that will give our students an opportunity to validate their skills, was developed to be a 60-hour course. However, since Konexio is entirely run by volunteers, until now we have only been able to provide an abridged version of the course that touches on the basics but lacks enough class time for students to master them.