Mapping Commonwealth Youth 4 Development Solutions

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Tuesday, 17 November 2020 14:44

Problem: Exorbitant rehabilitation cost for Kazakhstan’s 50,000 annual stroke patients, many of whom are left partially or fully paralysed, facing social and economic exclusion.

Solution: Assistive and rehabilitative devices for the treatment of people with neurological disorders that allow patients to mentally manage artificial limbs in the form of an exoskeleton for the upper body.

Goals and objectives: To develop affordable devices and technologies to integrate vulnerable populations into the mainstream of education and daily life.

Implementation: ReLive - recognized as one of the world’s top 20 innovative solutions was created by Beibit Abdikenov, who tried to achieve accelerated and bespoke rehabilitation of stroke patients through ground breaking AI-powered solutions.

Mr. Abdikenov observed that rehabilitation of stroke patients requires a lot of resources in terms of time and money, excluding many people who can’t afford it in the long term. As a PhD student of Nazarbayev University Kazakhstan, he researched how AI software can read and interpret brain signals, which are used to control an exoskeleton of the upper limbs, speeding up recovery time, and ultimately improving the quality of life of stroke patients.

The ReLive team consists of renowned scientists, seasoned researchers and professionals in the fields of rehabilitation, mechatronics and artificial intelligence. Some of our successful projects: gait robot and upper limb rehabilitation robot Soft robotic glove for patients with musculoskeletal disorders.

The team has developed a product that consists of an upper-limb exoskeleton, electroencephalogram (EEG) device — for recording brain activity — and an algorithm to recognise brain signals. This enables the patient to briefly move their upper limbs using the exoskeleton, which is controlled by their thoughts alone using EEG signals that are registered by the company’s machine-learning algorithm.

All information created during the exercise is recorded using sensors and stored for analysis by a doctor. Robots for neuro-rehabilitation are designed to support the administration of physical exercises to the upper limbs or legs and ankles, and ReLive’s unique proposition lies in the algorithm installed in its exoskeleton system.

While up to 80% of stroke survivors subsequently experience difficulty using their arms, resulting in profound loss of independence as well as affecting health services that are essential to providing care and rehabilitation in the home, rehabilitation therapy can be aided by the technological support of robotic-based therapy, non-invasive brain stimulation and neural interfaces.

The ReLive package consists of an upper limb exoskeleton, EEG device, algorithm for recognising brain signals and a platform which records data from the patient’s body.

Recognizing that most rehabilitation centres are located in big cities, which limits access to rural dwellers, ReLive aims to improve accessibility to affordable rehabilitation to every city, town, and villages through technological innovation.

Achievements: ReLive participated in UNICEF’s Assistive Technology in Accelerating Learning and Participation of Children with Disabilities exhibition.

After prototyping and experimental testings, a soft robot glove was developed that can help people suffering from loss of hand motor control to carry out some of their daily duties. This solutions assists patients suffering from Charcot Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), one of the inherited motor and sensory neuropathies characterized by progressive loss of muscle tissue and sensory sensitivity, which affects about one in 2,500 people. The soft glove helps children with CMT to write alphanumeric letters with a comfortable grip. A machine learning-enabled app then assesses the writing and gives feedback on how the subject is being learned and improved.

Also, a robot for upper limb rehabilitation was designed and developed, which works according to the AAN (Assistt-as-ededed) control scheme for training robots. The robot, using AAN control schemes, builds scaffolding and assists in moving limbs only if the object cannot cope on its own.

ReLive will be providing their solution in hospitals in Kazakhstan from 2021 and are planning to cover 400-500 hospitals by 2024. Furthermore, the start-up aims to expand to the Indian and US markets in the future.


Contact details: Beibit Abdikenov

Address: Kazakhstan - Nur-Sultan, Nazarbayev University 53 Kabanbay Batyr St., 020000

Telephone: +7 701 400 7717

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Problem: To advance the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change every human shall contribute.   Climate education and youth education shall go hand in hand towards those goals.

Solution: "Climate Box" is a set of educational and play materials on the topic of "Climate Change" addressed to students in grades 2-11 and teachers teaching subjects in the educational field "Science" and "The World Around".

Implementation: The "climate box" was developed in 2014-2015 by the United Nations Development Program in Russia (UNDP) with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation and the Coca-Cola Company. In 2017, after the successful piloting in Moscow and Sochi schools, a regional TF project was approved, aimed at raising awareness of schoolchildren from the CIS countries about the problems of climate change on the basis of the "Climate Box".

The "Climate Box" continues a series of textbooks for schoolchildren, previously presented by UNDP and its partners in the Black Sea - "Box of the Black Sea" and on Lake Baikal - "Baikal Chest".

Climate box" contains:

  • an illustrated manual for students with cognitive materials, pictures, interactive and individual assignments with questions on the topic "Climate Change";
  • guidelines for the teacher on the use of the set of materials in the classroom in various classes;
  • a set of game questionnaires;
  • map “Climate change: consequences for nature and humans by the end of the XXI century, if humanity does not do everything possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”;
  • A poster with tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint.

Achievements: It was adapted and translated into national languages ​​versions were piloted in schools in Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. More than 50,000 schoolchildren and 2,000 teachers in these countries have already read the textbook and have implemented local school projects on climate change adaptation and energy efficiency. The TF project supported a series of regional conferences on climate education and the first competition for school projects in the CIS countries. Methodologists and schoolchildren from these countries shared their experience of implementing the "Climate Box" and the results of using the knowledge gained on its basis. The Climate Box is already available in English, Russian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Tajik languages. On line version is available at and through the mobile applications.

Contact details:

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Monday, 02 November 2020 05:35

Problem: 0-3 year old children, who are born prematurely, have an increased risk of developing disabilities, or other developmental challenges

Solution: A multi-disciplinary early Childhood Intervention programme for children and family with disabilities and development challenges

Goals and objectives: To improve the well-being of young children with special needs and developmental challenges through the implementation of an innovative family support service that is tailored to the local context.

Implementation: For Our Children Foundation provides mobile social and health services across communities, implemented through the Foundation’s Community Support Centre’s in Sofia and Plovdiv Bulgaria.

From delivery rooms, early childhood intervention specialists carry out consultations and provide support to parents of premature babies, babies with special needs and babies with health problems. These support services are crucial as they also prevent the abandonment and institutionalization of children.

The early childhood intervention services provided are customized to meet the particular needs of children. The services include: supporting parents access appropriate health and social services; mobile services where ECI specialists provide expert support to children and their families at the comfort of their homes, enhancing the sensitivity and parent-child bonding, assisting the families garner better understanding, adapt and adjust to the needs of the child; transfer of parental skills to assist parent maintain and adapt to the child’s daily activities and routine, as appropriate for his/her actual condition and age; provision of special tools to assess the development, progress and needs of children and their families; provision of individual care plans for early intervention following the assessment of family needs.

The Foundation employs three ECI specialists, family therapists, psychologists and social workers. While some of these services are provided at the home of the families, some of the sessions are conducted at the Community Support Centre’s where the children can access music and art therapy sessions.

There is a strong community engagement in the programme. Parents are key stakeholders and are supported by a public council of the community support centers – representatives of the child protection system, the municipality, families, representatives of the healthcare system and other specialists. The council coordinates all stakeholders concerned with the child’s well-being. The council also provides a feedback loop where problems related to the community-based social services available to children and families can be conveyed.

Budget: The initial costs for the programme was 35 000 Euros per year, supporting about 80 children with special needs and their families annually.

Achievements: The programme has been externally evaluated in 2014 noting the positive effect on the development of the children and their families, professionals and communities, capacity of the organisation and services on the whole.

Contact details:

Alexander Malinski, Director

Gyueshevo 211303 g.k. Serdika, Sofia, Bulgaria

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Phone: 02/980 70 58

Wednesday, 23 September 2020 08:34

Problem: The agricultural industry in South Africa is traditionally human labor-intensive and unpredictable when it comes to the environment and threats like droughts, pests, and diseases. 

In order to measure the success of crops, farmers wait until the end of the growing season and have limited means to predict the growth potential, performance, and longevity of a crop.

Agricultural production, related to food security, can be easily threatened by other species ranging from viruses and bacteria to larger insects and birds. When the detection of these pests and diseases is delayed, the consequences can be costly.

The growing cost of labor, low accuracy of problem detection and identification, and poor documentation contribute to this problem.

All of these factors have a negative impact on yield and its quality, and further on food security which has been pressured by current irreversible trends of increasing urbanization and population growth in the country.

Solution: Technology provides more options for growers to address these challenges.

Aerobotics’ innovative and successful solution combines artificial intelligence and drone technology to detect tree stress and allow growers to prevent cost and time wastage, and losses in revenue.

Goals and Objectives: This solution provides intelligent tools for agricultural production and a green economy, with objectives of maximized yield, optimized crop performance, minimized food reduction at an early stage, and cost-efficiency. It aims for the achievement of SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).

Implementation: Aerobotics was founded in 2014 by two South African entrepreneurs, James Paterson (CEO) and Benji Meltzer (CTO), who both have backgrounds in Mechatronics Engineering. Aerobotics uses aerial imagery from satellites and drones, data analysis, machine learning algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI) in the agricultural industry to help growers identify pests and disease at an early stage, manage crop health, and predict yields. Their technology has progressed towards engineering fruit counts and providing data on fruit size and color. Since its inception in 2014, Aerobotics has serviced customers in 18 countries in the United States, South Africa, Australia, and South America.

How it works: Tree Insights

A customer (tree crop or vineyard farmer) orders a drone flight through Aerobotics.

Then, an accredited drone pilot flies the farm, where a multispectral camera attached to the drone captures high-resolution imagery.

This imagery is processed by Aerobotics’ proprietary software to provide farmers with per-tree and zone insights that include Tree Counts, Missing Trees, Health, Area, and Volume.

Based on their tree insights, growers can create scout routes with geo-referenced markers for areas that need to be investigated. Scouts can follow the route on the Aerobotics mobile scouting app, Aeroview InField,  and leave notes and take pictures as they go.

Growers and their teams can download insights from their drone flights and scout reports to share with their teams, make data-driven decisions in the field, and optimize their operations and crops.

How it works: Citrus Fruit Insights

Citrus Fruit insights give growers, packers, and marketers accurate reports on citrus fruit count, sizes, and color ahead of the harvest period.

This intelligent tool can inform customers on yield management interventions (e.g. fruit thinning) to ensure an optimal harvest; and help customers to plan better for the end of the season when it comes to labor, resource planning, and marketing decisions.

Testimonials from customers

 “Aerobotics has become an incredibly important tool for us for both tree management & yield estimations. The tree stats are accurate and insightful, and their new Citrus Yield Estimation service has proven very accurate, particularly around fruit sizing. I’d recommend them any day of the week!”

- Kobus van Staden | Director for Soleil Citrus Group (South Africa)


$12.00 / acre for single flight tree insights

$30.00 / acre for a seasonal tree insights package

$36.00 / acre for citrus fruit insights package 

Minimum requirements:

Minimum of 50 hectares per drone survey

Trees to be a minimum of 50 cm canopy size and 50 cm height

Achievements: Aerobotics has won several innovation awards since it was launched, including one of the top innovators of the World Bank 2020 Innovation Challenge for Food Security and Agriculture Risk Financing in Southern Africa; the Macron Africa Most Innovative African Startup Award. Aerobotics has raised about US$2 million in a Series A round from South African Nedbank Venture Capital, US Ag-Tech Venture Capital Fund, AgFunder, US-based AngelList, and South African-based 4Di Capital to fund the further development of its software and market expansions. Aerobotics has subsequently gone onto raise growth rounds from Platform Investment Partners and Napers Foundry. This agri-tech solution can be easily replicated in any other countries as long as the cost-efficiency and internet broadband is in place.

Contacts: Speak with an Aerobotics Customer Team member:

Thursday, 20 August 2020 15:28

Problem: Children aged between 6 and 16 from multi problem families face severe stress caused by poverty, mental health, domestic violence, addiction, family separation or health problems.

Solution: A community based youth centre that provides activities, peer-support and psychological health services.

Goals and objectives: To provide children from multi-problem families with a safe space, where they can enjoy interaction with peers and adults in leisure and learning activities, to enhance their psychological well-being and strengthen their resilience.

Implementation: The Nest Centre is an innovative model for after-school Centres for children from multi-problem backgrounds. Since 2008, 14 centres have been established in small cities across Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Nest Centre provides a home away from home to many children.

It is a safe space where children can go after school and on weekends and holidays, to find some refuge from potentially harmful family conditions. At the heart of these Centres are the “Living Room” – equipped with comfortable chairs and sofas, bookshelves and a television. Children can relax, socialise, read, or just hang out.

These Centres focus on building resilience, increase child engagement and participation, and encourage mutual learning and support. The children are encouraged to participate in running the Centres and design participatory activities, including providing support to their peers who might be facing various challenges.

On average children attend the Nest Centre for 2 to 3 years.

Individual monitoring and direct work with children. Children can be referred by teachers, social workers, family doctors, and by parents and children themselves. Admissions are based on an intake and checklist. An individual action plan is then carefully prepared for each accept child in which specific activities iterated.

The Nest Centre is not suitable for children with severe psychological problems, as the Centre is only equipped to cater to mild psychological health problems.

The Centres are best suited for small towns and rural environments, because community support and embeddedness are important conditions for positive impact. Community meetings involving parents, school directors, teachers, social workers and police are organised in support of the effective running of the Centres. Volunteers include family members and larger community.

Budget: Initially financed by Stichting Kinderpostzegals and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 3 years. Operating costs for a Centre costs around 25 thousand euros per year, while initial investments costed about 10 thousand euros. Local authorities contribute around 5 thousand euros of in-kind contributions. Most Nest Centres now run on their own with locally mobilised resources.

 Achievements: The Centre provides a great source of support to troubled children and has been attributed to increased self-esteem and control over their lives and destinies.

Contact details: 

Branka Ivanovic

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Thursday, 20 August 2020 13:42

Problem:  Marginalization of some demographic groups in the political discourse of Sudan.

Solution: An online dialogue platform that provides a forum for virtual civic engagement through a gamified dialogue process.

Goals and objectives: To promote peaceful civic engagement on the future of Sudan.

Implementation: In recognition of the importance of effective citizen engagement and participation, the Joint Conflict Reduction Programme (JCRP)/UNDP Sudan in collaboration with a private game developing company, Serious Games Interactive developed an online gamified dialogue platform – Raik Shino (“What do you think”) - which enables the Sudanese youth to creatively interact and discuss the future of Sudan.

The idea behind the gamified platform is to provide opportunities for people to creatively interact and discuss the future of Sudan and encourage citizen engagement in the political dialogue. The process is gamified through a point-based competition and by incentivising participants through leader boards and prizes. Although it is a public platform to openly discuss and reflect, it is a closed online environment where login and game profile names are required to participate in the discussion and have anonymity features to foster a safe space for discussion.

Raik Shino was developed following a UNDP sponsored workshop with participants including peace ambassadors, academics from peace institutes across Sudan and members of the private sector interested in innovation for peacebuilding in Sudan. Participants were tasked with testing and refining ideas related to the development of a civic engagement tool using a human-centred design approach. For many this was their first encounter with human-centred design thinking and the day presented an altogether innovative way of working which required active participation and critical thinking by all participants at every stage. The workshop also reviewed and informed the framework of “Raik Shino” and created a group of prototyping champions to support the testing and implementation of the platform in various parts of Sudan.

In 2016, Raik Shino expanded its partnerships and hosted campaigns in collaboration with UNICEF, Ahfad University and the game company Lamsat Najeh. Three campaigns were launched on Raik Shino around Handwashing Day (with UNICEF); International Day of Peace (with Afhad University); and Abandonment of FGM/C in Sudan (with UNICEF). Furthermore, the platform was also used to explore initiatives on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). The successful partnerships showed the potential of Raik Shino as an interagency tool that can be used to crowdsource ideas across Sudan for UN organisations based in that country.

Its offline scaling activity has expanded to include innovative soft skills training such as design thinking to crowdsource ideas from and engage citizen youths in Darfur. The young citizens designed 100 solutions to address peacebuilding, women’s empowerment, and vocation-based livelihoods training opportunities in Darfur.

Achievements: Raik Shino was among four winning proposals for the cross-regional UNDP Technology for Citizen Engagement Challenge. By its first year of inception, the online game platform subscribers increased to more than 2,000 from 800 in 2015.

The Raik Shino platform, although successful, concluded in 2018 – the lessons learnt have been applied to new experiments.

Contact details: Ali Muntasir Eltayeb Ibrahim, Head of Experimentation, UNDP Sudan

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Thursday, 20 August 2020 07:37

Problem:  While making-up only a quarter of Egypt population (19 million), 90 per cent of unemployed in Egypt are under the age of 30, with youth unemployment at an unprecedented high of 31.3 per cent of the active youth population

Solution: A social development initiative and online match-making platform that connects the young unemployed or students with businesses seeking short to mid-term services 

Goals and objectives: Enhance the skills and professional experiences of Egyptian youth, create new freelancing opportunities, foster small and medium enterprises, and connect freelancers with employers on a national scale through an online platform 

Implementation: The Middle Eastern and Northern African region is still going through a period of a dire economic situation and Egypt’s youth is one of the most dramatically affected groups of the population, disregarding all levels of education. Egypt is still having one of the strongest population growths in the Middle Eastern and North African region. Until 2050, the population will grow from current estimates of 85 million to 120 million. At the same time, more than 60 % of Egypt’s population is in working age. This means that every year an additional 250.000 young Egyptians flood into the job market.

In practice, the average Egyptian graduate needs to wait for up to 5 years before he can secure permanent employment. Many youths forego valuable practical experiences in their trained field of work, while the gathering of such is crucial for the shaping of a confident and competent professional character.

FreelanceME is a social development public, private partnership between UNDP, Microsoft Egypt’s and the Egyptian Ministry of Youth which responds to the endemic youth unemployment of Egypt . This initiative responds to needs identified by the private sector for reliable skilled talents that small and medium businesses can use and provides an online platform which aims to develop Egyptian youth skills and experience, create new freelancing opportunities, foster small and medium enterprises, and connect freelancers with employers across Egypt.

The development started with market research with Egyptian university student focus groups to understand their interests and knowledge of freelancing. FreelanceME then convened an employer roundtable discussion on the challenges in hiring, freelancing needs, pricing of freelancing projects and hiring outlets.

Microsoft Egypt and UNDP also launched Egypt’s first freelancing summit which brought together 200 youth and the freelance community in Egypt to raise the awareness of Egyptian youth on the benefits of freelancing, inspire and empower them to develop their knowledge skills including in marketing, management, sales and communication, and to provide guidance on how to commence their freelancing career.

A FreelanceME Academy was also launched with three tracks in ICT, Multimedia and Writing & Translation with over 350 aspiring Egyptian youth and featured prominent professionals in the three fields that introduced youth to freelancing as an alternative employment model for youth. Lastly, the FreelanceME training initiative, with two areas of Basic IT and Computer Sciences, aims to provide disadvantage Egyptian youth with a competitive edge to gain employment and create awareness about being a digital Citizen.

Achievements: Over 4339 young persons have been trained in Basic IT centers located in 24 governorates, and an additional 1312 youth were trained in computer science education through workshops across 9 governorates.


Contact details: Ghada Khalifa, Microsoft Citizenship Programme Lead in Egypt

Address: Kilo 28, Cairo/Alex Desert Road, Abou Rawash Cairo, Egypt

Phone: +20216880


Thursday, 20 August 2020 06:07

Problem: Before 2005, Feynan was a struggling hotel owned and run by the NGO that also administers the Dana Biosphere Reserve. Its remote location presented a challenge as well.

Solution: Feynan Ecolodge is a model of environmentally sustainable and socially responsible tourism in Jordan.

Goals and objectives: Minimise the environmental footprint of the hotel, contributing to conservation projects and providing ongoing development opportunities and benefit to members of the local communities.

Implementation: The first ecolodge in Jordan, Feynan Ecolodge was built in 2005. It is co-managed by EcoHotels, a privately owned Jordanian company that is a local pioneer in the ecotourism sector, in partnership with The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature.

Feynan is totally off-grid. The lodge generates 100% of its own electricity through solar panels on the roof, and stores excess power in batteries. Laundry is air-dried, and hot water is heated through the same solar panel heating system. The lodge’s architecture and thick walls promote cool air flow during hot desert days. Though heating is rarely required, olive pit charcoal – jift – is pressed and burned in two fireplaces to provide any necessary heat. This is a recyclable and natural by-product of Jordan’s annual olive harvest. No trees required.

It is the first hotel in the region to eliminate single use plastic bottles. All meals are vegetarian and food waste is composted, while a new wastewater treatment system creates biogas that can be used for cooking and water for irrigation.

Feynan employs all of its staff from the local communities surrounding the Dana Biosphere Reserve. This helps create the uniquely authentic atmosphere in the lodge, while generating much needed income for surrounding communities. In addition, the candle-making and leather workshops on site give four women and a man in the community the opportunity to work to help support their families and showcase their art.

Feynan also sources transportation and other services from the local community through partnerships which provide supplemental income for locals.

Achievements: Feynan Ecolodge is run on 100% sustainable power and 80% of products used at the lodge are purchased from within 60km radius. Feynan directly benefits around 80 families from the local Bedouin community (400 people) and the business has grown by 28% since 2012.
Feynan Ecolodge received the “Golden Award” at the World Travel Market (WTM) Travel and Tourism Awards 2019 in the category of reducing carbon and other greenhouse gases. Feynan Ecolodge was the first to receive the award in the region, following efforts that served to reduce CO2 emissions by 11.13 tonnes annually.


Contact details:
Address: Al-Ba'ouniyah St #8, Jabal Al-Lweibdeh
PO Box 911115, Amman 11191, Jordan
Phone: +962 6 464 5580, +96265850333




Wednesday, 19 August 2020 06:29

Problem: The kafala (sponsorship) system used in labour markets in Bahrain and other Gulf countries was easy for a labour migrant to enter, but difficult to move within. This meant that businesses were not able to address a sudden need, avail themselves of a market opportunity, or satisfy a short-term contract without going through the administrative process of applying for a permit, sourcing the workers and flying them in. This was true even if the necessary skills were already available in the labor market thanks to foreigners working in the country, but who were not allowed to move from one employer to another or, worse, had to leave if their previous employer withdrew their sponsorship.

Solution: The Flexi Permit is a renewable two-year work permit that allows an eligible individual to work and live in the Kingdom of Bahrain without a Sponsor.

Goals and objectives: Bahrain launched an unprecedented policy in the region to improve the efficiency of its labor market and move beyond the sponsorship system – or kafala – for foreign workers. Among the primary rationales of the Flexi-Permit is the reduction of hiring costs for businesses and to divert money from the free visa black market – which a 2012 LMRA study estimated to be valued at BD70 million (approximately USD 185 million) – into government coffers.

Implementation: On July 23, 2017, Bahrain’s Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) launched the Flexi-Permit, an initiative that allows irregular migrants to regularise their status by sponsoring themselves and working legally for multiple employers.

Under Flexi Permit, a foreign worker has a status of “self-employed” with a permit and residency that allows him or her to work in any occupation and at any skill level, with any employer or number of concurrent employers, on a short- or long-term basis, full or part-time. This permit is issued for two years and renewable indefinitely, and includes medical insurance coverage.

Permitted workers can work in any non-professional jobs with any number of employers on a full or part-time basis. This permit comes in the form of a blue card which must be always be under possession and renewed every 6 months.

Achievements: The UN’s Global Compact on Migration forum highlighted the initiative as a “ground-breaking alternative to traditional labour market management systems.” The 2018 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report hailed the Flexi-Permit as “a concrete step to reform the sponsorship system,” and a key reason for upgrading Bahrain to Tier 1 status. Bahrain is now the first Arab country to reach the Tier 1 status, and the LMRA’s CEO Ausamah Al Absi became the first GCC government official to receive the “TiP Hero” award. Other GCC countries are reviewing the initiative and may emulate the model.

Contact details:

Labour Market Regulatory Authority, Kingdom of Bahrain

Address: P.O Box: 18333 Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Phone: +973 17388888, +973 17506055  

Wednesday, 15 July 2020 09:02

Problem: The world is facing the worst loss of human capital brought on by the global refugee crisis. With 79 million people displaced from their homes by conflict and an average length of displacement of between 20 and 30 years, most refugees and displaced people live in low- and middle-income countries where they face enormous challenges in rebuilding their lives and are often excluded from the labour market of their host countries.

Solution: NaTakallam leverages the digital economy to create income opportunities for accessible tech-enabled refugees, connecting them to language learners worldwide for online language practice, or to clients seeking translation services.

Goals and objectives: Providing those who’ve been forced to flee their homes with income, hope and dignity through modern-day technology.

Implementation: Upon completion of her masters in International Affairs at Columbia University in the summer of 2014, founder Aline Sara was looking for an affordable way to practice Arabic—specifically, her native Lebanese regional dialect—from her base in New York City. At the same period, fleeing the violence from the brutal civil war, millions of Syrians were pouring into Lebanon, where today, roughly 1 out of 4 people are Syrian. This mass migration and its ensuing refugee crisis inspired Aline Sara to develop a service in support of these refugees.

NaTakallam ("we speak" in Arabic) is a social enterprise that connects refugees and displaced people with remote income-earning opportunities related to language and cultural exchange as online language tutors, translators, and cultural exchange instructors, providing them with economic empowerment, purpose, and re-gained dignity.

Established in 2015 with founding team comprised of individuals with extensive experience in economic and political development, conflict resolution, human rights, humanitarian affairs, language learning and journalism, NaTakallam originally offered one-on-one language practice over Skype, specifically for Arabic with Syrian refugees. Consequently, the services have expanded to include: Levantine Arabic (Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese), as well as Egyptian, Iraqi, Yemeni and Sudanese Arabic. Beyond Arabic, it also offers French (with refugees from Congo DRC, Burundi, Guinea), Persian (with Iranians and Afghans) and Spanish (with Venezuelans and Central Americans).

NaTakallam offers three distinct services: individual language learning sessions, translation services, and K-12/University and virtual guest speaker sessions.

The service operates on a commission-based model-the majority of the revenue going to refugees, paid through NGO partners/online payments. Refugees’ performance are based on customer surveys and retention rates. The objective is to provide an income equal to the monthly minimum wage in refugees’ host country.

NaTakallam is currently in the process of launching a fully automated web platform for users and language tutors. This launch will coincide with a new website for initial visitors as well. All core members of the team are multilingual, multinational citizens with a background in and passion for humanitarianism & global intercultural exchange. They also have experiences working with major international organizations across the Middle East, Latin America, North Africa and Sub Saharan Africa. As such, the core element of the business- the livelihood opportunity for refugees and IDPs- is central to the team, and it will remain central from an ethical perspective throughout NaTakallam’s growth.

By prioritizing partnerships, NaTakallam has been successful at forming business relationships with 70 schools and 20 universities including Yale, Columbia, and Georgetown among others, and boast a 70% renewal rate with academic contracts. They have also worked with over 300 K-12 schools and are experiencing steady growth. The company’s eight permanent staff are dispatched around four offices in New York, Paris, Cairo and Beirut, which significantly helps with business acquisition efforts.

Budget: NaTakallam conversation partners (CPs) worldwide earn $10-75 USD per hour depending on the service.

Achievements: Over 8,000 people have engaged in more than 30,000+ hours of NaTakallam sessions and refugees have generated over $800,000USD through their individual language tutoring, guest speaking, translation and classroom work on the platform. NaTakallam has also partnered with over a hundred schools and universities worldwide.

In 2016, NaTakallam was winner of the World Bank Youth Summit ‘Rethinking education for the new millennium’ award and this year, it was selected a top 5 idea among 650+ submissions in the Bridgebuilder Challenge, a collaboration between GHR Foundation and OpenIDEO that recognizes development solutions through open innovation at the intersection of peace, prosperity and the planet.

NaTakallam has also been recognised by the Cartier Women’s Initiative, Enterprise Forum PAN-Arab Region, World Economic Forum, ELLE, Project Entrepreneur of UBS and Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

Contact details:

Aline Sara

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Wednesday, 15 July 2020 08:45

Problem: Congestion, reduced economic productivity, and higher greenhouse gas emissions as a consequence of growing volume of cars in small-to-medium sized cities.

Solution: Clean, affordable, and effective methods of transportation that include bicycle, electric bicycle, electric scooter, and car sharing programs.

Goals and objectives: Provide small-to-medium sized cities, with effective, sustainable, and economical transportation options which aims to reduce urban congestion, stimulate economic activity, and improve environmental health.


In Summer 2019 Velvioo launched YerevanRide, a bicycle sharing operation in Yerevan, Armenia.

Velvioo partners with some of the leading hardware and vehicle vendors to provide Yerevan’s citizens the ability to use bicycles for getting from one location to another. The bicycle sharing network promotes accessibility, so bicycles are picked up and dropped off public locations, such as sidewalks which also ensures that GPS services are not interrupted as is the case in primate homes and other locations.

Velvioo also provides an easy sign up process for YerevanRide. Subscribers are able to download the app on the iOS and Android app stores, with an easy registration process that includes a subscribers name, phone number, and email, and selection of a membership plan.

The service is open to anyone 16 years and over without any permits required, and payments for the YerevanRide service can be made by credit card or by cash using any TelCell terminal around Yerevan.

The team at YerevanRide has worked hard to understand how best to provide Yerevan’s residents a form of transportation that can compete as an alternative for cars. First, YerevanRide bicycles have 7 gears, making it easier to ride around Yerevan’s sometimes hilly terrain. Second, it offers electric bicycles to make it really easy to ride around Yerevan’s steep regions. Third, cash payments via TelCell ensures inclusivity for those that don’t have credit cards.

Velvioo actively works with the Yerevan Municipality in helping them build the necessary infrastructure to make riders safer and more comfortable riding bicycles in Yerevan. By sharing usage data with the Municipality, Velvioo promotes evidence based planning in the Municipal infrastructure initiatives, ensuring that bicycle stops and other associated infrastructure are built where they are needed. Velvioo also works with community and other advocacy groups in Yerevan to make more bicycle lanes a reality.

All bicycles need to be secured at the end of a ride. To secure a bicycle, a rider needs to activate the GPS locker on the back of the bicycle by pushing the lever to the lock position and also secure the password locker on the bicycle to a sturdy object, such as a bicycle rack or lamp post. A rider is then requested to scramble the number after locking. The rider can be charged up to 300,000 AMD for any lost or damaged bicycles when negligence is proven.

By working to reduce urban congestion, Velvioo aims to stimulate economic activity, improve environmental health, and enhance tourist experiences. They therefore provide benefit to Armenian cities, residents, and visitors alike.

Budget: Accessibility is an important of all solutions from Velvioo. On YerevanRide, a customer can purchase a 1-day or 3-day passes and monthly or annual plans. A 1-Day Pass costs 1,000 AMD for 24 hours, 3-Day Pass costs 2,000 AMD for 72 hours, Monthly Plans cost 9,000 AMD per month, and Annual Plans cost 49,000 AMD per year. These time bound plans provides unlimited number of 45-minute rides. For example, a monthly plan user can ride from home to work, from work to a restaurant for lunch, and from work to home all for one monthly price – as long as no single ride exceeds 45-minutes. The ride limit ensures that there are enough bicycles for all riders in the network. Rides longer than the ride limit will be charged 300 AMD for every 15-minutes beyond the ride limit.

Achievements: Velvioo currently serves the roughly 400,000 18-35 year old’s residing within Yerevan.

Contact details: Albert Manukyan, Co Founder

Armenia, Yerevan, Margaryan 20/2.

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Phone  +374 94 55-67-02

Monday, 08 June 2020 15:23

Problem: Inadequate and expensive cold-chain infrastructure in Morocco leads to a 30-35% loss of fruit and vegetable crops, depleting income and perpetuating poverty for 75% of rural poor farmers.

Solution: An innovative refrigeration solution that does not rely on traditional compression technology that requires electricity.

Goals and objectives: To provide low-cost electricity-free mobile refrigeration units.  

Implementation: Despite annual production of 6,200,000 metric tons of produce, Morocco has a total refrigeration capacity of only 227,000 tons, of which 27,000 is dedicated to crops. The absence of adequate cold storage capacity significantly impacts horticultural exports - the second largest export segment, representing 15% of gross national product.

Fenik was conceived as a class project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the primary objective of enhancing the accessibility and affordability of refrigeration to positively impact the environment and economic wellbeing of vulnerable rural families in the global South.

Fenik’s refrigerators use an evaporative cooling system, rather than the more energy-intensive vapor compression refrigeration, allowing for less expensive, electricity-free cooling. These basic evaporative cooling devices have proven to be effective for agricultural use, tripling or quadrupling the shelf-life of most farm produce.

By bringing to bear state-of-the art materials and improved design, Fenik has created more effective, durable, easier to use, mass-producible units. Fenik's Yuma 60L Cooler introduces a revolutionary product to the world of refrigeration. The Yuma 60L is a light weight, easy-to-carry, fully portable system that can keep perishables like fruits, vegetables and dairy products fresh in the hot summer months. The Yuma 60L requires no electricity to operate and is 100% eco-friendly with absolutely no greenhouse gas emissions.

Fenik has also developed the PhaseTek™ technology to power the Yuma. This material mimics the way animals naturally cool themselves and becomes activated when a user fills the internal reservoir with any clean source of water (e.g. tap, well, river, lake). The walls of the device then begin to draw out heat from the interior of the device, cooling the internal storage space by 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit from ambient conditions. PhaseTek™ is built into a bladder structure allowing the system to hold and transport water to the evaporative surface where the cooling effect is generated through the latent heat of vaporization.

Features of Fenik’s products include: high-density expanded polystyrene frame; aluminum sheets; specialized synthetic cloth with highly wicking properties and donut-shaped water tank.

The ultimate aim is to sell Fenik’s technology units in bulk to institutional buyers such as government development projects, NGOs, agricultural cooperatives and refugee camps, as well as rural, low-income consumers in Morocco. 

Achievements: Fenik’s technologies have been recognized and supported by organizations and foundations including USAID, National Geographic and The Siemens-Stiftung Foundation.

Budget: Production costs have been set at 15 USD with a sales price of 30 USD.


Contact details: Spencer Taylor

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


UNOSSC, Division for Arab States, Europe & the CIS Mr. Zanofer Ismalebbe said “we have already heard several great ideas but at the same time we also need to understa… TPL_RT_PAST