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A talent accelerator for refugees with outstanding potential
This project was ideated in 2017 and developed at Minds Studio as a social enterprise from until April 2022, impacting over 600 refugees from +50 countries.
PAZ’s mission was to go wherever a humanitarian problem arises, listen to those in need, and put bright minds and cutting edge technologies at their service.
We focused on the European Refugee crisis, training refugees in digital skills and connecting them with European companies that look for a more diverse and sustainable workforce.
Why we did this
Over 100 Million people worldwide were forcibly displaced at the end of 2022 due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order according to UNHCR. Children account for 30 per cent of the world’s population, but 40 per cent of all forcibly displaced people. The figures keep growing at an accelerating pace, creating a systemic problem across boundaries and governments.
PAZ.ai was the response of a group of individuals who believe in combining the cutting edge tech, the brightest minds and best companies of our generation to address this issue. We wanted to empower people escaping from violence or war through education in highly employable skills, generating a sustainable business that benefits all the stakeholders involved in the process.
We are now aware refugee camps are full of hard-working, talented and highly motivated individuals who can be a great asset for any society that bets on them.
What was achieved
Since 2017, we’ve been on a journey that has changed many lives and has changed our own lives for the better.
We started the project by visiting some of the refugee camps that were the target of our project in Greece. After a few months of discovery interviews and research, we launched a Kickstarted campaign that raised £15,722 to run a pilot at the Ioannina Refugee Camp in Greece, in collaboration with an organisation called Habibi Works.
In the pilot project, we developed a vocational training program for teenagers who were interested in developing their tech skills, using Google’s CS First curriculum as a guide to shape a structured computing curriculum, and personalised weekly challenges developed based on their interests, that were displayed publicly on the Habibi Works premises.
After the first experience on the ground, we went back to the drawing board with the data and learnings and launched the 2nd version of PAZ that included a pivot on the target focus and 4 strategic pillars.
Psychological and legal support
In order to support Asylum Seekers, we incorporated an International Protection Lawyer to the team and a psychologist that would help each of the accepted participants on an idividual case-by-case basis.
Language is one of the biggest barriers for forcibly displaced professionals. We partnered with Education First (EF) to offer PAZ participants free access to high quality language language learning opportunities.
Reskilling and group coaching
Once the candidates were in a physical and psychological stable situation, we offered them a 3-stage program designed to reskill in one of the most in-demand job roles in the market.
After the candidates had a job position target, an 8 week program was kicked off in order for them to grow their professional network. The mentors included senior professionals with experience in recruiting, as well as other forcibly displaced professionals who had successfully lived the same transition before.
A technologically superior platform and a curated network of trusted partners
One of the main advantages of this project was the combination of advanced technological tools with a powerful network of +200 partners who trusted PAZ to detect, attract and prepare top talent. Minds Studio designed, connected an automated the whole tech stack for it to work seamlessly.
100% Digital and distributed
The entire end to end process was conducted digitally and using the latest tools to connect participants to the PAZ ecosystem efficiently, despite their current challenging situation. The entire team worked remotely too, helping us to run our operations with minimal cost.
Partnering with companies who believed in the PAZ talent
The main problem detected while working with refugees was the lack of access to opportunities. We decided to approach companies we know are leaders in their respective fields, and we asked them to provide a small % of their products or seats for our participants for free. To our surprise, many of them said yes.
A strong community that pays it forward
The principles behind PAZ attracted professionals from all walks of life who want to help each other progress in their careers. In both our in-person and virtual gatherings it was virtually impossible to tell who was a refugee and who wasn’t. We came together to help each other, to discover a different perspective and empathise, and this way we all contributed to the growth of the project.
A key part of the success of this initiative was based on the “pay it forward” business model, that encouraged those who had been successful finding a new job opportunity to contribute financially to help those coming behind.
Feedback from the PAZ Community
Minds Studio Contributors
Learning Experience Strategy
My life’s work revolves around discovering and experimenting with innovative learning methods that empower individuals to acquire new skills, ultimately transforming their lives for the better.
The Minds Studio Network
In addition to the project lead and contributors, Minds Studio relies on a network of over 50 professionals spanning across 15 countries. These individuals are aligned with the purpose of Minds Studio and are available to participate in projects when needed.