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Jean Guo founded Konexio in 2016 to promote sustainable social and economic inclusion of refugees and migrants in France. From her personal background to her work experiences, she explains her motivations behind starting Konexio and her plans for it in the coming years, which include introducing Konexio to new demographic groups such as disadvantaged youth and women seeking employment, and to new regions and countries, including Aquitaine, Hauts-de-France, and Malawi.
What is your background ?
I studied economics at Stanford University and was a recent Rubenstein fellow at the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. After finishing my studies, I worked as a consultant in Silicon Valley. Through a Fulbright fellowship, I pursued migrant-related research in France at the Paris School of Economics. My research focused on the economic and health challenges faced by migrant and refugee communities in France. Through my practical experience conducting research, I found that most existing organizations focused on refugees’ and migrants’ basic needs (food, clothing, housing), but not enough was done to foster their economic and social inclusion, which are social factors that promote long-term autonomy.
As we face the COVID-19 pandemic together, Konexio continues its advocacy and support for those without digital skills. Digital skills have taken on a particular importance these past few weeks, as whole societies isolate at home. Whether teleworking, getting the latest public health guidelines, or checking in with loved ones over a video call, we rely on digital skills to keep our lives going and our communities safe. Meanwhile, those who lack computers, smartphones, internet connections, or the skills to use these technologies suffer disproportionately.
This is why Konexio’s work matters more now than ever. COVID-19 has thrown a spotlight on the digital divide and highlighted the consequences of digital inequality. In this moment of collective awareness, Konexio is increasing its mobilization, so that no one will have to be left behind.
In February 2019, Konexio will take the fight for digital inclusion to the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi, home to nearly 34,000 refugees from neighbouring DRC, Rwanda, and Burundi. Partnering with local chapters of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) and UNHCR, Konexio will launch a version of Digital Basics that fast-tracks trainees to gain digital employment through online freelancing. Accessing income through remote work has the potential to drastically uplift refugees in Malawi.
Currently, Malawi’s official refugee policy barrs asylum-seekers from working, leaving refugees with limited economic opportunity. Meanwhile, the potential for digital freelance work is exploding, with the number of freelancers in the EU alone doubling since 2000.
Enter Konexio’s Digital Inclusion Program, which will provide a pathway to life-changing employment for Dzaleka residents, who currently live on less than €1 a day. By acquiring in-demand digital skills, trainees will be empowered to access online freelance work, opening the door to a living wage and opportunities for professional growth. The implications for health, well-being, and economic stability are immense.
With the growth of freelance opportunities and demand for digitally-skilled workers, the Konexio-JRS program has the potential to substantially transform the earning power and potential of refugees in Dzaleka, Malawi.