Konexio: Welcoming Refugees into the Tech Community

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Jean Guo, founder of Konexio.

With migrant crisis rising at an unprecedented scale, especially in Europe, there is not much consideration given to the unnerving hardships faced by immigrants and refugees to adapt themselves to their host country. Once they gain asylum, they are faced with confidence shattering challenges such as language barriers, lack of job prospects, navigating administrative processes, learning new cultural and social norms, as part of their struggle.

Konexio is on a mission to seamlessly integrate refugees with their host communities through innovation and technology. Jean Guo, the founder of Konexio, talks to us about how digital learning is empowering refugees to overcome these challenges. Read on!

How did you come up with the idea of Konexio? Tell us about the objective.

I came to France in 2015 as a migrant health researcher, and during my research, I discovered some key barriers affecting migrant mental health. These primarily included lack of language skills and lack of promising job opportunities. Before coming to France, I worked as a consultant in Silicon Valley and was exposed to the importance of digital skills in navigating daily tasks.

Combining these two skills together, I started Konexio as a way for migrants in France to acquire marketable job skills in courses focused on computer training and French language acquisition. At the heart of Konexio’s objective is our belief that empowerment and connection can be brought to our students through digital learning, and that every individual, if given the right opportunities, can take charge of their destiny no matter where they come from.

How is Konexio changing the lives of refugees?

While Konexio has and will continue to offer our courses to students from all walks of life and all backgrounds, refugees and asylum seekers make up the core of our student base. Our focus at Konexio is to guide our students and provide the refugees with key skills necessary to find economic, professional, and social integration in France. This way, we provide refugees with the right training and enable them to take charge by using their digital skills. 

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Tell us about some of the most inspiring student stories at Konexio.

We think the stories and successes of all our students are inspiring. We’re always in awe of their dedication, motivation, and perseverance. Some of our students have escaped unimaginable situations in their home countries, leaving everything behind at a moment’s notice, and have had to rebuild their lives in a new country from scratch.

Given the challenges that migrants face upon arrival in their new host communities, we’re honored to be part our students’ journey. We’ve had students who started out by taking our classes and have now returned as volunteers and instructors. Many students have put their newly learned skills to the test by creating our organization’s website while others have entered next level programs. 

Can people from non-tech background sign up for Konexio’s coding skills program? How does that work out?

Of course! Konexio offers a wide range of courses, from classes tailor-made for those just starting out on their computer skills to classes for students looking to master the basics of computer programming. Our courses are open to learners and volunteers from all backgrounds with all sorts of skill sets.

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Konexio Students at a Hackathon.

How are information and communication technologies changing? What can one do to brush up their skills and stay up-to-date?

There are some really cool developments happening in the education tech space – and we are excited to be a part of this adventure. Seeing the rise of mobile tech, e-learning, reversed classrooms and digital tutors, information and communications technology make for a supremely important skillset. To stay updated, it is important to constantly learn and pursue these skills.

What are your future plans for Konexio?

The sky’s the limit for us! We’re currently working on perfecting the Paris model of our courses, which entails testing the new curriculum, determining effective class sizes, recruiting students and volunteers, and building partnerships with local and international organizations to further our development. Looking down the road, we plan on taking the Konexio model to other French cities, including Marseille, Lyon, and Lille, and eventually across Europe and overseas.

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