THNK’s mission is to develop and support creative leadership around the world with the purpose to resolve large societal challenges. Community Asks showcases the unique members of our alumni Community, their projects, and what they need from the ecosystem (that’s you!) to move their project forward.
Get to know the leaders driving innovative solutions and helping to build a more sustainable and prosperous future for all—inspiration and collaboration is a natural by-product!
Describe your background and the nature of the concept that you designed at THNK
My THNK project has evolved into an NGO, Thaki. Our mission is to empower refugee and disadvantaged children with extremely limited educational opportunities to learn and thrive through self-paced, motivational e-learning tools.
A bit on the name: In Arabic, Thaki means smart. Phonetically it’s pronounced “the key”–because we want to give children the key to unlock their potential.
I am an urban planner but left the corporate world a year ago to devote myself fully to Thaki; the e-learning arena is actually completely new to me! As a daughter of Palestinian refugees, displaced from Lebanon during the civil war in the mid-1970s, and as a mother, I felt the need to contribute to the plight of children whose education has been stolen from them. I believe in the power of technology to enable learning and encourage intellectual curiosity. I saw an opportunity to leverage viable computer resources no longer needed by their original users, repurpose them, and deliver them to a new user group. Effectively, Thaki provides these devices with an entirely new life, thus contributing to a more circular economy.
What was your mindset – both personally and professionally – when you entered the THNK Creative Leadership Program? What has changed for you since then?
I was looking for a personal transformation and looking to sink my heart and soul into something I could call my own. I had been on a quest for a couple of years. My friend, Rym Baouendi, told me about THNK and I have to say it sounded like it was custom written for my needs. After a call with Lisa Ring (THNK Global Participation Director), I was hooked and before I knew it I was on my transformational journey, meeting people who have touched my life so deeply, going through an experience that gave me wings and the feeling of boundless opportunities. I left my career and launched my project, diving straight into the deep end, undeterred by my inexperience in the field. But that ignorance served me just fine, as I wasn’t intimidated out of this space at the beginning, which was quite uncharacteristic of me. Funnily enough, I’m now in the international circle of those working in e-learning for refugees.
I have made about 8 trips to Lebanon, visiting refugee communities and connecting with those in the field – and connecting them to one another. Apparently I’m a connector – who knew?
Now that I’m working in technology I have learned so much and it feels so good to be a learner again. All I know is whatever our solution is today, it’s more than likely to change in 6 months time. I’m always looking for ways to streamline, to be more efficient, provide more impact, evolve.
I sometimes have moments of panic that I’ve abandoned my core profession and I know my current model needs to be more financially sustainable, so I’m starting to implement new aspects to the business model to help balance the financial equation. We are already doing things I didn’t anticipate doing when I was concepting, such as starting server-connected computer labs due to the poor internet connectivity in Lebanon. I think there are so many opportunities we can leverage via technology – the possibilities are really exciting. My attitude is let’s see what’s around the corner!
What specific practices help you day-to-day as a leader?
I have to do intense physical activity 4 or 5 times a week – typically running or swimming. That’s my therapy, my meditation, my problem solving time, my introspective time. This time also allows me to sleep better, as I process things while I’m in the physical flow rather than defer them all to when my head hits the pillow. I also listen to meditation apps, but I’m really waiting for my dear friend and THNK classmate, Yvonne Biggins, to put her voice on a mindfulness app (she’ll kill me for saying this!).
Give us your pitch: describe the particular challenge you’re aiming to solve
Refugee children are missing out on their education and we want to help.
The concept is simple. Electronic devices, such as laptops, are often retired long before their productive life is over. Thaki distributes donated computers, loaded with educational content, to organizations and education centers working directly with refugee and disadvantaged children.
With enough support, what does the world look like in the next 20 years with your Thaki in it?
(Idealistic dream): Compassionate, creative, highly skilled adults who were displaced or disadvantaged as children, are making a huge impact on global peace movements, social cohesion and environmental sustainability. They were given growth tools as children that allowed them to dream and unlock their potential.
(Pragmatic dream): People across the globe circulate their useful technologies when they’re done with them to another group that’s ready to engage with them. This is simply a circular economy model that extends the lifespan of everything we consume and repurposes slightly outdated things. Everyone wins, including the planet.
Why are you the person to lead this initiative?
I’ve got the heart for this initiative and I’m on a quest to make it work. I can see the bigger picture—I think strategically and with the end user in mind. I seem to carry an effective pitch: partners and executives with whom I meet unequivocally want to support our mission – I have not met a single sceptic yet.
What do you need right now to get this project off the ground? What is your ask?
I’m in need of hundreds of laptops for over 20 NGOs in Lebanon. Can you connect me with executives of large corporations and institutions in Europe whom I could pitch for their organizations’ retired laptops?
Funding would also be nice. Thaki is a Dutch registered NGO. If you know of organizations that would be interested in supporting us please connect me.
Contact me if you can help.