In February, I spoke about how Pluralsight One was embarking on a big mission — a mission to democratize technology skills for everyone. The reason Pluralsight One was created is to fulfill this mission across regions that might not otherwise have access to technology learning resources, with a particular focus on underserved communities around the world.
We believe technology skills give people a voice and enable them to tackle very real problems. And, we know that learning gives people more power over their lives. We believe our platform can support the learning needs and objectives of underserved communities, but we also know, in order to be successful, inclusivity must be at the core of the solutions we create. To do that, we need to work directly with those we wish to support so we can understand their needs and create learning pathways that are meaningful to their lives.
As we embark on our global mission, we want to ensure that the solutions we build are empowering and accessible in a very complex landscape. We must overcome barriers that prevent equal access to opportunity. The Middle East / North Africa (MENA) region has one of the most youthful populations in the world, with over 162 million people between the ages of 10–24. We are also facing the largest refugee crisis in history, with a massive, displaced youth and young adult population. Achieving lasting impact and scale within this region is transformative and provides a brighter future for youth whose learning has been disrupted by conflict and whose economic opportunities are often stagnant. Developing a high impact solution within this context also informs our broader, global work.
As part of our journey to reach this goal, we partnered with the NLG Tech Task Force to engage some of its members, including UNICEF, Norwegian Refugee Council, and Mercy Corps, and sent our Social Impact team to visit the area to iterate on the solutions we have built in response to our needs assessment and share our work at the No Lost Generation Tech (NLGT) Summit.
Lindsey Kneuven, Head of Social Impact, and Troy Gulbrandsen, Product Manager of Social Impact, spent two weeks testing our findings and working to understand how Pluralsight One can add value to youth who are so eager to learn, but often lack opportunity in light of the other challenges and responsibilities they face.
The insights our team came home with are incredible, and I am so excited to share them with you. This interview gives an inside look at what was accomplished during our time in the region. I hope this brings to light why it’s such an important focus as we democratize technology skills across the globe.
Interview with our Social Impact team
What is the NLG Tech Summit?
Lindsey: The No Lost Generation (NLG) Tech Summit, put on by NetHope, brought together 20 of the world’s largest NGOs, tech companies and young leaders to work on initiatives that advance social outcomes through technology, education, participation and economic opportunity. The summit looks at the most powerful ways to achieve systems-level impact through philanthropy, technology and product — and this task force is specifically committed to solutions designed for the needs of Syrian and Iraqi conflict-affected youth.
How is Pluralsight participating?
Lindsey: The No Lost Generation Technology Task Force focuses on preventing a lost generation of Syrian and Iraqi youth through education, empowerment and economic opportunity. This year, the No Lost Generation Tech Task Force selected four projects to work toward those goals and Pluralsight One was fortunate to be one of them. We are working with UNICEF and the task force to develop a solution that will help provide accessible and relevant technology learning opportunities to conflict-affected youth, and the nonprofit professionals who support them, with an ultimate goal of scaling the solution across seven conflict-affected countries and 24 partner humanitarian organizations.
What kind of barriers do these learners face?
Lindsey: The number of barriers these youth face are overwhelming. Conflict has disrupted what is usually a time in life that is set aside for learning and development. They have faced risk of harm, trauma, loss and now they are facing concerns like access to protection and basic services, economic exploitation and lack of sustainable livelihoods. On top of all that, many youth have to deal with challenges integrating into host communities and contending with psychological distress.
To learn in the face of these obstacles can sometimes feel impossible, but we believe that learning is a human right — and are working to build resources that remove some of those barriers and create equal opportunities. These learners are dealing with a lot of constraints, and yet you see a fierce commitment to learning. You see innovation, strength and curiosity. For many, technology is seen as a tool that operates beyond barriers, an environment where they can create and solve, a great equalizer.
How are learners in these refugee communities testing our platform?
Troy: We co-created curricula and mapped courses to economic opportunities together with our partner humanitarian organizations. Our intention with the in-person working sessions across Jordan and Lebanon was to see how the youth would experience the platform, if the language and experience were inclusive, if the content was relevant to their learning objectives and if they were able to navigate the platform. We listened and actively collected their feedback and ideas.
How did they feel about Pluralsight?
Troy: They were so excited when they saw the platform! They had question on top of question. Many of the students were taking photos because they were so thrilled about the possibilities. They see Pluralsight as a vehicle to help change their current circumstances.
Lindsey: In these regions, we have received great feedback on how the Pluralsight platform could meet their needs. These learners are incredibly entrepreneurial and constantly on the lookout for tools that will help them develop the skills they need to achieve their goals. They want to solve the problems they see facing their communities, and they are looking for inspiration and guidance that will enable them to do that with technology.
What were some misconceptions you had about these learners?
Troy: I thought that these community members might have little to no access to the internet or technology, or that their understanding of the value of technology would be limited. However, that is what many of the nonprofits working with them are trying to provide, and so you can find labs with access to computers and the internet. Also, about 90% of the youth have cell phones which they use to access learning materials.
Even if students only have internet access at a formal computer lab for one hour a day, they are maximizing that time and filled with so much hope. They want to come up with innovative ways to rebuild their communities and join the global marketplace. They are excited about having access to more than just a few areas of learning, and love the possibilities to discover with an extensive platform with thousands of courses and other learning tools.
What were some of your main takeaways from visiting Jordan and Lebanon?
Lindsey: The youth in this region are unstoppable and visionary. They are overcoming massive barriers with the hope to learn, grow and create. There is a huge need for Pluralsight in this area. This youth are adaptive and invested in helping us iterate on the platform in ways that enhance its value in their context. I truly believe that they will use the platform to gain the skills they need to create solutions for Syria and the broader region that will help uplift the human condition.
Troy: These learners have been exposed to more violence and chaos than any young person should ever know. To watch them grow to their full potential in spite of that experience and build a skill set is incredible. These are the people that industries want to employ because they will be creative, solve problems and be the people that you want to work with. They are the kind of creators that you will learn from, and who will have impacts on their communities.
To learn more about Pluralsight One, visit PluralsightOne.org.