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Project Reconnect Implementation Guide

Connecting Refugees to Resources.

Part 1: Overview

Quick Facts

Location:

  • Europe

Focus Area:

  • Education
  • Peace Building
  • Poverty Reduction
  • Refugees & Displaced People

Technologies Used:

  • Security and Digital Identitiy
  • Mobile

Country:

Germany

Project Length:

January 2016-August 2017

Project Budget:

Total: $5,300,000 Personnel: $749,950 Technology: $4,550,050 Other: $0 Personnel: 14.15%Technology: 85.85%

Contents

  • 1. Overview
  • 2. What happened
  • 3. Replication
  • 4. Technologies used
  • 5. The Problem
  • 6. Project approach
  • 7. Who was involved?
  • 8. Key Personnel
  • 9. Project Timeline
  • 10. Project Budget
  • 11. Evaluation Framework
  • 12. Reflections, Learnings & Outcomes?
  • 13. Thoughts on the future

Contact

reconnect@nethope.org Sybille Fleischmann, Senior Program Manager

In 2015, more than one million people sought refuge in Germany as they fled war and persecution in their home countries. After arriving, these refugees faced new challenges: learning a new language, settling into new communities, and resuming education and work. 

NetHope and Google.org believe that access to internet resources can play an important role in connecting refugees to their new communities. With support from Google.org, NetHope launched Project Reconnect, an initiative that provided 25,000 managed Chromebooks to nonprofit organizations supporting refugees in Germany. The Chromebooks are web-based laptops, that can be centrally administered. The interface is based on the familiar Chrome browser and is easy to use, even for those new to computers. The initiative aimed to help refugees rebuild their lives by facilitating access to education and information resources on the web.

The initiative was initially designed as an emergency response to help scale language learning and integration training efforts of nonprofits and to address the information needs of the arriving refugees. However, by 2017, most refugees and asylum seekers had transitioned into smaller group or family homes, and many of the grantees/nonprofits had to reshape their Chromebook initiatives to adapt to the changing needs of the refugees they support.

Note: Project Reconnect is currently in the final Monitoring & Evaluation phase. NetHope will update this Implementation Guide shortly.


Part 2: What happened?

Project Reconnect awarded 50 grants to nonprofits in Germany that support refugees. The grantees use the Chromebooks to provide refugees access to information and education resources at more than 1000 locations across Germany. The grantees include traditional aid organizations, like the German Red Cross, education institutions, and volunteer initiatives. NetHope also awarded grants to a new breed of organization that focuses on scaling training capacity for refugees by providing computer-assisted learning opportunities and introducing other organizations to this approach.

Highlights include:

  • Project Reconnect empowers refugees and asylum seekers to help themselves by accessing online resources to learn about the asylum process in Germany, study German, find new housing, fill gaps in their school knowledge, and learn about their host communities.
  • Project Reconnect enables refugees to study German at their own pace and deepen classroom learning. This has helped refugees to integrate in their new communities, find jobs, and improve their livelihoods.
  • With Chromebooks from Project Reconnect and internet access, organizations strengthened their ability/capacity to help refugees prepare for their new lives in Germany.
  • Project Reconnect enabled 50 grantees and more than 1000 sites to explore for the first time or scale the use of computers in their work with refugees and build internal capacity.

The NetHope Project Reconnect team has created documentation on the use of managed Chromebooks in initiatives for refugees. These tutorials, handouts, and case studies for the administration and use of Chromebooks are available, mostly in German and English, to other organizations.


Part 3: Replication

Project Reconnect provided important lessons on how centrally managed Chromebooks and computer-assisted learning can support and foster refugee integration.

The implementation models of the Project Reconnect grantees provide inspiration for other global nonprofits that are planning initiatives to use computers and computer-assisted learning to help refugees rebuild their lives.

Note: Initiatives with managed Chromebooks are only recommended for environments where internet access is available.


Part 4: Technologies used

Google Chromebooks with Chrome OS. Used by the grantee nonprofits in their work with refugees. Managed Chromebooks can be centrally administered by the staff of nonprofit organizations. The Google Admin Console allows organizations to preconfigure settings and to custom-design the user experience by distributing changes, updates, tools, and content remotely to all their managed Chromebooks. Managed Chromebooks allow organizations to provide a rich computing platform with minimal need for on-site IT intervention, maintenance, and support.

G Suite for Nonprofits. Available at no cost to NGOs to administer and manage the Chromebooks centrally; comes with excellent support from Google. G Suite services include:

Google Drive. Used to share tutorials, and other documentation with grantees and to collaborate within the Project Reconnect team.
Google Docs. The Project Reconnect team used Google Docs to draft and collaborate on new documentation. Many trainers and end-users use Google Docs on the Chromebooks in combination with Google Drive to create and save documents, especially for language practice and job applications.
Google Sheets. Project Reconnect team used, for example, to create, manage, and share an overview of Chrome Apps.
Chrome Web Store and Chrome Apps. Grantee organizations can remotely install Chrome Apps from the Chrome Webstore on the Chromebooks. The Project Reconnect Team has tested more than one hundred relevant apps, identified apps that work in public session mode, and created a new app linking to the Project Reconnect portal page.
Google Hangout. Used by the Project Reconnect team for online trainings for grantee project managers, site managers and administrators, and for webinars that are open to a larger audience.
Google Groups. Used as a forum for questions and suggestions from Chromebook administrators.

GAM Tool. This tool pulls data from the Google Admin Console to create Chromebook inventories for grantee organizations and sites.

Qualtrics Online Survey. NetHope received a grant to use this robust data engine for creating and analyzing an end-user survey.

RTI Tangerine. NetHope used this mobile data collection platform for Monitoring & Evaluation to capture information collected during interviews with grantee program and site managers.

Content partner technologies. Included Cisco Networking Academy, Volunteer Vision, Serlo Education, and Speexx


Part 5: The Problem

The year 2015 marked a dramatic increase in asylum seekers and refugees in Germany. On September 12, 2015, alone, an estimated 13,000 refugees arrived in Munich, pushing the city to its limits. In response to the humanitarian need of the new arrivals, cities across Germany set up large welcome centers to provide shelter, food, clothing, and medical attention.

Against this backdrop and crisis situation, Project Reconnect was born. The aim of the initiative is to help refugees rebuild their lives by facilitating access to online education and information resources. In December 2015, Google.org provided NetHope a grant to implement Project Reconnect and oversee the distribution of 25,000 managed Chromebooks to German organizations supporting the refugees, including NetHope members, Save the Children, SOS Kinderdorf Germany, SOS Kinderdorf Austria, and five state and regional Red Cross organizations in Germany. As of June 2017, NetHope has granted the Chromebooks to 50 organizations, which have deployed them at more than 1000 locations across the country. The majority of Chromebooks is made available in schools or other education facilities, offering a combination of online and in-person German language training, social and cultural events, and activities.

The rapidly evolving refugee situation has required grantee organizations to constantly adapt and adjust plans for Chromebook deployment. Through this process, innovative implementation models have been developed and implemented. Originally, for many grant recipients, targeted locations for Chromebooks (identified in their original proposals) were large-scale welcome centers, which housed thousands of refugees. In these settings, the aim was to facilitate access to online German language training to accelerate refugees’ ability to communicate and navigate in their new context. However, starting in early 2016, the numbers of newly arriving refugees dropped from nearly 200,000 in November 2015 to just under 16,000 in September 2016. This process led to the decommissioning of many of the large-scale welcome centers, which had been identified as recipients/hosts in the original grantee project proposals.


Part 6: Project approach

NetHope selected grantees based on criteria such as: proposed Chromebooks initiative, social impact, reach, organizational strength, and deployment readiness. Project Reconnect grantees are internationally known organizations such as German Red Cross, Save the Children, Johanniter, and Malteser; German educational institutions; and a new breed of nonprofits focused on supporting refugees through computer-assisted learning initiatives. The organizations proposed various ways/initiatives in which they would use the Chromebooks. NetHope did not require a certain approach, but instead supported the organizations in the approach they proposed.

In early 2016, Medion produced the 25,000 Chromebooks. NetHope followed specifications recommended by Google engineers for the design of the devices. NetHope’s Project Reconnect team in Germany coordinated the distribution of the Chromebooks with Medion, and then worked with the program manager or program management team assigned to this initiative on the grantee side to provide training and support.

The diversity of Chromebook-supported initiatives and settings is tremendous. They include: mobile Chromebook units supporting social counselling in refugee homes; providing access to higher education coursework in study centers; supporting employment preparation in youth migration facilities; offering cultural and language activities in public libraries; and facilitating communication with family and friends in church facilities. Activities in individual locations are supported by a combination of staff and volunteers, including refugees themselves. Over a third of grantee organizations has hired refugees to support Chromebook activities, generating employment opportunities and empowering refugees to create prospects for themselves and their peers.

The Chromebooks have generated a great sense of enthusiasm and excitement among grantees, their staff and volunteers, and among the refugees using the devices. Based on their initial experience with the Chromebooks, over 80 percent of the Project Reconnect grantee organizations report that their expectations for the value of Chromebooks in refugee work have been met or even perfectly been met. Based on responses to a broadly distributed survey at the end of 2016, a majority of the 64 participating refugee Chromebook users report that the Chromebooks have been important, or even indispensable, in achieving their personal goals for education, employment, communication, and research.

Lessons Learned

Nimbleness required. The reduced number of refugees coming to Germany after the European Union-Turkey agreement March 2016 led to a decommissioning of many of the large welcome centers in the country, which were previously housing thousands of refugees. This challenged human resources in the organizations that managed these centers. They had to divert their focus to closing centers, finding new locations, relocating people, and relocating the organization. Funds became even tighter, and the Chromebook initiative became deprioritized for a while. This required some grantee organizations to identify new Chromebook locations, complicating sustained efforts to make more Chromebooks accessible and useful to refugees.

Unexpected internet infrastructure and policy barriers. These significantly slowed down establishment of Chromebook locations and resulting usage by refugees. Government regulations, for example, in certain states do not allow schools to provide Wi-Fi access to students. Grantee organizations also cite challenges regarding misconceptions and adoption issues around cloud-based technologies, which are new to many of the organizations’ staff, as well as to refugee users. The main challenge organizations report is the very feature which makes the Chromebooks so easy to manage and maintain – their cloud-based setup and a “public session mode” that prohibits the retention of personal data or documents, cookies or browsing histories, or log-in credentials once a user session ended.

Content recommendations and partnerships. Content recommendations are particularly important to organizations that are using computers for the first time in their initiatives for refugees. With the help of Google volunteers, NetHope created a content discovery page that allows organizations to quickly find content relevant for refugees in Germany and then make it available on their own refugee-focused web page. Many of the grantee organizations that were new to using ICT in their initiatives, did not have a webpage for refugees. NetHope created a portal site that organizations could configure as the homepage on their Chromebooks. NetHope also partnered with content providers such as Cisco Networking Academy, Volunteer Vision, Serlo Education, and Speexx.

Implementation funding support. Ideally, in-kind technology donations to nonprofits responding to emergencies are augmented by funds for program implementation such as staff, connectivity, and volunteer expenses.

Pair with requests for state/public funding. Select grantee organizations applied for additional funding from state and public sources to operate the Chromebook program. This translated into additional work for the already strained human resources of these organizations and led to delays in the deployment of Chromebooks. However, some grantee organizations had already secured additional public and private sector funding, particularly to support facility, administration, and personnel needs.

Personalized support. Refugees using the Chromebooks predominantly aim to improve their German language acquisition. Success stories shared by grantee organizations and refugees indicate that few refugees and asylum seekers are able to study independently with online tools. The grantee organizations have implemented various approaches to address this need for in-person support and personalized coaching in conjunction with Chromebook use.

Custom implementation approaches. Managed Chromebooks can be used in in a variety of contexts, including transitional housing projects, classrooms, counseling centers, youth programs, and many other settings. The grantees have implemented a variety of approaches to address the needs of refugees and asylum seekers, and continue to adjust and optimize those approaches. Examples of recurring deployment scenarios are: 

●        Language and Integration courses. Chromebooks are used to complement the lessons or in some cases are an integral part of the curriculum in a blended learning approach, as in the government funded “Einstieg deutsch” (“Intro to German”) program. 

●        Learn cafés or Internet Cafés: Provide an Internet Café-like environment to allow refugees to connect with friends and family and access assistance information. Some organizations simply provide assistance when requested in the Internet Café, while others provide regular tutoring or classes to introduce users to computers and online research and language learning content.

●        Welcome classes in schools and preparation classes for vocational training programs. Chromebooks are used for language learning, to translate and practice new vocabulary, to learn about German culture, and to research a variety of topics. With online content and exercises, students fill in gaps in their school knowledge so they can join regular classes or qualify for an apprenticeship program.

●        Shared devices in group homes. One to three devices are used in small group homes and are shared between residents to study at their own pace or conduct research.

●        Loan model at libraries. Public libraries offer refugees and asylum seekers an opportunity to study at the library, a quiet space with good connectivity, and some devices are even made available to borrow for up to four weeks.

●        Computer and internet classes: In addition to language classes, many sites offer introductory courses to use computers and the internet. Some locations offer programming courses for kids or Cisco courses on networking and online security.


Part 7: Who was involved?

Collective Impact Grant Administrator. NetHope received a collective impact grant from Google.org and worked closely with Google.org grant managers to ensure the success of the project. NetHope managed the initiative through a Project Reconnect team based in Germany, with support from the NetHope team in the U.S.

Donor/Technology Partner. Google Germany supported the project in multiple ways. Google engineers volunteered their time to code the functionality for a content discovery page http://reconnect.nethope.org/resources, provided initial tutorials for administering Chromebooks in the Google Administrator Console/G Suite Console, and provided support to address grantee questions around organization, e.g. specific configurations, data protection, or new feature requests.

Grantee Organizations. Grantee Project Management teams performed functions described in the “Key Personnel” section.

Content Partners. Included Cisco Networking Academy, Volunteer Vision, Serlo, and Speexx

RTI International.  Provided M&E services.


Part 8: Key Personnel

Google Donor/Partner

Grant Manager. Provide guidance and feedback on program goals, implementation, and success metrics.

Google Marketing and PR. Drafted initial communications guidelines, designed logo, and promoted the grant opportunity and project success stories.

Google Support. Provide a support hotline for G Suite services, such as the Google Admin Console that the Project Reconnect team used to resolve technical problems and create new documentation for the solutions.

Google Germany. Engineers and management from Google Germany provide guidance on Google solutions. Google Germany experts drafted the first tutorials for grantees.

Google Volunteers. Provide expertise on technical challenges and coded the functionality for the Content Discovery page, a web page to explore online content relevant for refugees in Germany.

NetHope/Collective Impact Grant Administrator

Project Reconnect Team. Provide training, documentation, support, and encourage the exchange of experiences and learnings between organizations. (The team based in Germany offers online trainings and on occasion on-site visits. They supplied administrators with information regarding how to configure and administer the Chromebooks, and created materials for site managers and trainers on how to use the Chromebooks in various scenarios.)

Grantee/Nonprofit

NetHope Program Lead. Provide overall program management and leadership to the project team and maintain close coordination with the NetHope Project Reconnect team.

Project Manager or Project Management Team. Serves as the central point person for NetHope.

Grantee IT Coordinator (in a few cases, this role is identical with the project manager). Configured the initial default settings for all Chromebooks the grantee received and determine policies around Chromebook use, e.g. sites to blacklist, filters, and login options.

Chromebook Administrator/s. Configured the Chromebook devices in the Google Admin Console. (Ideally the grantee organization IT coordinator is one of a few administrators; many national organizations, however, choose to assign regional or even local administrators.)

Grantee Site Managers. Manage the local initiatives using the Chromebooks.

Grantee Trainers and Volunteers. Organize and oversee the various activities with Chromebooks.

Content Partners. Included Cisco Networking Academy, Volunteer Vision, Serlo Education, and Speexx.

M&E

Provided by RTI International.


Part 9: Project Timeline

NetHope View

Established partnership with Google | Assembled Germany-based Project Management team | Drafted Project Plan (Timeline, Milestones, and Metrics) | Fielded RFP | Evaluated Applications | Selected Grantees | Delivered Chromebooks | Provided ongoing support (NetHope and Google) | Initial M&E Report | Program Adjustments (awarded additional grants) | Final M&E

Sample Grantee View (composite)

Program Oversight

Grant Application | Grant Award | Assemble Project Team (incl. IT Coordinator) | Chromebook Delivery | Training on G Suite Administration for IT Coordinator | Configuration and Registration of devices in the central administration console | Distribution to sites

On-Site, Local Deployment

Infrastructure (Internet, facilities) and local program planning (personnel, curriculum) | Train the trainers | Program Implementation | Program Adjustment (based on changing context) | Quarterly Reporting

Program Oversight

M&E and Quarterly Reporting


Part 10: Project Budget

NetHope View

NetHope received $5.3 million in total for purchase of Chromebooks and Program Management to manage this project.

14.15 percent of the $5.3 million went into Project Reconnect – Program Management, i.e. Project Management Staff Cost, NetHope Staff Cost, ICR, Admin Cost, Management Cost

85.85 percent of the Grant went into purchase of Chromebooks, Grantee support, etc.


Part 11: Evaluation Framework

Project Reconnect features a results framework aligned with the overall objectives of the grants program, and tracks the availability of resources and accessibility of data from refugee users, Chromebook locations, and grantee organizations. A detailed M&E framework with indicators and indicator reference sheets was created at the outset of the program by RTI International. Once this is complete, NetHope will update this Implementation Guide with findings. The following are the components.

 Overall Program Level High-Level Indicators

  • Estimated number of Chromebook users
  • Average number of usage hours per day per active Chromebook
  • Proportion of surveyed users who report Chromebook access contributed to achievement of personal goal
  • Proportion of grantee organizations/sites who report that their expectations have been met regarding the value Chromebooks provide to their work with refugees

Grantee Organization Programmatic Indicators

  • Proportion of surveyed users who report that access to Chromebook was instrumental to achieve their education and training goals
  • Proportion of surveyed users who report that access to Chromebook was instrumental to achieve their employment goals
  • Proportion of surveyed users who report that access to Chromebook was instrumental to achieve their communication objective
  • Proportion of surveyed users who report that access to Chromebook was instrumental to achieve their research objective, e.g., on health, housing, refugee status

Ongoing Implementation Indicators Monitoring Indicators

  • Number of user “success stories” demonstrating positive outcomes to which Chromebook access contributed
  • Proportion of Chromebooks accessible to targeted users
  • Proportion of Chromebooks that could not be started at first usage or required a new battery or power adapter
  • Rating(s) of the utility and responsiveness of support provided by the project manager/IT manager of the parent organization
  • Rating(s) of the utility and responsiveness of IT support provided by NetHope

*Data for these indicators were collected at various times throughout the project and through various means, including structured site visit protocols, grantee quarterly reports, Chromebook location manager surveys, and Chromebook user surveys.


Part 12: Reflections, Learnings & Outcomes?

Best practice implementation models. Project Reconnect provided important lessons on how managed Chromebooks and computer-assisted learning can support and foster integration. The implementation models of the Project Reconnect grantees provide inspiration for other nonprofit initiatives planning to use computers and computer-assisted learning in their work with refugees.

Internet Access. Initiatives with managed Chromebooks are only recommended for environments where internet access is available or will be provided as part of the initiative.

Responding to changing refugee needs. Implementation approaches differ from grantee organization to grantee organization, and often even from site-to-site; from the initial arrival of refugees and asylum seekers in Germany to when refugees are starting new lives in their host communities. Initially grantees focused their initiatives on providing shared access to online resources through Internet cafés in welcome centers and large refugee homes. During this phase refugees and asylum seekers needed information about the asylum application process, about taking their first steps in Germany and starting to learn the German language. As refugees transition into communities, they continue to need to deepen their knowledge of the German language, prepare for jobs, for apprenticeships, and professional training. They study job-specific vocabulary, and try to fill in gaps in their education. In this phase, Chromebooks are also used to support literacy classes or help refugee children catch up in school and transition into regular classes.

Lessons for future projects/grants similar to Project Reconnect.

Design programs to be device-independent

Provide organizations with additional financial support for resources needed to implement IT initiatives

Integrate support for connectivity installations

Provide handouts on data security, privacy and government regulations to grantees (more to come after M&E meeting June 12th)


Part 12: Thoughts on the future

Project Reconnect will conclude in August 2017. Most of the grantees will continue to use the Chromebooks donated through Project Reconnect in other projects with refugees. But some may also integrate managed Chromebooks into other projects after the initiative ends.

NetHope’s Project Reconnect team will continue to provide technical support to Chromebook administrators in grantee organizations.

A subsequent NetHope project, the NetHope 2017 Device Challenge, has since been launched, which provides grants for ICT initiatives to organizations worldwide that are working with refugees. Lessons from Project Reconnect have been integrated into the new program design. Specifically, these new ICT grants are funding not only devices, but also human resources and other costs related to supporting the ICT initiative. The grants are device-independent, meaning grantees can choose the devices that are appropriate for their project, e.g. smart phone, tablet, or laptop, from their choice of manufacturers.

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