Our five core principles to solve social issues:
- Human-centric and community-led from programme design to delivery.
Our community-led approach is based on two premises:
1/ People often know themselves better what they need.
2/ People tend to care more about the things they’re able to contribute to.
Hence our pyramid scheme for good with, at its heart, empowered Team Leaders volunteering their time to support new students. The first benefit of this approach is its replicable nature, which also makes it sustainable. Secondly, it creates a robust model which allows us to gain invaluable insights into our community, which then feeds into our human-centric approach. The more we listen and learn from the people we work with, the better we know them, and ultimately the more effective our solutions.
- Data-driven and scalability. We measure what we do to continuously improve and increase our impact
As a social initiative, our return on investment is impact. We know that random decisions produce random results. Consequently, we want to build a robust impact measurement system allowing our decisions to be evidence-based. We believe monitoring and evaluation is inherent to operations management and should be designed in a way that allows constant reflection, learning and improvement.
Our ultimate goal is to give our efforts the potential to have a significant impact on a maximum number of people – and as such combine depth and breadth.
- Collaboration. We collaborate with partners to fill the missing middle and create systemic change.
The challenges faced by migrant domestic workers are complex. Some of these challenges are being addressed by civil society organisations whose actions have already proved successful. We therefore don’t want to reinvent the wheel but offer innovative solutions to address gaps in the existing systems.
We implement our programs in collaboration with partners with whom we can combine our expertise to help create systemic change at scale. This necessarily includes diversity in backgrounds: governments, civil society organisations, corporates, religious institutions and individuals.
- Integrity and accountability. We work and grow accordingly to the values we promote
Uplifters’ daily operations are run by our Team Leaders, our volunteers, our directors, our advisors and our staff. We do want to have our mission and work fostered by people who are committed, thoughtful and show demonstrable experience and expertise. We want these same people to show respect to each other, putting into practice amongst ourselves and with others the values we promote.
We promote an inclusive leadership where our constituents, team and partners are all consulted and have their say. We hold ourselves accountable to our work by breaking down our multi-year strategy into yearly action plans; hence allowing everyone in the team to understand their role in the big picture and take true ownership.
- Sustainability and cost-efficiency. We build an integrated approach to fundraising and ensure good monitoring of funds.
We run our programmes sustainably with their full costs secured. Due to the nature of our work, we develop programmes that are by essence cost-efficient with very little variable costs. However, our ability to deliver the best programmes is dependent upon having the flexible funds to innovate, move quickly and invest in what we know works. We therefore strive to increase our unrestricted income, to further diversify our donor base and to grow the number of our regular givers. Our financial situation is regularly presented to our Board members in order to ensure efficient controlling of our finances.
What’s unique about Uplifters
Some NGOs and government departments already offer tailor-made courses for domestic workers. However, most of these initiatives are face-to-face workshops which are difficult to access for many MDWs who have very limited time off. Although Covid is forcing many organizations to move their services online, the learning that is currently offered is at set times in lengthy block periods (3-6 hours depending on the course) and through platforms that are often inaccessible to MDWs due to the need for a high-speed internet connection.
As Uplifters’ programs were already offered online, in a flexible format that allows participants to access the learning at a time that is convenient to them, with peer support, Covid had no negative impacts on our ability to provide our services. In fact, it increased the number of participants almost 4 fold on the 2019 participant numbers and made our expertise a resource for other NGOs who were forced to go digital in this ‘new-normal’.
Uplifters started our programs in this sector with the ambition to create a large online community of domestic workers that would also serve as a platform for other NGOs to share their services.
How Uplifters is different:
1. We use new technologies to make our courses truly accessible
Uploading some content online is not enough to truly reach out to underprivileged communities. We have to overcome accessibility and flexibility issues and design online educational tools suited to their situations.
44% of domestic workers who registered on our Facebook Messenger chatbot from August 2018 to May 2020 didn’t have an email address (you can register on Facebook with a phone). And for those who have one, we know from experience that a large majority of them have lost their passwords or don’t consult it on a regular basis.
Many domestic workers do not have access to WiFi at their employers’ homes (20% as per our last poll on our Facebook group Uplift Your Life of migrant domestic workers, May 17th-18th 2020, 193 respondents). Videos are therefore not suited, as they require higher broadband speed and width. Participants may also not use Google or other internet browsers often (27% of domestic workers in our Uplift Your Life Facebook group only use it sometimes, making them unlikely to find educational resources online except through social media, May 17th-18th 2020, 103 respondents).
Domestic workers tend to work long hours and have no control over their schedules. In addition to WiFi issues, it’s impractical to ask them to connect at a given time for a conference or a live chat. You need to provide asynchronous activities or flexible options.
Our courses are accessible through a Facebook Messenger chatbot. Our students don’t have to use an email address or an internet browser. The lessons are mostly in a short format text with quizzes so having access to WiFi is not a prerequisite. The interaction happens in our group chats where we encourage students to discuss the lessons with their peers and share their “assignments” (we call them challenges). The schedule is self-paced and totally flexible to adapt to participants’ constraints.
To create this “simple”, user-friendly solution, we make the most of existing technological tools and integrate them: we have a chatbot, a Learning Management System and a database to name a few.
You can read more here about how we deliberately chose low bandwidth tools and asynchronous interactions to guarantee the accessibility and flexibility of our courses. https://uplifters-edu.org/why-zoom-may-not-be-the-best-alternative-to-your-workshop-and-what-else-you-can-try/
2. We don’t teach. We enable individuals and communities to self-coach themselves
We combine coaching techniques with peer support to help domestic workers make change happen in their lives.
- We insist on actionable and practical solutions that can immediately be implemented in participants’ lives. For example, participants are required to draft a plan to reach their goals with actions to be taken now, during the coming month and in the next coming year and we help them stick to their plan with our 6-month “Make it Happen” follow-up program. We have a team of personal growth advisers and coaches to help design the most effective tools to make change happen.
- We leverage the power of peer support by encouraging discussions and experience sharing in our online group chats. Our students learn from each other, feel comforted when they realise they are not alone and get motivated to reach their goals.
- We are truly community-led with alumni trained to support the new students. Each team leader can support a group of 10 to 15 students every month through their Uplifters journey. This creates a ripple effect as they become community leaders beyond Uplifters. For example, 3 of our alumni have become Resolve Foundation fellows in Hong Kong, thereby continuing their positive impact on the community. Some have created their own Facebook groups or also volunteer in other organizations to further support fellow domestic workers.
3. We do more than just financial education
We believe it takes more than good money management habits to lift people out of poverty and help create the lives they want for themselves.
We make mental well-being education accessible for those who need it the most.
We all need good mental health to reach our goals. It’s even more true for domestic workers living abroad far from their families and often facing difficult working conditions and life challenges. However, they have little access to counselling and coaching. So, we have a holistic approach with a strong emphasis on mental well-being. For example, we encourage participants to adopt positive psychological tools like morning and evening rituals to feel better in their lives.
We help participants build a support network
Whilst some domestic workers quickly slot into a network of friends when they move abroad, many others find it tricky. They can feel homesick, lonely and isolated in their employer’s homes. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this in some cases, with workers having to limit their outings. Uplifters enable our students to make new friends, virtually or in person, giving them a new support network.
We also give them access to quality education and links to NGOs that can support them in times of need, therefore creating a ripple effect for the community at large.
4. We want to make migration successful both for departure and host countries
We plan to develop vocational courses in the future to help domestic workers better meet their employers’ needs and feel more capable in their jobs. We believe in a dual-approach enabling the employer to communicate their expectations better to their domestic worker and therefore increasing the chances of a win-win work relationship. Our first pilot vocational course began in November 2020.
5. Our model has the potential to impact at scale
We share and reflect actively on our experience in online education and community building so other organisations can also amplify their impact.
Our model, which was initially produced for Migrant Domestic Workers in Hong Kong and Singapore has already reached into other countries by word of mouth and it has the potential to impact Migrant Domestic Workers on a regional level.
There is also the opportunity to share the model and curriculums (as well as our expertise on how to design successful online education models) with other NGO’s who serve underprivileged communities who could benefit from these resources.