What is the name of your organization?
International Literacy and Development
Is your organization registered as 501(c)(3) status with the IRS?
In what city, town, or region and state is your organization headquartered?Dallas, TX, USA
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address? [Select up to 2]
What is the name of your solution?
Refugee Business Development Training
What is your solution?
ILAD’s Refugee Business Development Training Program combines technology with a human-centered design to provide personalized financial literacy education, business ideation, and small-business support services to Dallas area refugees. Through accessible technology, in-person coaching, and mentorship, we equip refugees to achieve financial stability, business success, and self-reliance in their new communities.
Our solution leverages Facebook Messenger chatbot technology as the primary content delivery platform, delivering flexible learning sessions in the preferred language of the client combined with in-person guidance to help refugees achieve their goals.
The chatbot offers self-paced modules ranging from basic financial literacy through business ideation and launch. Our chatbot interface allows for convenient and customized interactions ensuring accessibility for clients. Our dedicated coaches, hired from within the refugee community, provide expert guidance on credit improvement and loan acquisition.
For aspiring refugee entrepreneurs, our program offers comprehensive business ideation support. Through the chatbot and live coaching, clients gain knowledge in developing, validating, and launching compliant businesses. We provide guidance in seeking and accessing resources, networks, and assistance in navigating the complexities of the business system, eliminating uncertainty and fostering success.
ILAD’s Refugee Business Development Training leverages technology while maintaining a human-centered design by employing a team of refugee client coaches. By combining technology, tailored guidance, and culturally appropriate coaching, our solution empowers refugees to navigate the financial and business systems with confidence, promotes financial stability, reduces stress, and increases self-reliance and agency.
Film your elevator pitch.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
The core technology that powers our solution is a robust chatbot feature integrated into our platform. This chatbot serves as the central hub for communication and content delivery for our clients in the ILAD Refugee Business Development Training Program.
One of the key features of our chatbot is its ability to communicate with clients in their own language. We understand the importance of language accessibility in ensuring that clients fully grasp the content being delivered. Therefore, our chatbot is equipped with multilingual capabilities, allowing clients to interact and receive guidance in their preferred language.
By providing content in the client's own language, we eliminate barriers to understanding and empower refugees to engage more effectively with the information and support provided. This language customization enhances the human-centered design of our solution, as it ensures that clients can fully comprehend the guidance, coaching, and educational resources delivered through the chatbot.
In addition to language accessibility, the chatbot acts as the main content delivery platform and information aggregator. Clients can input their business ideation, information, and plans directly into the chatbot, which then securely populates the data into Salesforce, our integrated customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
The integration with Salesforce allows our coaches to access and analyze the client's inputs in a centralized and organized manner. It provides a comprehensive view of the client's business details, facilitating the creation of essential business documents such as a business model canvas, financial profiles, and potentially even a business plan.
By leveraging this technology, we streamline the process of gathering client information and provide tailored guidance and support.
In summary, our core technology is a powerful chatbot integrated with Salesforce, offering language accessibility and information aggregation. This integration empowers refugees to input their business information, receive personalized coaching, and collaborate effectively with our team. With the chatbot communicating in the client's own language, we ensure that clients fully grasp the content being delivered, fostering a truly human-centered design. Through this innovative technology, we support refugees in the ILAD Refugee Business Development Training Program in realizing their entrepreneurial aspirations.
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?
A new application of an existing technology
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Who does your solution serve, including demographics, and how does the solution impact their lives?
ILAD’s Refugee Business Development Training Program serves Dallas area refugees who are seeking guidance and support navigating financial and business systems in the U.S. Refugees face unique challenges in establishing financial stability and developing business ideas in their new environments. They are underserved by traditional business and financial services, which do not fully understand or address their specific needs.
To understand the needs of the refugee community, we conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups within the refugee community to gain a deep understanding of their financial goals, challenges, and aspirations. We also collaborate with local refugee organizations, community centers, and advocacy groups to gather insights. These efforts ensure that our solution is informed by the real-life experiences and needs of the refugee population.
The refugee population is diverse. It includes individuals of different ages, races, genders, ethnicities, income levels, and educational backgrounds. However, they all share the common experience of being refugees and facing unique barriers to financial stability and entrepreneurship.
Our solution addresses their needs by providing culturally sensitive guidance and support in their preferred language, offering the program in Arabic and providing personal coaching by Arabic-speaking, refugee, business owners. By doing so, we eliminate language and cultural barriers that hinder access to essential information and support. We create a trusted and safe space for them to learn and grow in a supportive environment.
Our comprehensive program directly and meaningfully improves the lives of refugees as they gain clarity in managing expenses, increasing savings, accessing loans, and achieving their financial goals. Additionally, we equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate the business and financial system with confidence, promoting self-reliance, agency, and control over their financial future.
Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.
ILAD’s Refugee Business Training Program leverages the power of technology combined with personal relationships to deliver comprehensive financial and business development education and guidance to entrepreneurial refugees who wish to build credit, acquire loans, and begin or scale small businesses. Many refugees were small business owners in their home countries. However, due to the complexities of the U.S. financial system it is difficult for them to begin again once they resettle here. Because refugees arrive with no credit history, no credit score and no knowledge of the system, it is nearly impossible for them to acquire loans needed to successfully open small businesses. ILAD recognized this gap in services and created a tailored program that guides refugees through the process of becoming credit-worthy business owners. ILAD partners with credit-building lenders that offer refugees the opportunity to build credit through credit builder micro-loans. While clients are actively working toward establishing credit, they also work with their ILAD coach and professional service partners to strategically design their business plan and work on compliance issues. This process is detailed, thorough and sometimes time-consuming, but in the end, our clients are prepared with a good credit score, solid business plan, and the confidence needed to approach lenders. Even after clients receive loans, ILAD continues to offer support, guidance, and networks to ensure that businesses stay compliant and financially sound.
What is your theory of change?
What is your solution’s stage of development?Pilot: a product, service, or business model that is in the process of being built and tested with a small number of beneficiaries or working to gain traction.
What is your organization’s stage of development?Growth: A registered 501(c)(3) organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth and has a proven track record with an annual operating budget
How many small businesses does your solution currently serve?
The ILAD Refugee Business Training Program launched in 2022 and has served 30 clients, providing them with the necessary guidance and support to navigate the complexities of starting their own businesses.
In one year, we aim to significantly increase the number of individuals we serve, projecting to support approximately 120 to 150 aspiring entrepreneurs. This growth will be fueled by our commitment to reaching more refugees, and word of mouth from current clients. As more refugees recognize the value our program offers, the more clients we anticipate participating.
Over the course of the next five years, our vision extends beyond serving a specific number of businesses. We aspire to expand our services to cater to diverse linguistic and cultural communities across the United States and other parts of the world. By embracing other languages and understanding the unique challenges faced by different refugee communities, we can effectively tailor our support and provide meaningful assistance to a broader range of individuals. We envision directly impacting over 2,000 clients in the next 5 years.
By scaling our solution and expanding into new communities, ILAD aims to directly and meaningfully impact the lives of thousands of individuals. Through our comprehensive package of services, we will empower more refugees to establish their businesses, foster economic independence, and contribute to the growth and prosperity of their communities.
How do you define the community you serve, and who are its stakeholders?
ILAD’s program serves refugees who aspire to start businesses and improve their financial well-being. These refugees are the primary stakeholders and influencers on our organizational strategy. ILAD’s human-centered approach, working in close partnership with the refugee community allows us to understand their needs, challenges, and aspirations. Collaboration with organizations such as the Iraqi Culture Center and Jidu House, helps to ensure that our solutions are culturally relevant and responsive.
Additionally, strategic partnerships with other organizations such as ONOW, enables chatbot support and delivery, enhancing the accessibility and effectiveness of our services. Collaborating with the Center for Economic Opportunity allows us to offer credit building loans tailored to the unique circumstances of refugees. Engaging with local agencies like the Northwest Community Center and providing business mentoring services fosters a broad sense of community and facilitates innovative ways to involve the wider public.
How do you build trust within the community your organization serves and among small business owners?
Trust is built within the community and among small business owners by centering our approach around fostering authentic relationships and providing accessible support.
We actively engage in community outreach by partnering with local organizations, attending community events, and utilizing existing networks. This allows us to establish a presence and build rapport with potential clients.
We prioritize open, transparent communication by maintaining clear and consistent lines of communication through multiple channels, including in-person meetings, phone calls, emails, and social media platforms. This ensures that we are accessible and responsive to the needs and concerns of our community.
We offer personalized support tailored to each small business owner’s needs. Our Arabic-speaking coaches provide culturally sensitive guidance and mentorship. This helps build trust and rapport, as clients feel understood, heard, valued and supported in their entrepreneurial journey.
Additionally, local businesspeople volunteer as refugee mentors widening the sense of community and trust.
What are your impact goals for the current year and the next five years and how will you achieve them?
Our impact goals center around guiding entrepreneurial refugees to become credit-worthy small business owners.
In the short term (1-6 months), we aim to empower clients to take action towards financial capability, build credit, and create business plans. Establishing cross-cultural relationships of trust, increasing perceived pathways to goals, and fostering a sense of agency are also important outcomes.
In the medium term (6 months-2 years), our focus is on helping clients establish money and credit management habits, operate profitable and ethical businesses, and develop ongoing cross-cultural relationships. We strive to enhance clients' sense of agency and enable them to become decision-makers in their ventures.
For the long term (2+ years), we seek to foster financial confidence, promote responsible financial services, and support upward mobility in refugee communities. Through a network of partners and mentors, we aim to provide access to a larger network, inspire hope, and encourage clients to give back to their communities.
Over the next five years, we aim to replicate our model in other communities, both nationally and internationally, to expand our impact. We will engage in continuous needs assessments, invest in capacity building, and forge strategic partnerships to amplify our efforts.
By directly serving clients, replicating our model, building capacity, and fostering partnerships, we are committed to achieving our impact goals and making meaningful financial and psycho-social differences in the lives of refugees and small business owners.
Please refer to the Logic Model provided earlier in this application for specific activities leading to these outcomes.
Why are you applying to Truist Foundation Inspire Awards?
ILAD is excited to learn from industry experts and collaborate with peers committed to changing the world for the better through business and innovation.
The phase, beneficiary demographic, and technology component of our solution makes ILAD a perfect candidate for the resources associated with this award.
The pilot phase is the ideal time to refine, tweak, and course correct the solution's business model, theory of change, and scaling plans. Because technology and refugee communities are constantly changing, ILAD's Refugee Business Training Program must stay current and agile to be effective and beneficial for all stakeholders. The needs assessment and peer-to-peer network would enable ILAD to identify solution weaknesses and provide guidance in refinement.
The Program Director would benefit from the Leadership Training offered through the Award. Building a strong team that takes into account the various languages, cultures, and needs of the beneficiary community is of utmost importance. Consulting with other leaders and experts will provide Mr. Courchesne with tools, strategies, and ideas for ensuring that the human-centered approach to the solution remains a top-priority. Effective, cross-cultural teams are essential for benefitting our local refugee community and scaling the project to other locales.
By partnering with the Truist Foundation, we can address the financial, technical, legal, and cultural barriers that currently limit our impact. The resources, funding, and support provided by this partnership will empower us to overcome these barriers, expand our reach, and create a more inclusive and empowering environment for refugees and small business owners.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
ILAD's Refugee Business Development Training Program is dedicated to providing an innovative, human-centered solution to entrepreneurial refugees in DFW and beyond. To successfully accomplish that objective, we recognize the need for skilled and knowledgeable staff and leadership for our program. The Truist Foundation Award support will provide a network of strategic thinkers, supporters, and champions who will help us identify and recruit top-notch staff for this critical solution.
Due to the complex legal and regulatory frameworks involved in the business and financial sectors, ILAD is increasingly in need of partnerships with legal counsel, technical experts, and financial advisors as we guide our clients through the process of obtaining permits and licensing for their businesses. The MIT and Truist Foundation network could provide sound advice and service.
A partnership with the Truist Foundation would expose us to experts in the field of marketing, specifically marketing to refugee, cross-cultural communities. With the ever-changing landscape of advertising and marketing, ILAD's Program would be strengthened by the insight of industry experts who could help us establish systems and processes to ensure the maximum results from marketing efforts.
Amanda Chankin Director of Communications, International Literacy and Development