A translation service that empowers refugees

Refugee translation
service design

A service that connects businesses seeking translation with refugees who can earn income with their language skills

A pro-bono project in partnership with Hyper Island students to design a digital service enabling refugees to generate income online by using their translation skills.

Our work included:

  • Research and insight
  • Design facilitation with partners
  • Ideation workshops
  • Visual design
  • Business model design and strategy
  • Concept and user testing
  • Strategic product roadmap


Over 60 million people worldwide are forced to become refugees – income and resettlement is a complex challenge. We explored opportunities to empower refugees to use their skills to achieve self-sufficiency

Field research and expert interviews provided three key insights:

  • Refugees are entrepreneurs, teaching themselves skills in different areas
  • Refugees own digital devices, including smartphones
  • Refugees are talented linguists, often speaking at least two languages


Four weeks of discovery research and a design sprint enabled us to test and validate our hypotheses remotely with displaced people in Uganda

The challenging design context required a cost-effective way to test initial concepts. We simulated a real translation service through the Messenger app with six people in Nakivale refugee camp in a week.

We collaborated with refugee camp staff and refugees, implementing a convenient payment system to ensure remuneration for their participation.


The U-able service prototype connects businesses in need of quick translations with linguistically skilled refugees

The concept received positive feedback from UNHCR and attracted attention from SXSW and the Huffington Post.


  • The U-able app is designed to work offline, digest information into clear and straightforward bite-sized parts, and include review and feedback features

  • The client-facing platform allows clients to upload files for translation and have a meaningful impact on people’s lives while ticking off translation jobs from their to-do list