SPEAK is a social tech startup that promotes social inclusion of migrants and refugees by connecting them with locals through a language & culture exchange program.
SPEAK’s mission is to accept, value and empower cultural diversity and promote equality and social integration. SPEAK tackles social exclusion of migrants and helps them integrate into cities through a language and culture exchange program that breaks the linguistic barrier and brings people of different origins together.
Started in 2012 in Leiria by Hugo Menino Aguiar and a group of friends who were part of Associação Fazer Avançar, SPEAK is, as of April 2018, present in seven Portuguese cities and in Italy (Turin), Germany (Berlin) and Spain (Madrid).
Designed for scale, SPEAK uses an online-to-offline model where all the processes are managed online while the learning and sharing experience happens offline. This increases efficiency and minimises fixed costs, allowing SPEAK to be sustainable at scale while charging only a symbolic fee for its program, with scholarships available so that no one who can benefit from the program is excluded due to financial reasons.
SPEAK was designed not just to be more effective than other alternatives at helping migrants to integrate, but also to be a commercial product with potential for sustainability.
SPEAK's Theory of Change has three main outcomes that contribute to the social inclusion of migrants and refugees. An impact assessment found among participants:
- a 15% increase in the feeling of belonging to the city;
- a 30% decrease in language as a barrier for social integration;
- a 40% increase in the feeling of valorization of their culture by others.
SPEAK is currently working to grow internationally; in recent years, the challenge has moved from settling refugees and migrants to supporting integration, requiring integrated and community-based solutions such as the one offered by SPEAK.
SPEAK aims to grow through organic growth, with Project Managers in each country managed by the central team and a "Take SPEAK to your city" model, similar to social franchising. This model is already being tested in three cities in Portugal (Amarante, Aveiro and Braga).
Since 2014, more than 5,700 people have participated in SPEAK’s events and 6,100 people have attended their courses (joined groups). SPEAK aims to be present in 40 cities by the end of 2020 reaching almost 20,000 people every year.