10 June 2020, Cape Town: Cape Town-based non-profit Reconstructed Living Labs (RLabs) has set themselves the ambitious goal of supporting 40 000 youth, and their families, during COVID-19 and beyond. Using their fully auditable blockchain-based solution Zlto, they are already ensuring that essential items such as groceries, electricity vouchers, airtime and data vouchers, are reaching the intended recipients, quickly and efficiently. 

RLabs was established in 2009 to instil hope and reconstruct marginalised communities through innovation, technology, and education. Envisioned and developed in RLabs’ Innovation Lab — by some of the young people, the organisation supports — Zlto is an application that leverages mobile technology to provide opportunities for youth to complete community service activities and training programs while building marketable skills and earning incentives at the same time.

Zlto is a proven solution for rewarding completion of microtasks with vouchers that can be exchanged by users to purchase a range of essential items. In addition, the community service activities are verified and built into a social CV which can be included by users when applying for jobs, to provide verifiable competency and behaviour data to an employer. Its real-time dashboard also enables youth development organisations and companies to track the positive behaviour of the youth on their programs.

Zlto currently has more than 18 000 active users on the platform in South Africa. These young adults live in low-income communities where unemployment can be as high as 70%, and where 49% of households live below the poverty line. These households are some the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and require multiple financial support interventions, to sustain their family livelihoods.

RLabs and Zlto launch COVID-19 Relief Fund

To continue to instil hope and support the communities in which it operates, RLabs —through its Zlto initiative —launched a COVID-19 Relief Fund to scale the disbursement of vouchers to almost 10x the number of young adults currently served per week. The team has developed a new COVID-19 related platform of content and activities for users to complete to earn digital vouchers. 

“We knew this time would be particularly difficult for the youth and their families. Our recent survey completed by some of our members on Zlto showed that nearly 60% of respondents require support with food, finances, and access to masks during the lockdown. It is also clear that there are great concerns about members and their families’ abilities to financially survive post-COVID,” explains RLabs founder, Marlon Parker. 

“Our aim is to provide up to 40 000 young adults with access to vouchers through the Zlto app, so that these young adults can continue to buy necessary essential items to support an extended network of at least 200 000 family members, and their community during this time,” says Parker. “In addition, we are also ensuring that they are connected to the Government COVID-19 portal to receive up to date and correct information, and access to facilities and services such as free COVID-19 Online Doctor Consultations, available to all South Africans.”

The launch of the COVID-19 Relief Fund has been boosted by donations from two of the organisation’s partners, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and JP Morgan, which share RLabs’ passion to support vulnerable communities. The grants will contribute to, and enable the disbursement of, the COVID-19 Relief Fund and support RLabs and Zlto on their journey to achieving their substantial target. 

“Everyone deserves opportunity, which is why the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation partners with organisations that provide young adults in South Africa with opportunities to secure meaningful employment, participate in their communities and provide for their families. We are truly grateful for partners like RLabs and Zlto that create new and agile solutions to provide opportunities for lower-income communities. COVID-19 has made it even more challenging for youth and their families to access essential goods like food, electricity and data, but through our partnership, RLabs has expanded its platform to provide essential good vouchers for the communities that need them most,“ says Ona Meyer, program officer jobs & livelihoods, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.    

“The COVID-19 crisis has had an overwhelming impact on people around the world, with many losing their livelihoods and further threatening the opportunity gap for low-income households,” said Kevin Latter, senior country officer for Sub-Saharan Africa at J.P. Morgan. “As part of our ongoing commitment to giving back to the communities we belong to, J.P. Morgan is joining forces with R Labs and ZLto to provide emergency relief to vulnerable youth and their families. RLabs and Zlto have established a positive, hopeful mindset in their members, and are enabling them to grow and to see the opportunities that lie before them, and we are proud to collaborate with them at such an important time.”

COVID-19 has had a tremendous economic impact globally, and even more so in vulnerable communities with many people unable to work or earn and income. Many people across the country are feeling a variety of conflicting emotions. While some are experiencing hope, others are experiencing fear and uncertainty about the future.

Parker says the organisation was founded to create hope, where hope had been lost, “Continuing to create hope and empowering and supporting the youth is vitally important during this particularly challenging time. We need to remind them that their circumstances don’t determine their destiny or their future. Through the COVID-19 Relief Fund, they can now make an active contribution to sustain the livelihoods of their families and their community via the Zlto platform. That is how we strive to create hope, with partners from different sectors addressing not only crisis but standing together to create opportunities.”

You can learn more about RLabs, by visiting their website at https://rlabs.org/ or contribute to the COVID-19 Relief Fund, which provides vulnerable families with access to food, electricity and masks using. (More details available on the RLabs website).

About RLabs

RLabs is a South African award-winning non-profit company, established in 2009 in Bridgetown, Cape Town. We have since expanded the RLabs model to 23 countries across 5 continents impacting more than 15 million people through our work. The main aim of RLabs is to create environments and systems where people are impacted, empowered and transformed through HOPE, Innovation, Technology, Training and Economic Opportunities. To date, more than 200,000 people have accessed RLabs skills, training and economic empowerment programmes.

Website: https://rlabs.org/ 

About Zlto

Zlto is a digital rewards platform that was created in the RLabs Innovation Lab, as a way to reward young people for completing courses, or tasked community services, such as tutoring, helping with deliveries, or cleaning someone’s yard. On verification of the completed work, participants are able to download a Zlto – an electronic coupon onto an e-wallet on their cellphone. These coupons can be exchanged for further training; for groceries, clothing, electricity and mobile airtime and data vouchers; or services such as transport, doctors, dentists, and hairdressers. 

Website: https://zlto.co/ 
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