Humans in the Loop
Humans in the Loop is a Bulgarian social enterprise which trains and employs asylum-seekers and refugees in IT and data science professions. Humans in the Loop was founded in 2017, and the name of the organization is a technical term for a branch of artificial intelligence that relies on human and machine intelligence working together to create machine learning models. For the organization, however, this name also extends to the social elements of human integration into society. Humans in the Loop has active partnerships with grassroots organizations in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Afghanistan and provides beneficiaries with free-of-charge technical training, career counseling, and access to paid work. Humans in the Loop operates as a hybrid social enterprise and is comprised of two entities: a for-profit company which provides image annotation services to paying clients and a non-profit foundation which offers training programs to upskill conflicted-affected people and support them in their career development. The company hires many of those trained through the foundation’s programs to work on machine learning projects for clients. 25% of the company’s net profits help finance the foundation’s core activities. The foundation also receives additional funding from local nonprofits and grantmaking organizations and relies on a small number of volunteers.
Theory of Change
Providing conflict-affected people with access to career training and employment opportunities acts as an alternative to humanitarian aid and supports their social and economic integration into society.
The services Humans in the Loop provides to companies center around training their machine learning algorithms. This work includes dataset annotation, dataset collection, human-in-the-loop for active learning, real-time edge case handling, and reinforcement learning with human feedback. Humans in the Loop works with clients across geospatial, automotive, medical, industrial, agricultural, and retail industries. Humans in the Loop offers asylum seekers and refugees the opportunity to participate in training courses and other programming that supports their upskilling and ability to seek employment. The organization’s standard training program, HITL Stars, entails 3 months of digital skills training, 3 months of English language training, and career counseling. Humans in the Loop also organizes train-the-trainer sessions with NGOs working with conflict-affected people in other countries so that they can go on to provide digital skills training to their beneficiaries. Humans in the Loop’s suite of trainings also includes a 12-week program for refugee entrepreneurs, which supports beneficiaries with business plan development, graphic design, and website and/or online shop development. Another course is designed specifically for teenagers affected by conflict. To help beneficiaries with their English language abilities, Humans in the Loop offers an English language partnership program where beneficiaries are matched with a volunteer who helps them improve their language skills. Most Humans in the Loop beneficiaries are based in Syria, Iraq, Bulgaria, Turkey, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. In 2022, Humans in the Loop began pilots in the DRC, Portugal, and Ukraine.
Humans in the Loop has employed over 1,000 conflict-affected people on its projects, with over 500 people who have completed the organization’s digital skills and English language trainings. Thirty-nine percent of those employed by Humans in the Loop are refugees, 35% live in conflict zones, 26% are internally displaced, and 2% are asylum-seekers. 53% of Human in the Loop’s workforce is comprised of women, showing the organization’s commitment to encouraging more women to work in the STEM field. Humans in the Loop has won several awards for its innovative work, including the EU Prize for Women Innovators, the MIT Solve Global Challenge, and the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award.