A new project, led by Dr Michelle Richey, of Loughborough University, has investigated in detail how one successful scheme has managed to support more than 41,000 new business ventures in and around camps across Africa.
Refugees involved with the charity, Inkomoko – the focus of the Loughborough study – have gone on to build careers in a number of areas including hospitality, retail, engineering, education, health and beauty, entertainment and media.
A report into the scheme, The power of nurturing refugee business, has outlined the key ingredients behind the hugely successful initiative with hope that it can be replicated in other countries.
Dr Richey said: “The most prominent and important finding is that 'lived experience leaders' are key to the success of initiatives like this in complex challenging settings.
“Inkomoko hire and develop the talents of local citizens and refugee camp residents who offer consulting services to businesses and establish new networks of connections vital for businesses to grow.
“The growth and longevity of the businesses we studied was not automatic, it relied on the influence and support of lived experience leaders.
“This is why we used the word nurturing in the report's title. To use the language of our original objectives - they create the impact on the ground and ensure the 'fit' of the program in new country contexts.”
The report highlights five key recommendations:
1) Balanced approaches
Business support and loans programs focused on camp settings should incorporate formality and empathy in equal measure (a balanced approach).
2) Lived experience leadership
Programs and funders should invest in hiring and building the capacity of lived experience leaders.
3) Incorporating outliers
Outliers (relatively large or small businesses) should always be incorporated in the assessment of a program’s effectiveness (they are usually excluded from program evaluations).
4) Capability building promotes medium and long-term impact
Business support programs need to be attentive to participants’ capabilities to accept, manage and repay finance.
5) Attention to processes and transitions
The experiences people have during a program are just as important as the outcomes.
Dr Richey said: “The refugee system has well established mechanisms for humanitarian support following crises, but the system comes under pressure as the global number of refugees increases and there is no viable way for them to return home – meaning they need to stay in the safety of camps for longer than ever before.
“This report closely examines how providing opportunities for refugees can complement humanitarian efforts and empower refugee and local host communities to live with dignity and hope.”