Category: Our productions


This program aims to incubate promising refugee-led groups so that they become self-sustaining organizations that support their communities through innovative programs, engage actively in the design of programs affecting their own lives and can actively implement programs that will most directly benefit their communities.


The incubation program includes technical assistance, training and mentorship and lasts 3 months. Each program is tailored according to the organisation’s specific needs. Overall, the program comprises 3 components:

Organizational capacity building

We work with refugee organizations to strengthen management and improve existing programs, with focus on:

  • Training and support in organizational skills: finance, HR, governance, strategic planning, legal support to formalise the organization, creation (or improvement) of an online presence (including a website) and training around how to use web tools and social media
  • Training in project management: project management techniques, including a hands-on workshop on a particular project that will be worked out from design to evaluation
  • SMS Communications: With a group en engineers, we developed a solution called SMS Up which is basically a WhatsApp for SMS. It’s a group messaging service that enables users to send an SMS message to multiple recipients using a single mobile phone number. Information is usually communicated top-down, through humanitarian agencies. SMSUp is a grassroots, easy to use and low cost service which uses a bottom-up approach and enables refugees to create their own distribution lists, share critical information within their community and self organize easily.

Access to seed funding:

We support refugee organizations in raising a first pool of money for a particular project through a crowd funding campaign on a Kick-starter. We also provide training on fund-raising and grant writing so that other campaigns and projects can be implemented in the future.

Advocacy and outreach:

  • Advocacy skills: development of community leaders’ advocacy skills so that they can effectively represent their community in local, national, regional and international forums in which refugee and urban topics are discussed
  • Advocacy opportunity identification: we will facilitate the representation of those groups in such arena and in key events
  • Partnerships: we will help reinforce or create new partnerships with local NGOs and host community groups; link incubated refugee organizations together to slowly build a Global Refugee Council; and pair each organization with mentors from the diaspora, the local host community or from any other background.


We will open our first incubation program next year.
We are currently looking refugee led organisations interested in our program for a first pilot starting early 2016. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you be interested or if you know of refugee organisations who may be!




  • Humanitarian organizations are confronted with important challenges when it comes to supporting refugees in urban and non-camp settings. NGOs and UN agencies alike struggle to identify refugees outside camps, as they are scattered across wide areas and tend to keep a low profile. In such a context, disseminating accurate information within the refugee community, providing services and involving beneficiaries in the design of programs constitute particularly difficult tasks.
  • Confronted by limited support, refugees have established their own organizations to meet the needs of their communities. These organizations play a crucial role in facilitating the work of humanitarian workers by disseminating accurate information, referring cases to NGOs and representing their community when NGOs seek input from beneficiary. Studies have shown that they play a vital role in assisting members of their own community.
  • However, the bulk of these refugee-led organizations face tremendous challenges that impair their potential. Their management systems are often weak, their budgets are low and their advocacy capacity limited. The informal nature of these organizations often make them challenging for NGOs and UN agencies to engage with.
  • By leaving them with limited support, a vital opportunity is being missed to have them aid the work of humanitarian organizations that are supporting out of camp refugees.
  • Our incubation program aims to tap into the potential of refugee communities to generate change.

Take a look at our Twitter chat summery on knowledge gaps on urban displacement, held July 30, 2015–thank you to all who participated!


Participants pointed to the following topics for which there is a knowledge gap in the field of urban displacement:

  • a lack of knowledge on the situation of urban refugees in smaller cities and towns
  • refugee communities that are not under the spotlight/whose situation is less high profiled
  • the presence of millions of refugees in urban settings
  • how we can better support community and faith-based organizations
  • the misinformation that urban refugees with employment/livelihoods do not need attention/support
  • exact numbers of urban refugees/IDPs
  • GBV: the huge risk of GBV for urban displaced was raised as an area in need of further research. Participants agreed that the needs and solutions for GBV vary between different sub-groups, which include women, youth, LGBT, the disabled. There isn’t a comprehensive understanding and/or toolkit for the needs of these populations. The WRC contributed their research on GBV risks for urban refugees in Ecuador. The complexities of GBV and transactional sex were also brought up.
  • The difficulties in conducting research in urban settings instead of camps included the fact that urban refugees can be difficult to locate. Crowdsourcing, with consideration for the safety of users, was pointed out as a method of research to help bridge knowledge gaps.

The Twitter chat also included a discussion on the language used to refer to displaced populations; should urban refugees be seen as migrants, with their lifeworlds/stories as the starting point? Are there different focuses when using the term ‘migrant’ versus ‘refugee’? What role does the use of labels have in creating perceptions; should we be asking individuals to self-identify and explain the reasons for their use of the term? Do organizations start with their own reality?

The complexity of this issue points to the need for rights-based approaches and the inclusion of refugee voices; while imperfect, national/international justice systems and humanitarian services provide key support.

Community-based organizations (CBOs) have great potential to link urban refugees to support structures in host communities; they know the local context and have a unique ability to reach specific groups in the refugee community. Approaches should be rights-based, give control to the affected populations; cash-relief is effective. Women’s Refugee Commission shared their research on cash relief.

In closing, the one element participants pointed to as a focus for closing the knowledge gap included:

  • How CBOs think they can help and what our role is in facilitating and supporting
  • More research on how to support CBOs, particularly in highly insecure environments
  • Prioritizing CBOs, more research needed on coping, recipient households
  • Need to know the barriers to necessities (housing, jobs, healthcare) in host communities



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