Every week through NaTakallam, London-based Megan connects with her Beirut-based Syrian instructor to learn Arabic online. NaTakallam connects skilled refugees to individuals and organizations worldwide, for language tutoring, cultural exchange and translation services. Photo provided by NaTakallam.
As the humanitarian landscape changes and COVID-19, with its associated economic turbulence accelerates need, business has a key role to play in supporting the livelihoods of refugees. The Business Refugee Action Network (BRAN) has explored the implementation of new, business-led approaches to employing refugees and reflected on the impact of COVID-19.
We know that the humanitarian landscape is changing – crises have become more protracted and complex, as well as characterised by greater barriers to humanitarian assistance. The COVID-19 crisis and associated economic turbulence is also accelerating need. In this context, business has a role to play in developing a more sustainable response to global displacement and in particular, supporting the livelihoods of refugees.
The Business Refugee Action Network’s (BRAN) recent report: Innovation in the Business Refugee Action Network (BRAN): Synthesis Report 2019-2020 explores the implementation of new, business-led approaches to employing refugees. The areas explored have been:
Integrating refugees into supply chains
Levi Strauss & Co.: The Levi’s® brand has trialed a pilot to integrate refugees into its supply chain by partnering with the Porto Alegre Cooperative in Italy to create and sell products, such as tote bags and pencil cases.
Virgin Megastore Middle East: Following up on Virgin’s long history of advocacy on refugee inclusion, Virgin Megastore Middle East has trialed a pilot to include home accessories and other items made by refugee artisans via UNHCR’s MADE51 model.
Opportunities for entrepreneurship
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Academy: Ben & Jerry’s has developed a dual track programme of employment and entrepreneurship training for refugees through its Ice Academy, a programme co-founded by Ben & Jerry’s and The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN).
NaTakallam: NaTakallam’s innovative model facilitates remote employment opportunities for refugees in activities such as translation and language services. They partner with international companies such as WeWork and Hilton to expand the market for opportunities.
Exploring these approaches highlighted learnings in relation to COVID-19 and opportunities for scale.
Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic affected all of the innovative approaches. Some common themes were:
Opportunities for replication and scale
Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, business’ appetite to scale new approaches in support of refugees’ economic wellbeing remains strong. Drivers of replication and scale are:
BRAN has identified the following as key to strengthening business action in this area:
If you would be interested in hearing more about BRAN’s innovation work or collaborating in the future, please do get in touch at [email protected]