Throughout the ages, people have sought asylum from political turmoils, ethnic wars, and natural disasters; however, it has never been more in the news than in the present. Climate change and political instability have displaced millions of people around the world, especially in the Middle East, and have caused mass migrations. Though the turmoil seems far away, they still impact us and maybe pull on our consciences to think about what could be done to mitigate the situation. Imagine being faced with that reality on a daily basis when there is a continuous flow of immigrants from war-stricken areas. It hits home when one comes face-to-face with a person who has been displaced from his home, where he has lived all his life. That is exactly what Greece, parts of Western Europe, and the Scandinavian countries are currently facing.
When the country is not equipped for an influx of new immigrants, how does the community react? Those who see the need, have the heart, and are innovative – those whom we call social entrepreneurs – come up with ingenious ways to help migrant communities, not only in providing immediate assistance, but also in creating an environment that allows integrating the newly arrived into the local communities. And where, of course, would you find those social entrepreneurs with the heart and drive to act but at Impact Hubs around the world! In honor of World Refugee Day on June 20th, we highlight the various initiatives across Impact Hubs worldwide to help the refugees.
Greece has seen the bulk of the flow of those fleeing violence in Syria. There are hundreds of new refugee assistance programs by local and foreign agencies to help Greece deal with this crisis. Impact Hub Athens hosts a few of those initiatives, including:
- Solomon Magazine – a magazine written by refugees, immigrants, and Greek citizens. The magazine reports on various aspects of the refugee crises, including integration into Greek society. “Language is the first step on the path of social integration,” according to Nonna Daigorodova, who wrote an article entitled No Barriers for Those Who Dare in Solomon Magazine’s first Issue.
- BeyondCSRnet Twitter campaign with the hashtag #refolution. This “Twitter Resolution Call on Refugee Crisis”, was the first grassroot public diplomacy awareness campaign via an open social-media dialogue where selected individuals and organisations tweeted their ideas on tangible solutions on refugee integration in Europe using specific hashtags.
- StartupBoat – a think tank founded by Paula Schwarz to generate ideas to make it easier for refugees to access information in order to settle in their new home countries or travel to another. The StartupBoat’s ideas and comments can be followed on Twitter at @startup_boat
- Odyssea – a social entrepreneurial effort that aims to convert the mounting piles of discarded life vests into useful products such as backpacks, mattresses, and ribbons.
NewsDeeply @Impact Hub Yerevan started Refugees Deeply and according to their website, “Refugees Deeply is designed to help you understand the complex web of geopolitical, human rights, environmental, legal and other factors combining to make the refugee issue one of the most challenging of our lifetimes.”
Lars Noren, who is the Tech Host at Impact Hub Stockholm, founded New Vitality By Horses, a program that helps newly arrived refugee children to heal emotionally through learning about and working with horses. Impact Hub Stockholm also functions as a springboard for spreading the message in the social entrepreneur community in Sweden.
Impact Hub Belgrade has hosted over five different events on the migrant crisis. Three Hub members are directly involved in the refugee crisis efforts. One of them, Pavle Krivokuca, who is the founder of Incitement in Serbia and a Growth Lead for Incitement in the region, says that there have been two Incitement events dedicated to the migrant crisis – one at a general level and another one specifically for hacking business models that will disrupt the way refugees are helped. The Hub also hosted its first 48hLeanLab, a business solution hackathon where ten startup teams developed their idea and received support from over 15 mentors and experts.
Impact Hub Vienna runs a series of Hackathons on helping refugees. Together with Deloitte, Impact Hub Vienna is starting an incubation program for new social businesses that create jobs for refugees. Currently, there are 10-15 ventures at the Hub that address the refugee crises.
Two members at Impact Hub Amsterdam, Maja Gricic and Reinout de Kraker, started Takecarebnb, which matches refugees with local Dutch families to get them out of refugee centers and into Dutch homes for a period of three months. Maja, who arrived in Netherlands as a refugee, experienced firsthand that when a refugee is hosted by a family rather than refugee center, the integration process happens much more quickly. Takecarebnb won the Business Model Challenge #9 sponsored by the Hub. The winning prize included a spot at the Hub for six months, along with support and advice from members.
Impact Hub Amsterdam is also in contact with local organizations who help refugees who are/were entrepreneurs in their home countries to set up their business in Amsterdam.
Social Innovation Europe and Impact Hub Siracusa hosted on April 11-12, 2016 ‘A brighter future for Europe: Innovation, integration and the migrant crisis‘, a two-day gathering funded by the European Commission. The convention brought together approximately 80 policymakers, foundations, academics, social entrepreneurs, and local communities to address some of the innovative projects around Europe that have the potential to contribute towards improving the longer term, sustainable integration of migrants in communities across the region. It was an opportunity for attendees to learn about best practices from each other and it brought together migrants and the local communities to create a sense of shared value and community. The best moments from the conference along with interviews with participants and speakers were captured in a video.
There are a few other larger continent-wide initiatives happening in Europe to address the Refugee Crisis and Integration. This year, the European Social Innovation Competition (EUSIC), which is supported by Impact Hub at the continent level, has chosen the topic “Integrated Future – How can we help migrants emerge into European culture?” Eni Selfo, a Community Manager at Impact Hub São Paulo said, “I would also love to bring more synergy between Hubs committed to this theme and implement the same events in different countries.” Several Impact Hubs have already launched a Techfugees hackathon and others are gearing up to run this hackathon on June 20th, World Refugee Day.
*This article, written by Babita Kuruvilla, was originally published on the Impact Hub Boston blog, on June 14, 2016. You can read the original post here.