UtilDeco work placement Romania

Kickstarting the NESsT Refugee Employment Initiative in Poland and Romania

To coincide with World Refugee Day 2023, NESsT has convened ten enterprises participating in the Refugee Employment Initiative to share their motivation, expectations and mission to accelerate social impact in everyday business. 

Coming together to create social impact


The Refugee Employment Initiative, led by NESsT, and supported by Cisco Foundation and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship, welcomed ten enterprises from Poland and Romania in an online event to meet and learn more about each other’s business models and major challenges as they continue their social impact journey. 

Dedicated to financing and supporting impact-driven enterprises in Central and Eastern Europe that can develop and grow long-term employment opportunities for refugees and migrants, NESsT has assessed the participating enterprises to identify areas where together, we can support capacity building and bridge funding gaps.

In March, we welcomed six enterprises to the initiative. Now, Olsztyn Food Bank, Dworzysko and Epinote from Poland, and Playful Software from Romania join the portfolio.

The ten enterprises, an advisory group of ten IKEA co-workers from Poland and Romania, and another ten thought partners from across IKEA organisations in Europe attended day one of the online welcome summit, with NESsT hosting networking and knowledge-sharing sessions.

"NESsT introduced us to a diverse portfolio of enterprises operating in sectors from IT to travel, laundry services to packaging. Whether a long-established social enterprise or foundation, or a small to medium-sized business accelerating their socially impactful mission, the participants share economic challenges and are aligned on social impact goals. We hope that the enterprises will not only benefit from direct programme support but also learn from each other."
-Tirza Voss, Programme Coordinator, IKEA Social Entrepreneurship


Building on experience

The enterprises shared their expectations and ambitions for the coming few years, during which NESsT will guide their business development and social impact. As entrepreneurs driven to balance business performance with social impact, these leaders will look to understand further the barriers displaced people face and what support they need, learning how to mindfully grow their workforce in a sustainable way that also makes a meaningful change. How innovation and strategic partnerships can contribute will be a key focus as will the importance of maintaining quality through a period of growth. 

As our partnership with NESsT enters its fifth year, and with two accelerator programmes underway (in Poland and Romania, and in Latin America) providing support for 25 social enterprises, we’re well-positioned to bring this wealth of experience into our newest initiative

On day one of the welcome summit, we were joined by Daniela Staicu, co-founder of Atelier Merci, a Romanian social enterprise participating in our accelerator programme. She shared her experience working with her mentor Jarek Kowalski from Inter IKEA. Her advice was to be specific and prioritise which business questions you want to tackle, be transparent and share the context of the challenge to ensure relevant input. “By being open with Jarek, he was able to dig into the issue and ask a lot of questions that would make us think deeply and reflect in a variety of ways. We would recap, clarify homework, and lock down key takeaways for implementation, and we can already see a shift in our business as a result, says Staicu.

We also heard from Luis Miguel Botero, co-founder of Pomario, a social enterprise in our Latin America accelerator, who spoke about investment readiness. Botero explained how, with his co-founders and team, they divided responsibilities and ensured the continuity of running their business in parallel with development activities

Daniela Staicu and Alina Tiplea of Atelier Merci
Daniela Staicu (right) with her Atelier Merci co-founder, Alina Tiplea 
Download Image
Luis Miguel Botero of Pomario
Luis Miguel Botero of Pomario 
Download Image

Continuing the conversation and celebrating the strength and courage of refugees 

Today, on World Refugee Day 2023, NESsT hosts the second and final day of their Refugee Employment Initiative welcome summit. Importantly, we’ll hear from people affected by the war in Ukraine and their journey to find new opportunities in a foreign country. We cannot underestimate the challenge and the strength it takes to integrate in a new country, but we must try to understand it so that we can offer practical and impactful support. 

Over the following few years, the Refugee Employment Initiative aims to create 3,000 jobs and improve the lives of 5,000 refugees. We will report on progress over the programme period.

See more at NESsT