A new partnership to increase livelihood opportunities for refugees

The war in Ukraine has led to a global economic and political crisis that is affecting an increasing number of refugees and internally displaced people on many levels. Supporting entrepreneurial solutions is one way the socioeconomic impact on refugees can be mitigated and, in some cases, even bring new market opportunities.

NESsT together with IKEA Social Entrepreneurship and the Cisco Foundation, have partnered to launch the NESsT Refugee Employment Initiative. This new initiative will provide financing and capacity-building support to fifteen enterprises in Poland and Romania, with the aim to benefit over 5,000 refugees.

Livelihood opportunities are key to building a new life

Close to 4 million refugees from Ukraine have largely sought refuge in Poland and Romania, joining the tens of thousands of refugees from Asia and Africa hosted in the region. Most working age refugees are women, who have had to leave their husbands and partners behind while trying to establish a new life, caring for their children, and seeking job opportunities. 

Refugees face many challenges as they try to start new lives in other countries. These include not being able to speak the local language, experiencing cultural differences, and having limited access to employment and income-generating opportunities. To fully support refugees in rebuilding their lives, we need to provide longer-term support in addition to immediate humanitarian relief. Creating employment and offering workforce training is a major contributor to refugees integrating in a new country and regaining a sense of security.

Building on experience and a shared vision

NESsT has been active in Central Eastern Europe for 25 years, building a solid foundation of supporting social entrepreneurs across the region. Its team has invested in over 97 enterprises, creating and sustaining over 13,400 jobs.  

IKEA Social Entrepreneurship has a long history of, and deep-rooted commitment to supporting social enterprises working to better the lives of vulnerable and marginalized communities. Through its work supporting social entrepreneurs for over 10 years, IKEA Social Entrepreneurship enables the opening of pathways to decent employment and improved livelihoods for the many, including refugees. 

NESsT and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship have been working together for over two years to develop 25 social enterprises across Latin America, Poland, and Romania. Building on this experience, this new initiative will support and strengthen local social enterprises and small and medium-sized businesses that create jobs and wraparound services for refugees in Poland and Romania. 

Deepening the partnership for wider impact

The NESsT Refugee Employment Initiative will provide financing and business assistance to enterprises in Poland and Romania that provide refugees with career training and job opportunities, and additional support services such as mental health support, language classes, and childcare.  

This new initiative will work with existing NESsT Poland and Romania portfolio enterprises to adapt or scale their businesses, as well as invest in new enterprises that support refugees, moving beyond resolving the immediate humanitarian needs of the refugees. 

“Many enterprises in our existing portfolio in Romania and Poland reacted quickly to the refugee situation, mobilizing resources to meet the urgent health and safety needs of displaced people coming into their countries. Since the war broke out, NESsT also started working with its current portfolio of enterprises to increase their capacity to support refugees.” – Filip Wadowski, NESsT Poland Director. 

IKEA co-workers in Poland and Romania will also play a key role in the initiative. Alongside NESsT business experts, IKEA co-workers will share their business knowledge and insights as mentors for the entrepreneurs, as well as facilitate group training sessions and provide local business networking opportunities.

The power of social entrepreneurship 

To respond to the immense need for emergency relief, different IKEA related entities have together made both monetary and in-kind donations to well-established organisations.  

“This additional investment from IKEA Social Entrepreneurship focuses on the mid- to long-term needs of refugees. We want to build on what has been already initiated and use the power of social entrepreneurship in the region to create job opportunities for refugees,” says Åsa Skogström Feldt, Managing Director of IKEA Social Entrepreneurship. 

Future Collars and Mamo Pracuj are two such examples of social enterprises working to support refugees. Both NESsT Poland enterprises offer IT (Information Technology) training to women. In response to the increased number of refugees in Poland, both enterprises actively opened their IT courses to women refugees, providing them the opportunity to work in high-growth tech jobs that can accommodate their childcare needs. Future Collars also plans to set up a scholarship fund to support refugees from Ukraine to access career training. 

Through the support of fifteen enterprises like these, the initiative aims to create 3,000 jobs to benefit over 5,000 refugees. 

Join the initiative

If you are leading a small business that works to support refugees and based in Poland or Romania, applications to join the initiative are now open.

Apply here before 23 September 2022.