OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Refugee Investment Network (RIN)

The first impact investing and blended-finance collaborative dedicated to creating durable solutions to the global forced migration crisis.

Photo of Tim Docking

Written by

What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

With more than 70 million people forcibly displaced, forced migration is a massive problem that intersects with almost every major development goal, limiting human progress in health, gender equality, poverty reduction, regional stability and global security. After conducting interviews with over 200 investors, humanitarians, development finance professionals, entrepreneurs, and displaced people, RIN found that there has been a dearth of private sector engagement, especially by the investment community, aimed at unlocking entrepreneurship and refugee and host community supporting enterprise development that would promote economic development and self-reliance. Indeed, although data show refugees are employable, investable, and credit worthy, they are often viewed as a “risky bet” and have very limited access to capital. Refugees also face regulatory barriers that deny them the right to work, start a business, own property, access banking or credit facilities, or to travel freely. Unable to tap into major investment networks, refugee businesses thus struggle to grow and thrive, and the entrepreneurs are left on the margins of society. Investments in refugee ventures are also limited by lack of precedent and investors’ ignorance of both the facts and corresponding opportunities associated with refugee investing: Perceptions that refugee entrepreneurs are univestable remain commonplace. In response to the challenges facing refugee populations, RIN strives to create durable solutions to the global forced migration crisis by (i) mobilizing investment capital; (ii) building the field of refugee investment; (iii) incentivizing policy change; and (iv) changing the negative narrative surrounding refugees.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Our target geographies include the United States, Mexico, Jordan, and Kenya, each featuring large populations of forcibly displaced people with specific characteristics that will enable successful refugee investment. The Jordan Compact has redefined refugee socio-economic policy in the global south, while the IFC describes the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya as a $56 million market. Mexico and the US have regions of booming economic activity where refugee populations can grow their businesses.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

The RIN recognizes the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit of migrants, as well as the potential to promote social cohesion with host communities through economic intercourse. The RIN connects refugee entrepreneurs with investment opportunities, encouraging self-reliance while enabling newcomers to contribute to their host communities’ economies. The RIN also facilitates investment in host community businesses that employ, support or source materials from refugee ventures.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

By elevating communities’ economic opportunity, RIN provides increased opportunities for people to look beyond their daily needs and pursue fulfilling lives. By empowering refugee-owned, refugee-supporting and host community businesses, we help empower refugee/host communities as a whole through increased service provision, financial inclusion, and economic growth. Restoring economic dignity and self-reliance to previously marginalized populations enables them to pursue their individual wants and needs within a more supportive and inclusive ecosystem. Ensuring the economic well being, independence, and social cohesion of displaced populations within host communities is only possible by building more inclusive economies for all. In short, RIN seeks to leverage investment as a means to incentivize policy change at the local and national level to create a more just and equitable future for all.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

Four pillars define RIN's operations: Mobilize Investments: RIN will unlock $2 billion in investments by building a diversified portfolio of high-quality refugee investment opportunities and connecting enterprises with capital across the risk/return/impact spectrum. This investment will support at least 1 million new jobs and livelihood opportunities for refugees and host communities. Build the Field: RIN will empower enterprises, incubators, and investors to source and evaluate refugee investments through an integrated training curriculum and M&E system. Policy Change: RIN’s Refugee Opportunity Index will measure the policy environments of refugee hosting countries and incentivize governments to make pro-refugee reforms. Narrative Change: RIN will highlight refugee entrepreneurs, refugee investments, and contributions of refugees to their communities. The RIN utilizes surveys, focus groups, and partners to source and validate data for its robust M&E system.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

The RIN draws inspiration from refugee entrepreneurs themselves. Take, for example, Manyang Kher. At age three, Manyang was displaced and orphaned by the civil war in Sudan and then lived in refugee camps along the Ethiopian border. Since then, he founded 734 Coffee a social enterprise, providing ethically sourced, fair trade, naturally farmed coffee from Gambela, Ethiopia. 734 Coffee sources their coffee from growers in Gambela, Ethiopia who employ South Sudanese refugees and reinvests 80% of its profits to support education programs and scholarships for refugee youth in Gambela. Speaking to RIN’s purpose, Manyang said, “I don’t want to be seen as someone who needs a handout. No, I want your business, just like anyone else.” Inspired by this incredible resilience and determination, RIN seeks to empower those like Manyang who want opportunities to improve their lives and become active new community members through entrepreneurship.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

After conducting interviews with over 200 investors, humanitarians, development finance professionals, entrepreneurs, and displaced people, RIN found that there has been limited focus on bringing investment and self-reliance to refugee populations at home and abroad (see RIN’s foundational report). From concept to implementation, our organizational objective, products and services are informed by direct consultation and input from refugees, which deeply roots RIN’s work in appropriate solutions. Over one-third of RIN’s Steering Committee and team are refugees, or children/grandchildren of a refugee. The RIN intentionally forges partnerships with organizations that support refugee entrepreneurs, such as the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship in Santa Clara, California, or Five One Labs in Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Where and when possible, we hire refugees to build, develop, or inform our products, such as RBK.org, Syrian refugee coders who developed our first website.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

A growing body of evidence demonstrates that refugees are a smart investment. In the U.S., for example, over 40% of Fortune 500 companies were built by immigrants or their children, yielding 216 companies; creating $5.3T in revenue; and employing over 12M workers worldwide. Moreover, the IMF found that “investing one euro in welcoming refugees can yield nearly two euros in economic benefits within five years, as long as refugees are permitted to work.” Refugees are also employable. In a 2016 study, the Cato Institute found that after less than a year in the U.S., nearly half of Central American adults—many of whom were forcibly displaced—had found employment. After five years, employment rates among this population were over 70%, ten points higher than the average employment rate among all U.S. adults. Refugees are also extremely entrepreneurial with higher rates of entrepreneurship than native-born Americans or other immigrants according to New American Economy.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

The RIN’s partners include: (i) 17 Asset Management and the Government of Mexico which together have created the Initiative for Inclusive Investment in Mexico (3IM) to attract long-term strategic growth capital for investments in Mexico by including displaced people in economic development projects; (ii) The Economist Intelligence Unit to develop the Refugee Opportunity Index to define indicators on refugee integration and investment opportunities, incentivizing governments to make pro-refugee policy reforms; (iii) Village Capital, which has developed Abaca, a platform that prepares refugee entrepreneurs for investment opportunities; and (iv) The International Rescue Committee to launch a $5M Social Impact Fund to support refugees and local communities across the U.S. Currently, the Global Development Incubator, a 501(c)(3) serves as RIN’s fiscal sponsor and provides strategic, programmatic, organizational, communications, and F&A support to the RIN team.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Early Adoption: We have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have proof of user uptake (i.e. 16% to 49% of the target population or 1,000 to 50,000 users).

Group or Organization Name

The RIN is led by Managing Directors John Kluge and Tim Docking, and benefits from the fiscal sponsorship and personnel support of the Global Development Incubator (GDI).

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Kluge provides expertise in entrepreneurial ecosystems, impact investing, and blended finance. He is the Co-Founder the Alight Fund, an investment company for refugee and host-country entrepreneurs and co-founded Eirene, an impact investing fund and Toilet Hackers, a social enterprise that scaled sanitation access to 2.5 billion people without a toilet. Docking brings twenty years of business executive, emerging market, and public sector experience. As an intrapreneur, he built a new $100M revenue stream at IBM; as a public sector executive and manager, he helped start up the MCC (U.S. government agency); and as a scholar, he directed Africa research at a D.C. think tank. The GDI team brings expertise in designing, building and launching new organizations and partnerships for social impact around the world.

Website URL:

https://refugeeinvestments.org

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

USA

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Washington, DC
View more

Attachments (2)

RIN - Paradigm Shift.pdf

The Refugee Investment Network's flagship report offers impact investors, grant-makers, and development finance professionals with the first overview on how to invest in and with forcibly displaced people.

11 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Ikong James
Team

Hello Tim
I love the idea you are proposing and I have seen something similar in Uganda but because of the bureaucracy and policy I haven't seen its impact and as I would wish it would be. Operating in Uganda which is alittle out of your geographical scope but within east Africa this you would to face some critical challenges and indeed the can always be overcome. How I wish then that through mobilizing investment funds and supporting grassroots social entreprise and I would love to collaborate with your team on this one. Best of luck to us but beyond this platform I think it will a great opportunity to collaborate more on this idea.

Looking to your thoughts on this. Thanks

Photo of Tim Docking
Team

Thanks again Ikong for your good thoughts and interest in RIN. We are well aware of the needs and some of the opportunities in Uganda. Indeed, one of our Steering Committee members, Joseph Muyambanza, grew up in a camp in Uganda. And we want to do work there when resources become available. Let's stay in touch.

Photo of Ikong James
Team

Awesome! will look forward to it because we are engaging both host community and refugee youth almost in the same sector. Only we are just making them join a family of one business and work together through the business to solve their challenges in mental health and sustaining their livelihoods.

Photo of NDEF Cameroon
Team

Hi Tim Docking, welcome to the Challenge. We wish you success in your work!

Photo of Tim Docking
Team

Thank you!

Photo of Tarek Alsaleh
Team

Tim, love the idea to have unrestricted $$ to support top priorities. Some nitty-gritty to power shift from international to local is in my opinion essential to create meaningful solutions to deep problems of our times. How are local initiatives validated/ monitored and have access to $ and hands-on support? Maybe something to share thoughts also...

Photo of Ikong James
Team

I think to validate and monitor these initiatives as an investment body. Tim can think of developing some sort of incubation hurb for these initiatives and walk with them through infancy to fully grown and mature social Enterprises to increase chances of success for these business and also have some sort of plan to monitor these business through the hub. To me that's more hands on interms of creating and supporting these initiatives and creates Avenue to design them together with the beneficiaries and assess their impact.

Photo of Tarek Alsaleh
Team

Sounds good. It's usually quite challenging to make it as easy as possible for locals.
An Open Ideo's type of hub is a good start but not tailored to local initiatives and still reveres the person with the best English and an MBA, not actual changemakers on the ground.

Anyway, I just wanted to raise the point as aid is most effective if it supports and empowers local structures and people. And it's important to have a well thought through system to channel support.

Good luck with the challenge and feel free to reach out if you would like support in the onboarding / M&E stage.

Photo of Ikong James
Team

I see your point @Tarek Alsaleh and it's very fundamental and critical. It's true usually hubs to that level are by those who speak good English and have an MBA or something similar or close to that. I have seen in my own country too, however I don't know if this is possible for where the idea is going to be implemented, but I have seen local hubs grow at a grass root level with a system and operation that seems to be like that of the local trade unions and they have really done well. The point is I have seen some hubs initiated by the locals develope, and managed by those who might have even never attended school but with experience and expertise along with some level of organisation.

Photo of Tim Docking
Team

Hi Ikong: RIN can best be thought of as the connective tissue between refugee entrepreneurs and refugee and host community supporting investments and interested capital. We are more a knowledge partner (check out our website at refugeeinvestments.org to see some of our tools and field-building collateral), not an incubator although we work with a number of accelerators and incubators working with refugee entrepreneurs and are currently conducting a global assessment of such to determine the landscape, needs, etc. and to help determine which ones are the best sources for potential investors.

Photo of Tim Docking
Team

Hi Tarek, thanks for your note and interest. Let me try to respond to your questions but will first add one additional questions: How do we source opportunities? Indeed, when we speak to investors, sourcing (along with structuring and derisking investments) opportunities is a key point of interest. That's why we created a matchmaking platform on our site (refugeeinvestments.org). Regarding your question: RIN validates entrepreneurs' relevance through the application of the RIN refugee investment lens. Our focus is impact. Investors will of course validate financials on their own.