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The Welcome Project - breaking bread

The Welcome Project is a social enterprise that provides a maker-space to train our newest neighbors in store management and art skills

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

The Welcome Project assists in welcoming refugees and immigrants and bridging divides with the local urban Appalachian communities. Wave Pool has been in the process of developing The Welcome Project for over a year. We are addressing the need to empower immigrants and refugees both economically and socially, and to break down the barriers related to building community, employment, and assimilation. We think we can do all of this while revitalizing two pivotal storefronts in Camp Washington at the same time. The Camp Washington community seeks to reenergize its business district. There are only a handful of restaurants and retail locations in the neighborhood. The works of art created within our walls are featured in the boutique, which enables our newest neighbors to share their voices even without a common language. This expanded project will result in employment, income, language development, and friendships.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

This project impacts the residents of Camp Washington, primarily low income Urban Appalachian and African Americans, as well as the refugee and immigrant/refugee population of Cincinnati. One hundred percent of the refugee and immigrant people that The Welcome Project impacts qualify for food stamps, other forms of public assistance and range in ages 3 years of age to 65 years old.

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)

For many of our newest who come to The Welcome Project, this is the only opportunity they have to be social. One woman from Syria with severe PTSD wouldn’t speak at all, making only drawings of dots in a grid. Through encouragement and persistence, she started drawing landscapes from her homeland, talking excitedly and now singing regularly. Her art is getting better and she is getting stronger. Her story is one of many.

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

The goal and mission of the Welcome Project are to provide opportunities, encouragement, and support for our most vulnerable population. The Welcome Project offers a welcoming community space, shared by volunteers and skilled refugee artists that are excited to teach and share these talents with the community. A few blocks from the Welcome Project is the Moosewood and Millville area where many of these new Americans live. Having the Welcome Project and classes close by in Camp Washington provides easy access to the opportunities they so deserve. In addition to art and crafting, our community members are also interested in food entrepreneurship and are inherently excellent home chefs.

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

For Cincinnati's population of refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants, this program offers employment, language development, and empowerment through social and economic opportunities. Many refugees feel isolated and vulnerable. Their art enables them to share their voice without language and build friendships. Our goal is that through this ultimately self-sustaining business we will be empowered immigrants and refugees with knowledge and break down the barriers that many face related to employment and community support.

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

Welcome's mission is to empower marginalized and at-risk refugees and immigrants by providing jobs, education and skills training so that they will one day take these opportunities and turn them into a lasting, better way of life. And this is our inspiration because everyone deserves an opportunity to the American dream

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

Our metrics for success will include an increase in the number of refugees and immigrants served through our workshops and programs. We expect an increase in the number of refugees who become teachers and leaders through managing the storefront and teaching public workshops in the space. The Welcome Project will measure the number of refugees and immigrants we are able to employ at a living wage through the project, the number of increased sales of refugee made goods and the number of community members (beyond the refugee community) who regularly attend our events and engage the storefront.

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

The Camp Washington Community Board is our partner for the community garden that The Welcome Project tends to and cares for. They have given us use of an empty lot to transform into a space for the refugees to garden and make produce freely available to the community. The Camp Washington Urban Farm has agreed to regularly stock the marketplace with fresh produce, this will be their only regular outlet for produce in the food desert neighborhood. Dean's Mediterranean Imports will provide a selection of bulk spices at affordable prices, specialty foods, roasted nuts and coffee, and amazing Middle Eastern cuisine.

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

  • Systems design: Solutions that target changing larger system

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full Scale Roll Out: We have already tested and scaled this idea significantly with the intended user base (i.e. when innovation has reached 84% or above of the target population or above 1,000,000 users).

Group or Organization Name

The Welcome Project

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United States

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Cincinnati, OH


Join the conversation:

Photo of Zulfiqar Deo

Erika Allen Thanks for sharing the project. Its really good to see how you are supporting refugees and the local population at the same time. It is also good to see you have identified and worked on their mental health needs - an area commonly not touched. Look forward to seeing it take off.

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