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Community led learning and enterprise that enables refugees and hosting communities to lead fulfilling lives together

Building the capacity of community leaders, both refugees and host communities in forming their own vision for a better future

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

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has been increasing rapidly in recent years. Between 2016 and 2017, the number increased from 164.2 million to 201 million people. These are people in need of ‘last resort’ international humanitarian assistance just to cope and survive. During the same period, humanitarian aid budgets increased by just three percent from $26.4 billion to $27.3 billion . Among these people are 70.8 million displaced people, up from 65 million in 2017. Displacement situations have also become more protracted, averaging between 10 and 25 years. Despite the increase in numbers of displaced people, the deficits in the budgets of agencies whose mandate is to protect them has been widening annually. Humanitarian crises have also been complex in recent decades, affected by a rise in radical extremism, environmental disasters, and reduced freedom of movement across borders. Our plan is to prove through our partnerships with Community Based Organisations in refugee hosting areas that building the capacity of community leaders in forming their own vision for a better future is the most effective, the most sustainable and the most appropriate work that NGOs should be doing, even in an emergency context - and that the time to change ways of working is NOW. Community ownership to us does not just mean tokenistic community participation in decision making, or recruitment of refugees and host community members to salaried positions.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

We build comprehensive partnerships with refugee and host community founded community based organisations (or CBOs) and support them in delivering education and scaling enterprise in their communities in Kenya and Uganda. Currently we have six CBO partners in six locations with whom we have a comprehensive partnership and six others associate partners. The CBOs reach 12,000 participants directly through their work every year.

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)

Our idea builds bridges between refugees and host communities in Kenya and Uganda by enabling them to envisage and realise a more fulfilling future together. We help them understand the challenges in their shared community and build a strategy to address these challenges and form and communicate a vision. Both groups mutually support each other and appreciate the unique opportunities that each group provides the other. This in turn leads to improved rights for both parties, especially refugees.

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

Xavier Project’s experience shows that with CBOs taking full-ownership for service delivery and social change, more refugees and host community members can be reached with more relevant, cost effective and long lasting interventions. Beyond basic human needs these interventions concern life-long learning opportunties, spaces created for play and socialising, and protection of the environment - activities that have been neglected in humanitarian crises. But this approach is the most appropriate not just because it is impactful: most importantly it enables refugees and the populations hosting them to collectively envisage and realise a bette futurer. This achieves a sense of dignity for a population whose dignity and rights have been suppressed through the experience of forced displacement.

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

Our capacity building course is designed to give full-ownership of service delivery and decision making to community groups. The course has 18 modules such as understanding and describing your community, identifying community problems together, defining and communicating a vision, strategic planning and resource mapping, among others. This work enables the CBOs to not just own their work completely, but design strategies that effect change and have a sustainable impact. In addition, we play the role of facilitators in helping the CBOs achieve their vision. We have pre-designed activities and we can provide the CBOs with tools and resources to help them run these in their day to day work. We maintain contact with the participants using the CBO run services (average of 1000 per CBO). This idea is refugee led as much as it is led by Xavier Project - our CBO partners are spread across East Africa and have created an open network for sharing the learning their gain through our partnership

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

An example CBO - Tomorrow Vijana (TV), a group of refugees in Uganda whom we met teaching each other English under a tree in 2015. Despite the challenging environment, the Tomorrow Vijana team had a clear vision as to how they wanted to play a role in delivering services. We were struck by their motivation. Now in 2019, Tomorrow Vijana are the main organisation providing services in their settlement, ranging from adult literacy, to English, basic computers, tailoring, savings and loans, and agriculture courses. Over 500 people per year, including numerous local Ugandans, complete courses in their hub. Tomorrow Vijana’s impact will survive Xavier Project’s presence in Rwamwanja. Their work is far more effective than anything we could have done directly because they fully understand the problems faced by their communities, and with the right support they are best placed to settle on solutions. They can tap into existing community resources that we can’t know exist, let alone access.

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

The implications of the trends in humanitarian assistance are being seen in drastically reduced scope of services to refugees, from education to healthcare to food handouts, leading inevitably to worsened living conditions. In Kakuma town for example, poverty and lack of access to livelihoods opportunities results in, an average body mass index for men of 18.24, versus 23 in Kenya as a whole (low globally anyway). Average incomes in Rwamwanja are just $23 per month. In education, Xavier Project assessments in Nairobi and Kampala have found that fewer than 20% of refugees go to secondary school. Imvepi, where we also have a CBO partner, there are 65,000 children and only one secondary school. In Rwamwanja we found 70 children accessing secondary school out of a population of 69,000 people. In such circumstances refugees cannot contribute to local prosperity and become seen as a burden on the hosting country - tension with host communities is evident. It does not have to be this way.

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

In all refugee hosting areas, even in the most challenging environments such as Kakuma and Imvepi, there are opportunities. This image was taken recently in Rwamwanja in South West Uganda and depicts refugees and Ugandans working side by side on a model farm. They take new farming skills back to their small plots to increase yields. Higher productivity in the refugee settlement is an opportunity to local traders and consumers, improves food security in the region and increases the economic leverage of the refugee community. The potential for this integrated growth is harnessed by local leaders, both refugees and host communities. There are always leaders and always talented entrepreneurs. Increasingly there are ways to help them shine through and invest in their ideas. Our role is to accelerate that.

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

Most importantly - our community based organisation partners. Currently we have a total of 12 CBO partners in six locations. We also partner closely with the local authorities and relevant ministries. We are lucky to have partners who have provided learning content for free, from tablet based learning, to curriculum manuals, assessment tools and more. Xavier Project;s role is our presence in each community and our partnerships with grass roots organisations. We act as interlocutors bringing the right people together for refugees and hosting communities to achieve a vision they collectively defined.

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

  • 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

Xavier Project (and CBO partners)

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

Xavier Project was founded in 2008 as an education NGO working with refugees in Uganda, and soon after in Kenya. We are a small team and a significant portion of our funding is generated from unrestricted sources, though we have also completed contracts for institutional donors. Over time we have increasingly realised that communities must own change for it to be sustained, leave no one behind and lead to fulfilled lives for each individual. There are a lot of changes needed in the way humanitarian aid is delivered if this is to become a wide spread way of working, so we also spend a lot of our energy lobbying for the "localisatin of aid", increased community participation and community ownership, on a national and global level.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State



Join the conversation:

Photo of Uchenna Okafor

Dear Edmund Page! Thank you for the insight of fulfilling dreams together within the context of shared future of stability. However, disabled persons are often neglected in almost all designs to improve the livelihood of internally displaced people and refugees. disabled persons can be very resourceful, if trained and offered opportunity. Yes; they also have aspirations and dreams which often do not see the light of the day due to lack of opportunities, sadly though. Besides their predominant life of poverty, illiteracy, destitution, street begging, and more, the blind, deaf, dumb, lame, etc are worst hit in all displacement situations, especially during disasters and other emergencies. So, is there any provision to accommodate them in this design?

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