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From Irregular Migration to Incubation: the Synergy between Refugee Integration and Rural Revitalization in Europe.

Every refugee can be seen as a to be incubated start-up company which needs to connect to the culture & labor market of their host country.

Photo of Johannes Cornelis van Nieuwkerk
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Refival’s first proposition is to offer paths for organized migration in which migrants and refugees do not have to risk their lives and use the services of criminals to enter Europe. Refival’s second step is to match those who arrive or want to arrive with the most cost effective locations for their adaptation. For recognized refugees this will dominantly be inside of Europe in low living cost rural areas; for economically motivated migrants, coming from safe and stable countries, preparation for migration will mostly take place in their country of origin. What is fundamentally different in Refival’s “incubation” approach is that the relocation of migrants is mostly not directly or immediately to their “chosen” destination. Refival introduces a transition stage to improve or speed-up people’s integration. This does not imply that people are hindered in achieving their goals. Incubation facilitates the best possible match via maximized investment in their personal development. Practically, Refival’s incubator type mentorship offers individualized, primarily Internet assisted, education and work-experience. Its implementation is not home-based but uses a co-working or school environment. Many skills (including language and cultural skills) can meanwhile be remotely taught and acquired in this way. Refival believes that its approach can reduce long-term welfare dependency of refugees and can simultaneously contribute to a revitalization of Europe's rural areas.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Refival targets to help refugee/migrant families with interrupted/insufficient education who currently reside outside of Europe in countries which lack economic perspective. They often face difficulties to directly connect to Europe's labor market. Upon arrival it currently takes an average of 5 years of full welfare dependency until this group is able to connect to the labor market of their European host country. Rural incubation would shorten this time and improve the group's upward mobility.

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)

Inclusion Sourcing ( is used to exploit the synergy between revitalizing rural Europe and refugee integration. Rooted in solidarity, Refival aims to strengthen the refugees’ bond to their host society and enhance social mobility. This kind of improvement is achieved by offering displaced people the choice to settle in low-cost countryside areas instead of expensive cities whilst using the integration cost difference to invest in the rural community's wellbeing.

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

Rural incubation represents a narrative of trust. It is based on participation in and contribution to small, personal-interaction driven communities. The example of Riace, although recently attacked by the new Italian government (, proves that this can be harmonious and feasible. Unlike separated urban parallel societies, rural populations focus more on personal integrity than on individualism, they expect empathy and solidarity instead of exclusion, and finally they in general prefer reciprocal acceptance and compassion over dominance. After four years of developing fear, it is high time for Europe to rebuild trust and take its responsibility. Only this way can it reverse fragmentation and become united again. There is a great opportunity for Europe’s rural “grassroots” communities in exploring refugee incubation and creating a more sustainable future for the refugees and for themselves.

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

Europe is aging rapidly and in numerous places (especially rural ones) attracting additional (preferably young) people is becoming vital for their existence. Furthermore, widely available Internet technology does meanwhile allow the relocation of education and employment to almost anywhere. This means that bridging the refugees’ skills-gap to the requirements of the European labor markets and their adaptation to European cultural values can potentially be done in any environment where extra people are welcome. By giving refugee families the choice to relocate from refugee camps (or countries without any economical future perspective) to low-living-cost “incubator villages” and by maximizing the investment in their education and work experience, great synergy can be achieved. The local rural economy can be diversified and made sustainable again by adding Internet based remote jobs to the economical portfolio of European villages. Refugees can be a synergistic catalyst here.

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

30 years ago I made a World trip. Meeting people from different cultural backgrounds and encountering – without exception – respect, warm hospitality and friendliness, brought me a deep sense of gratitude. When the “refugee crisis” started, I found myself helplessly watching many European government structures failing to show the level of respect I had witnessed. Since 2015, I therefore devote myself full-time to generating comprehensive business strategies for refugee integration.

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

Cities are efficient; they are hubs of human interaction and optimized specialization. Nevertheless are there many tasks which can be fulfilled remotely via Internet without any physical interaction with others. This can potentially address a severe drawback of urban areas, namely that they easily become overcrowded; resulting in high living cost and low fertility. Further, in cities interaction is more anonymous; their population density causes people to be selective and often hinders cultural integration. It frequently results in immigrants ending-up living in parallel societies. Smaller communities may seem more restricted in their interaction potential, but at the same time they tend to generate an intense exposure to inhabitants’ social habits. In a rural setting, rebuilding refugees’ lives from scratch faces a much lower economical threshold, thus it might be better to invest in people rather than to allocate a large budget for their survival needs at expensive urban areas.

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

By addressing the immediate urgency of halting European rural decline and initiating countryside revitalization, Refival prepares currently deprived areas and disadvantaged groups of people for future involvement in renewed sustainable economical development. This relieves the pressure which causes forced local migration to cities – presently often resulting in severe urban overcrowding and low fertility – and preserves or widens the range of human life-style alternatives. By relocating sustainable Internet based employment, both the ageing as well as the outward migration can be stopped. Due to a lack of younger people in rural areas (their outward local migration has been a process of 40-50 years) this can only be accomplished by inward migration of volunteers who possibly may have been displaced elsewhere and are willing to (re)build a sustainable rural future for themselves.

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

Over the past four years, Refival has been promoting its cause via frequent newsletters ( addressing policy makers, politicians, and potential private sector partners. Due to the changing political sentiment in Europe it has not been possible to convert the encountered interest into action yet. To make Incubator Village projects happen, Refival needs to create a connection among governments, private sector employers, deprived villages and refugees/migrants and find a solution to thoughtfully allocate – mostly already existing – funding for this purpose. If you are interested in collaboration, I encourage you to contact me and discuss further options to adopt or implement Refival's conceptual frameworks.

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

  • Blueprint: We are exploring the idea and gathering the inspiration and information we need to test it with real users.

Group or Organization Name


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

Refival is my personal initiative to which I dedicated my time since September 2015. Watching the stream of refugees to Europe arriving and based on more than 30 years of experience in concept and strategy development, I decided to develop a business and product development approach to refugee integration. Refival is currently seeking for a larger, established, organization willing to adopt and staff its project. This way available EU and government funding can be obtained for the startup stage. Further, it seeks private and public sector partners to undertake pilot projects. Together with such partners it expects to be able to demonstrate practical, case based, models for "the sustainable village of the future" and for "efficient refugee integration".

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are not yet a registered organization but looking for collaborative partners

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State



Join the conversation:

Photo of Alejandra Aguilera

Very interesting approach to a real problem Johaness, it reminds me of the efforts in Australia to appoint migrants to rural and underpopulated areas.

Photo of Johannes Cornelis van Nieuwkerk

Dear Alejandra,

Thanks, yes.... I am aware of Mingoola and some other activities..... However, in order to be/become sustainable, most rural communities need economic diversification because their agricultural activities are becoming larger scale and less labor intensive.... Therefore one of my main targets is to connect the countryside to "co-working" based modern remote employment (and education) as one of the pillars of such diversification.

Kind Regards,

Hans van Nieuwkerk

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