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

Self-organized and Freesponsible Communities

eliciting refugee communities' untapped potentials to create own solutions and pursue purpose in the world through social entrepreneurship.

Photo of Etienne Ssuubi
2 3

Written by

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

Violent conflicts in Eastern Africa led to over 1 million refugees entering Uganda in the past two and a half years. Totalling to 1,3 million refugees. Uganda became the third largest refugee-hosting country in the world with expectations that the number of refugees will continue to rise. Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, hosts more than 6.6 million refugees, according to UNHCR. Refugee youth lack opportunity and prospects, which fuels instability and perpetuates poverty. Mainly living in refugee camps with little to no opportunity for a prosperous life, most humanitarian responses understand refugees as passive recipients of assistance, strengthening a connotation that refugees are a burden to the already struggling local economies, rather than a potential benefit. The SINA Community of Communities (SINA-CC) will inspire and support the creation of self-organized and freesponsible learning spaces, in which disadvantaged youth from host communities and refugees unleash their potential for positive change as social entrepreneurs. Our self-governed and replicable community-approach provides a pathway, tools and the mindset to shape one’s own future after displacement. Three self-governed SINA communities already successfully create their own solutions and our new idea is the creation of an open source replication toolkit and support network of the SINA model.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

While there are about 6.6 million refugees in Sub Saharan Africa, we initially want to focus on Eastern and Southern Africa (Uganda, Kenya, DRC, Rwanda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia), where refugees are living in camps and urban centres and English and/or French are widely understood.

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)

We wish to inspire people on the move and their hosts to form self-organized communities for self-reliance and social entrepreneurship. Its members are not beneficiaries but active drivers, fully taking charge of themselves. Members gain the tools to unlearn limiting thinking about their own potential while building their confidence and capacity to become leaders and social entrepreneurs. They build concrete new solutions benefiting their surroundings and environment.

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

SINA Communities elicit personal potentials and lets young adults learn soft and professional skills by fully self-managing their communities, while unlearning limiting believes, getting rid of the fear of failing, expanding one’s comfort zone, discovering oneself and setting goals and action plans. The youth and refugees drive their own education and are no longer passive recipients but active drivers for the generation of opportunities, jobs and economic prosperity. As changemakers, learning is directly applied to turn challenges into solutions. Transcending their marginalized backgrounds, own personal tragedies often become the driving force for the creation of social enterprises tackling the root causes of their own personal tragedies. One example is “Tucheke”, which emerged out of SINA in the Nakivale Refugee Camp. It produces edu-tainment and awareness films with and for refugees and tours through the camp projecting the films with a generator, screen and sound system.

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

The refugee and host population is actively creating their future and solutions to the most pressing social and environmental challenges around them. Financially self-sustaining social enterprises are created. In the Nakivale camp for example, one newly founded refugee enterprise is using irrigation from the nearby lake to make dry and infertile land suitable for agriculture in a rotational farming cooperative, whereby currently 12 families are generating food security and sustainable income. “In Bidi Bidi, refugees reported poor quality teaching, a lack of essential classroom materials and severe teacher shortages. There is no vocational school in the settlement and limited opportunities for secondary or higher education. SINA Loketa meets these challenges head-on. It works with both refugee and host community youth to create their own employment opportunities and found social enterprises that solve problems in Bidi Bidi and beyond.” - UNHCR (justification for Innovation Award)

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

The first SINA Community was born in 2014 through an Open Space Dialogue with high school graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds, after drowning in unemployment in Uganda. Since 2016 refugees decided to replicate the model in different refugee camps in Uganda. With our evolutionary purpose unfolding we have through the 2018 BridgeBuilder Challenge developed our SINA Community of Practice (SINA CoP) between the different SINA Communities, sharing best practices, learning, exchange and collectively codifying and evolving the SINA model. With four new SINA Communities in their making, we want to take it a step further and share our experience and the SINA model with displaced and communities, who do not have a chance to experience SINA first-hand. Our vision is to elicit hundreds of communities' untapped potentials to create own solutions to lift themselves out of poverty and pursue purpose in the world through social entrepreneurship.

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

Life in the camps is a daily struggle. Sometimes we can go days without food and wait half the day to get water. Each of us is receiving food rations hardly catering for the bare minimum for survival. Other items needed for cooking (e.g. matches, pots, salt, firewood or any source of fuel) are not provided. We are constantly looking for any opportunity to create a tiny income (for example helping to build a house for a newly arrived family with some capital) to supplement food and meet needs for our health, communication and entertainment. Girls are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation in exchange for goods or money and we need to protect them.

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

A refugee camp is a highly diverse place, which is a huge advantage. We saw that many have an inherent drive to get their life back on track. In a SINA Community individuals from different cultures and different socioeconomic backgrounds can create change together, embracing the diversity and emerge with new solutions in form of social enterprises. In SINA Communities no staff is needed and no teachers. 50 – 100 SINA members in their communities are in charge of themselves, fulfilling roles in self-management. A meaningful and relevant education is obtained where we leave with our own jobs and create a dignified future for ourselves. We nurture an inherent facilitation model where new members gradually become facilitators and take on roles. A SINA member undergoes training, then co-facilitates with more experiences peers and finally becomes a skilled facilitator training others. This happens in every generation. The same applies to life-coaches, mentors and Lead Links (Holacracy).

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

Current partners are the existing SINA Communities: - Mpigi - Bidibidi - Nakivale and the currently upcoming SINA Communities: - Lazima Nipate (slum area for urban refugees in Kampala) - Tongogera - Kakuma - Bukavu (in DRC, refugees returning to create opportunities back home) SINA signed an MoU with the Government of Uganda–Office of the Prime Minister (Department for Refugees) to “establish a framework for cooperation in providing community space, educational programs and entrepreneurship opportunities for refugees in Uganda.” SINA Loketa won the UNHCR Innovation Award 2018, which started a partnership to jointly create further SINA communities. AVANTI supports SINA Communities with free satellite internet. We are currently creating a partnership with Book Aid International, to equip libraries in each SINA Community. is creating refugee focused programs for micro loans and we started engagements for financing of emerging enterprises.

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

  • Majority Adoption: We have expanded the pilot significantly and the program product or service has been adopted by the majority of our intended user base (i.e. 50% to 83% of the target population or 50,000 to 1,000,000 users).

Group or Organization Name

SINA (Social Innovation Academy)

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

As the SINA Community of Practice (CoP) we are currently comprised of seven SINA Communities (3 established and 4 in their making). Our objective as a collective of refugees, members of the host community and international supporters is to enable displaced youth to gain the personal and professional skills, knowledge and experience necessary to lead thriving social enterprises and forming resilient teams to tackle local challenges for a dignified and prosperous live through self-organized communities. Over the last 5 years we have proven that the SINA model works and what results it can bring, when we let people be in charge of themselves and create their own solutions.

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

Hi Etienne Ssuubi! It is great to equip refugees and other displaced persons with skills for responsible and independent livelihood. Yes, that is the only way to productively integrate them into the society as immigrants, and no longer refugees or displaced persons. Well, are there special provisions to incorporate disabled persons into this model?.

View all comments