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Social Innovation Academy (SINA)

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

Photo of Etienne Ssuubi
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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

We have learned that the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) works best in the refugee context. 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 and SINA allows ownership over building a sustainable future. Individuals from different cultures and different socioeconomic backgrounds create change together, embracing the diversity in the camps and emerging with new solutions in form of social enterprises.

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

Each refugee in Uganda currently receives 12Kg of flour, 4Kg of beans and 1L of oil per month, which is less than the bare minimum for survival and causing unrest. In the Bidi Bidi refugee camp (270,000 people) for example refugees told us that they have no choice but to cut trees for firewood in the host communities, which has led to conflicts.

The most basic needs are not met and economic opportunities are almost non-existent. Women and girls are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and told us about sex in return for food. One young man told us his story, how he and his friends decided to return back to South Sudan despite the on-going civil war. A few months later he returned to the refugee camp in Uganda as the only survivor among his 11 friends. All had fallen into an armed ambush in their home village.

Through SINA, the refugee communities are in charge of themselves and able to create their own solutions and a future for themselves through social entrepreneurship.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

Unemployment stands at the heart of hopelessness and violence is often the recourse for young men. Studies in Africa have found a strong correlation with the likelihood of civil war increasing by more than half with a 5 percentage-point drop in annual economic growth (see: and joining rebel groups can be a way for young men to survive. Job creation and opportunity are prerequisites for lasting peace.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

Many refugees are passively waiting for a resettlement in the global north or for peace back home to be able to return. Managing themselves and enabling each other through SINA hubs, refugee communities become an active driver for the generation of opportunities and jobs for themselves and the host communities. Creating a dignified and sustainable life in Uganda, refugees contribute to its well-being and become a boost to the economy, instead of being a perceived burden to Uganda.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

The refugee community is actively creating 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.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

SINA is not a property to be managed but rather a living system with an evolutionary purpose unfolding. Sensing and responding allows the organization to move rather than it being directed. Organizational learning is inherent in the SINA model and all members have the power to sense tensions and drive change to improve the system.

Through the beneficiary feedback we evolved towards a clear focus on refugee communities and saw the need for creating a license approach. We wish every community to fully own and self-manage their own academy. There is a need for adaptation to the local contexts while on the other hand the quality of the model and its core components (including its freesponsibility, training sessions, life-coaching and mentoring) has to be guaranteed. Independent registered and refugee owned organizations (e.g. OPPORTUNIGEE) operating on the SINA model through a license will allow for adequate support and the ability to adapt to local needs.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

- capturing and codifying the essence of the existing SINA model to clearly know what the key elements are which make it successful

- creating the SINA license model and respective supporting structures for each SINA implementing community reach its full potential, as well as a network for shared learning, cross-pollination and exchange between the different communities

- the creation of 12 new SINA hubs in new refugee communities across Uganda and Eastern Africa, as well as in stable parts of the home countries refugees are coming from (e.g. Bukavu in DRC or Somaliland in Somalia)

- developing support mechanism for all SINAs to enable their emerging social enterprises to grow and scale their impact through matching with external mentors, potential donors and impact investors

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

The model for replication and scaling is through the beneficiaries themselves. Refugees from different camps or urban slums join an existing SINA, experience it and take over responsibilities co-running it with its community until ready to fully run it on their own in a new community.
The transparent organizational role descriptions within the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) in Mpigi can be accessed here for an overview of the self-management:

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

Each SINA hub needs to be independent and able to financially sustain itself. After 16 months, OPPORTUNIGEE has been able to do this as the first SINA replication. Funds will cover the starting costs for the 12 new SINAs (building of upcycled plastic bottles, tools, basic IT infrastructure and running costs for up to one year), as well as the creation of the licence model and support mechanism for all academies.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

Currently all replications of SINA are started with a team experiencing and co-managing SINA themselves. Because this often transforms their lives, the unique SINA culture can easily be taken forward and the individuals become living role-models. The downside is that it takes time (about 6 months to one year) for a team to have gone through SINA, transformed their own difficult past and learned the model through experience. The first question is therefore:

Could refugee communities create a Social Innovation Academy (SINA) without some of their community members having gone through a SINA experience elsewhere and how could the proven concept of the SINA Model be best captured to support this adoption of the model?

How could the learning from one SINA hub with new features (best practices) be best captured and through feed-forward impact the entire model to benefit all SINAs?

Which type of license and its implementation could best allow for quality standards to be met in each SINA, while allowing communities to adopt best to the local context?

Writing this contribution so far, we came across challenges in finding one common terminology and would really appreciate feedback to find one term:
- mostly we have been calling ourselves "scholars" (refraining from the terms "students or "beneficiaries") however phrases commonly used in the community are also "SINA members", "changemakers", " social entrepreneurs", "partners" and "fellows"
- similarly we struggle to find a common term for the "space" or "community" or "hub", ...

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Uganda has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world of 83% (see World Bank Statistics). In combination with one of the fastest growing populations and a recent intake of over 1 million refugees, this is a ticking time bomb for unrest.

The Social Innovation Academy (SINA) empowers marginalized youth and refugee communities to create their own solutions in form of social enterprises with positive impact on the society and the environment.

Youths are in charge of themselves and organize themselves in self-organized and freesponsible community hubs. Skills and experiences are gained through taking over responsibilities, leading the community through self-management. The organizational structure fosters the growth of every individual and offers opportunities to explore capabilities by taking over actual responsibilities and learn how to become a leader through actually leading.

As changemakers, scholars apply learning directly to turn challenges into solutions and leave with their own jobs established. Transcending their backgrounds as refugees, orphans, street children or other marginalized backgrounds, their own personal tragedies often become the driving force for the creation of social enterprises tackling the root causes of their own personal tragedies. An example is “Ask Without Shame”, where a former HIV orphan created an emergency sex education platform via mobile, supporting over 100,000 youth, which is scaling currently into refugee camps in Uganda:

After four independent SINAs are currently running in four different communities (two in the Nakivale Camp, one in the Bidi Bidi Camp and one in Mpigi) the project is a community empowerment to enable twelve new marginalized communities in East Africa to implement the model in self-management and enable prospering, peaceful and environmentally conscious solutions and jobs to emerge through social entrepreneurship.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Beneficiaries are youth from disadvantaged backgrounds living in refugee communities. Typically between 16 to 30 years, coming from diverse backgrounds and living in camps or urban slum areas. Some are former orphans, former street children, former sex workers, albinos, HIV positive and many had to go through very difficult circumstances in their recent past until reaching Uganda. Typically formal education is either unavailable in the community or the youth have dropped out.

With a drive to create change, as empowered SINA changemakers their own personal tragedies often become the driving force for the creation of social enterprises, which tackle the root causes of the societal challenges in the community, while creating jobs, decent work and economic growth.

For most, SINA is the first time in their lives where nothing is imposed on them. Diverse potentials within them are unleashed and fostered to a professional level and challenges transform into opportunities.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

The youth in the community fully manage SINA themselves, giving them the experiences and skills to create their own social enterprises and drive their own education. It is a human centered approach, where experienced-based learning allows competencies to be gained through freesponsible self-organization with distributed authority.

Running costs of each SINA are minimal. There is no staff and no paid teachers but scholars in charge of themselves, fulfilling roles in self-management. In SINA in the Nakivale Refugee Camp (100,000 people) and in SINA in the Bidi Bidi Camp (270,000 people) monthly costs of 500 USD in each SINA enable 50 youth each to create a future for themselves. With only 10 USD per month per person, a meaningful and relevant education is obtained where youths leave with their own jobs. Running costs are self-sustained through income generation via hosting events, equity of emerged social enterprises and offering training and consultancy to outside organizations.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

SINA is currently legally organized as the Ugandan NGO Jangu International (for the first SINA in Mpigi, from where the other three following SINAs have also been born)


the German NGO Jangu e.V. (, financially supporting Ugandan orphans in education, the different SINAs and selected SINA non-profit enterprises.We wish to create a new organization, called "Social Innovation Academy (SINA)" to give the license structure and scaling a home.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Jangu e.V. had been created to support orphans and marginalized youth in Uganda since 2007 through educational sponsorships. When the first generation finished high school in 2013, they failed to find jobs. An open space session in Uganda led to the idea to design a place together where the youth would create their own jobs, which has become the first Social Innovation Academy (SINA) in Mpigi since 2015 and since 2016 been replicated thrice by its refugee beneficiaries.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Joblessness and the lack of opportunities are leading root causes of global unrest. In efforts to create jobs on a larger scale, governments often jeopardize the planet in the name of economic development. In Uganda for example, massive palm oil production allowed for the deforestation of close to 40,000 hectares of primary rain forest on the remote Ssesse Islands.

Prosperity is highly impacted by education. Someone educated will make better decisions and is more likely to find a job. In over 11 years, the Legatum Prosperity Index has continuously found entrepreneurship to be one of the most important variables for a countries' overall prosperity.

Through SINA, jobless refugee youth are driving their own education, create their own opportunities and jobs through social enterprises with a positive impact on the society and a positive impact on the environment.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Denis has been a refugee from South Sudan in the Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp in Uganda. He joined SINA and started to derive a strength from his difficult past to impact the lives of other refugees, just as SINA had transformed his life. He created a team with six other refugees and together the team started implementing SINA in the Bidi Bidi refugee camp since April 2018.

Patrick, Raphael and Victor were the first ones to do the same in 2016 and replicate the SINA model independently as "OPPORTUNIGEE" in the Nakivale Refugee camp: and due to high demand, a second SINA was opened.

Just like those two teams, we are enabling marginalized youth to create their own versions of SINA in their different communities. The beneficiaries become the ones owning and running SINA. Every SINA becomes an independent organization, yet all live and run the same SINA model.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

We believe that marginalized youth have unique skills and experiences nobody else has. A former street child is better in position to create a solution for street kids than a PhD in psychology. Many find meaning in their previous suffering through creating a project to support others in similar situations they had experienced themselves. This intrinsic drive is a very strong success factor for a social enterprise and that is why some SINA scholars have gone as far as to be awarded by the Queen.

Geographic Focus

Uganda (Refugee Camps & Slum areas) with new scholar teams wanting to start in neighboring countries

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

We will empower twelve new communities in the next 36 months to create and self-manage a SINA and with it create their own solutions and social enterprises improving the living conditions in the community.

Through capturing and codifying the essence of the SINA model and create supporting structures to enable quality, yet allow for adaptation to local needs, we wish to achieve this. We need to experiment with the license design and prototype how an effective support system could look like.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No
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Team (4)

Etienne's profile
TURATSINZE's profile

Role added on team:

"currently with his team creating "Unleash", a SINA hub near Basecamp II in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement"

Raphael's profile
Raphael Muvunga

Role added on team:

"currently running "OPPORTUNIGEE", a SINA hub in Basecamp I in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement"

emile's profile
emile kwilyame

Role added on team:

"currently with his team creating "Lazima Nipate", a SINA hub in an urban slum area for refugees in Kampala"


Join the conversation:

Photo of Gayanjith Premalal

Hi Etienne Ssuubi  ! Congratulations on getting shortlisted for the refinement phase! It's a very creative and innovative idea that you are proposing. And another fun fact is "Sina" means "Smile" in Sinhala (in Sri Lanka) :)

As I understood first, SINA is a model which is similar to 'Training the trainer'. Am I correct? These refugees can be talented people that possess unique skill sets and who had been doing very good jobs before the unfortunate situations. Any plans to identify this talent and to make use of that? Sometimes we do big mistakes by stereotyping things and people.

I really like the idea of beneficiaries running the program themselves. It makes them make decisions for themselves. But at some point they might need a mentor. Do you have a plan for that?

In a big idea like this, it is normal to make a few assumptions and design on that. Have you made any assumptions? If so, what is the riskiest assumption that you have made here?

Photo of Etienne Ssuubi

Hey Gayanjith Premalal 

Thank you for your feedback and thought provoking questions!
Each academy itself has the goal to foster local solutions to emerge in form of social enterprises with social and environmental impact, and our scholars to leave with their own jobs.

Some teams wish to create a new SINA as their social enterprise. To be able to take the model forward, different team members specialize in the core elements of the model: self-organization, life-coaching, empowerment training and mentoring. After having first participated, members start to co-facilitate and after, fully lead their area. Additionally, weekly mentoring training sessions give support, for example, for the upcoming mentors, whereby scholars are even certified in the end through a partner organization from the US (Work for Life).

We are also prototyping and experimenting with an online mentoring platform for potential external mentors such as yourself, to come on board in a structured and powerful way. As a business analyst and design enthusiast, would you be willing to join?

In terms of talent identification, we rather look for an inherent drive in an individual, rather than previous experiences or knowledge. A selection day full of fun challenges and activities allows the community to find the individuals who are fighting to get out of the difficulties they are currently in. Then the SINA model can best support to unleash potentials and channel this energy into contributing to the community and ultimately creating a social enterprise.

There are still many assumptions. We currently see the three biggest ones as:
- Each SINA community will be able to financially self-sustain after initial support
- The SINA model works in different cultural and geographical contexts
- Each community is able to adapt to local needs while being able to keep a shared SINA culture alive

Smiles from Uganda ;-)

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