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OPPORTUNIGEE– Refugees creating their own opportunities!

Creating opportunities for self-employment of youth in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement through an open and self-organized entrepreneurs hub.

Photo of Etienne Ssuubi
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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

OPPORTUNIGEE created a self-organized empowerment and social entrepreneurship hub in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda. The space is open for everyone, owned and run by the refugees themselves. The space provides internet, tools, learning resources and tutorials on how to use the internet for research and the creation of projects. Design Thinking and the Lean Startup approach push the participants to test ideas and find solutions to the problems of the entire community through the creation of social enterprises. There is huge potential for social entrepreneurship in the settlement because most basic needs, such as safe drinking water, are often not met. The goal is for the youth to create their own opportunities and their own jobs instead of passively waiting for help. Creating a life of dignity and peace in Uganda means the refugees do not need to continue their journey towards Europe or South Africa but actively build their lives in Uganda and contribute to Uganda’s economy instead of being perceived as a burden on the country.

WHO BENEFITS?

The beneficiaries are an extremely marginalized group. Few people in Uganda know they even exist, yet there are over 70,000 people living in an isolated area called the Nakivale Refugee Settlement. The refugees have fled to Uganda mainly from Burundi, DR Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan and live in poverty without job opportunities. The settlement was established in the 50s and today over 80% of the inhabitants are below the age of 35. Children are born from the camp and become Ugandans.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU

The main drive behind OPPORTUNIGEE is us, the refugees ourselves. A team of refugees had started NakivArt in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement Uganda and to start OPPORTUNIGEE we have partnered with the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) from Uganda and the Project DEFY from India.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

  • Uganda

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

We thought OPPORTUNIGEE would be open to everyone, children, youth and even adults, with a focus on the youth. After the word about our place spread way over 50 people would come every day and OPPORTUNIGEE became too crowded. We decided to focus on youth only from Monday to Friday and be open for everyone on the weekend. In the beginning the beneficiaries said: “We need teachers!” After prototyping, the mindset has shifted and we all understood, that we are in charge of ourselves. Opportunities do not just happen but you create them!. We also realized that some youth come to OPPORTUNIGEE for creating projects and seeing it as the biggest chance to make something out of their lives. However, some other youth only came because of free internet to chat with their relatives back home. We had to create guidelines of our community and separate from the people who came only to benefit without contributing towards the empowerment culture of our space. The youth dedicated to create, share and learn would be distracted and feel demotivated by people coming to exploit the space. We created structures for our effective self-organization and allocated roles. It works well so far.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

It is the world's first Opportunity Hub for Refugees in a refugee camp. It is also a school without teachers and it is built out of plastic bottles. We, the refugees, run and administer the place. It is self-organized by us refugees for us refugees. We create our own solutions and take on the projects we feel passionate about. We discuss and work together on our prototypes and ideas to take them to the level of social enterprises, which create income and job opportunities for us. We turn around a challenge into an opportunity. Clean drinking water is a big issue in the camp, we have started producing affordable biosand water filters having a big health impact and generating income for us. OPPORTUNIGEE is like an entrepreneurship school with no teachers but the students teaching each other and learning from the internet. Everyone is “freesponsible” and has full ownership. We do not have a boss but a weekly coordinator in rotation and distributed authority, whereby everyone takes up tasks and supports each other. We are one community with a vision. We are labled as refugees but we are so much more than that. We survive on handouts but have the capacity to provide for ourselves!

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HAS NOT BEEN SOLVED?

Initiatives implemented by UN agencies or humanitarian organizations do not give the refugees ownership but they are passive recipients of help. More and more refugees are coming into Uganda especially since the outbreak of hot conflict in South Sudan and Burundi. Uganda cannot manage to create opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people but can only focus on immediate needs and humanitarian aid. Food rations are given out and basic medical services are provided. However, already the provision of basic infrastructure such as clean water is a challenge in the refugee camps. With alleviating the present problems humanitarian aid is not able to look into creating a sustainable future.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

How do we set up OPPORTUNIGEE to become a social enterprise itself so it can sustain itself also financially? The demand for OPPORTUNIGEE is almost endless and after prototyping it now we had to start turning down youth to come here because we have already over 50 people every day and the space is not big enough. How do we select people and what can we offer to the ones who want to join, yet we have no space? How can we provide for our members some basic needs when they come to OPPORTNIGEE with empty stomachs? How to get market for the products we are producing at OPPORTUNIGEE? If youth come up with innovative solutions which require some startup capital, how could they raise it?

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

Yes, however aspects of it have been done already before in different contexts. The core team of refugees experienced a new system of entrepreneurship education at SINA. NakivArt uses art to provide safe spaces to express and heal from trauma and past experiences. Project DEFY created schools without teachers in a self-organized way in India and the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) is unleashing the potentials of marginalized youth to become social entrepreneurs creating jobs in Uganda. The combination and bringing both into a refugee camp is new and nowhere in the world does an Opportunity Hub for refugees exist. The idea of social entrepreneurship in the refugee settlement is completely new. The refugees survive from handouts by UNHCR and NGOs come in once in a while to "help". OPPORTUNIGEE is there so we refugees create our future ourselves and stop the dependency on handouts. Through Social Business we tackle social challenges in a sustainable way. One dollar from a donation has only one life, one dollar in a social business is reinvested all the time and has an endless life of impact. We are still in an early stage but we have learned a lot over the past two months.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

We, the refugees are running the space by ourselves and are in charge of everything. We started as Patrick, Raphael and Victor but after the first few feews, we are now a community of 50 people, who have taken ownership of the space. Our core team has 5 members Project. DEFY came for 10 days to introduce self-learning and project prototyping principles and the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) is providing us with inputs for coaching and mentoring and the financial push to get started.

NakivArt was started as a project in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement by a group of refugees under the lead of Patrick and Raphael Muvunga and Victor Turatsinze. They feld the Democratic Republic of Congo and have lived in the settlement for many years. Since 2015 they used art as a form for trauma healing for the children and youth of the camp, giving a space to draw, play, exchange, learn together and express themselves. Patrick, Raphael and Victor were invited to become scholars at the Social Innovation Academy (SINA), founded by Etienne Salborn from Germany, who is living in Uganda since 2006.


The Social Innovation Academy (SINA) is giving marginalized youth in Uganda an environment where they become social entrepreneurs and turn around their tragic life stories into catalysts for social change. At SINA the NakivArt-Team experienced and impersonated the unique SINA culture of empowerment and collaboration, while also having gone through training and have learned how to conduct trainings. They went through trainings for unlearning limiting believes and identifying opportunities with and for communities. They have experienced coaching for personal growth and unleashing potentials and have specialized in learning coaching techniques to be able to coach others and train others on the basics of coaching. They have further specialized in training and facilitation tools and are able to hold sessions empowering other youth and allow them to drive their own education. In early 2016 Etienne Salborn met Abhijit Sinha in Kampala, who is the founder of Project DEFY in India. They quickly realized that they have to work together, bearing a similar vision of transforming education giving the power to the people in order to drive their own curricula and create opportunities and jobs for themselves.


Project DEFY has successfully proven that is possible for youth to create and run their own learning spaces, where they design their own education and learn by developing projects out of interest. It has established two such spaces, that they call Nooks, in India. SINA has created an empowerment model which has shown remarkable success in allowing marginalized and disadvantaged youth to transform their lives and become social entrepreneurs. The NakivArt SINA scholars have taken on this model into the refugee settlement and started to make it their own.


In October 2016, SINA supported NakivArt to build a house out of plastic bottles with the community of refugees in Nakivale. The space was finished on October 20th. On October 21st Etienne, Abhijit, Patrick Raphael, Victor and the NakivArt team of refugees all came together in Nakivale to start a first prototype of the self-organized learning space. The Office of the Prime Minister in Uganda, who is in charge of Refugees in the country granted us permission to get started within Nakivale. OPPORTUNIGEE was set up on the land belonging to Patrick and Raphael. The response by the refugees was enormous and over 50 young refugees came to the space since the first day. The refugees have different nationalities and come from different backgrounds and religions but they share, learn, teach and create together, male and female alike.


OPPORTUNIGEE is an innovation because a self-organized entrepreneurship hub within a refugee camp does not exist anywhere and it allows the youth to design their own education and create their own economic opportunities.


Possibilities to go to school or take part in any kind or education or opportunities are almost non-existent in the refugee camp. The youth has an enormous drive to be able to sustain themselves, generate income and create a dignified life by themselves, but the settlement only provides them with a small piece of land and the UNHRC hands out food rations. Many wait for resettlement to other countries but the chances are almost zero. Uganda treats refugees as a problem, who need to be controlled and isolated from the rest of the society. Yet the young refugees have dreams and untapped talent. They lack the opportunities to unleash their potentials.


OPPORTUNIGEE is here to change this. Ever since we started in late October 2016, we received many visitors from international aid agencies to the Office of the Prime Minister and the UNHCR, who have been impressed with our initiative. We therefore decided to start a crowdfunding campaign to raise more funds to sustain ourselves also in 2017 and take the first prototype to the next level for us refugees to create our own opportunities and jobs.


“When a flower doesn't bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” - Alexander Den Heijer

SHARE ONE SENTENCE ABOUT THE IMPACT YOU WOULD LIKE THIS PROJECT TO HAVE FIVE YEARS FROM NOW, AND ONE QUESTION YOU NEED TO ANSWER TO GET THERE.

In 2021 we want to see many OPPORTUNIGEE Hubs in all major Refugee Settlements in Africa and a number of Hubs in Nakivale, each hub having empowered hundreds of refugee youth to create their own jobs through social entrepreneurship while tackling the social and environmental challenges in sustainable ways through social business. How can OPPORTUNIGEE become a sustainable social business itself, which is able to sustain itself, its members and scale into other refugee settlements?

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • We didn't have an operating budget

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work

HOW LONG HAVE YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES BEEN WORKING ON THIS PILOT PROJECT TOGETHER?

  • Less than 6 months

WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED IN JOINING AMPLIFY'S PORTFOLIO OF INNOVATORS?

Uganda and most countries around the world see refugees as a burden, we are here to show that it can be different! 50 youth are now coming daily and create their own jobs. Online websites like instructables, coursera or openideo are our teachers. Through kiron.ngo some of our members have enrolled and started studying university degrees from some of the best colleges in the world. OPPORTUNIGEE works and we, the refugees of Nakivale, are commited to find ways of taking it also into other camps!
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Team (5)

abhijit's profile
abhijit sinha

Role added on team:

"Founder of Project DEFY from India. Has been to Uganda many times."

Etienne's profile
Trickpa's profile
Trickpa Muvunga

Role added on team:

"OPPORTUNIGEE Team Lead within the Nakivale Refugee Settlement. In charge of coaching and mentoring. Fled DRC together with his brother Raphael and has lived in Nakivale for almost 6 years."

TURATSINZE's profile
TURATSINZE MAFIGI

Role added on team:

"OPPORTUNIGEE Team Lead within the Nakivale Refugee Settlement. In charge of giving inputs, trainings and sessions. Fled DRC and has lived in Nakivale for almost 3 years."

Raphael's profile
Raphael Muvunga

Role added on team:

"OPPORTUNIGEE Team Lead within the Nakivale Refugee Settlement. In charge of logistics and IT. Fled DRC together with his brother Patrick and has lived in Nakivale for almost 6 years."

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Photo of Etienne Ssuubi
Team

A short movie about life in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement and OPPORTUNIGEE was created as one of the projects in Opportunigee:
https://web.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fweb.facebook.com%2Fopportunigee%2Fvideos%2F383379328683898%2F

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