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Kevin commented on RAICES Global Sanctuary Network

Dear Lily Cabrera  and the RAICES team,

Congratulations for your wonderful work in Texas and for this courageous initiative. For your expansion into Mexico, I would encourage you to get registered as a foreign non-profit in the country as soon as possible. I would also make sure you have strong local legal counsel in Mexico, both to assist you in registration and to help you navigate future issues of authorizations, employment law, taxation, etc.. This is particularly important if you're going to be employing staff in Mexico, but also for signing leases, contracting services, etc.. As for vetting your RSGN partners, I would focus on triangulating information with all of the reputable agencies who are already working on both sides of the border - including faith-based agencies - many of whom you probably already know from your work in Texas. I would also suggest some common written commitment to safeguarding/transparency/professional ethics/non-prostelytizing, etc., as well as some training/orientation of their staff/volunteers, that you could ask all of your members to sign on to, particularly any who work with unaccompanied minors. As for figuring out who is being served by other NGOs, there will hopefully evolve some coordination mechanism and data base against which you can check names, as in large refugee situations. Normally some UN agency organizes this but otherwise it can be done by a group of NGOs, since everyone has the same challenge to avoid duplication. At any rate, good luck!

Dear Chao,

Congratulations for a very impressive initiative. I'm afraid I lack the expertise to respond to your first and third questions, but I do have some insight on the second question and also some general comments/questions to consider as you refine this presentation. Most importantly it was not completely clear from this narrative what the current request for funding was for, i.e., what the scaling-up of this model would consist of (testing new technology? expanding into new countries? new sorts of activities? first-time micro-finance?). I read this over twice but was still confused as to what - of what was being described - already existed, and what was being proposed. It was also not clear whether Migration Lab aimed to produce technology to be made available to the development and humanitarian community, or aimed to establish it's own service provision programs, or both. Most confusing is the reference to very non-financial objectives of peace-building, social cohesion, resolution of land issues, inter-cultural communication; it is not at all clear how any of this would result from a financial inclusion technology. I know that space is limited in this format but it would be very helpful to clarify these issues. On the second question above, I would say that my experience is that the use of micro-finance or self-help groups to acheive other ends (other than as a source of financial support to their members) requires a great deal of accompaniement and generally doesn't work unless there is an existing strong collective desire to engage in some issue on the part of group members. At any rate, I think the objective of financial inclusion is a hugely admirable one and I'm sure that your work will continue to further it. Good luck!

Dear Ahmed and other members of the 4City team,

I'm afraid I lack the expertise to respond to your first and third questions, about crowd-sourcing or financial transactions. My experience with such programs is limited to the challenges of identifying and accompanying appropriate entrepreneurs but it seems that you and your partner agencies are well positioned to do this. As to the second question, I would personally advise strongly against trying to derive your own financial sustainabililty- as a service provider - from this or any other such activity. In my experience high-quality programs such as you describe here will never cover even a significant fraction of their costs service fees or loan interest; the true costs of administering such programs are way too high and the attempt to recover significant costs from beneficiaries creates a conflict of interest and leads inevitably to a shift against the neediest (less 'viable') clients. I honestly think the only financial sustainability of a program like this results from successful fundraising from public and private donors, and that there are many such donors looking for effective livelihoods programs in extremely difficult places like Azaz. Good luck!