Capacity Building Program for Refugee-Led Organizations

Refugees, host communities & diaspora

 Capacity Building Program for Refugee-Led Organizations

Contact details 

Submitted by: Sonia Ben Ali, Founding Director 

Email: [email protected] 



Final report available here 

FAQ document for applicants available here 


Introduction to the project 


Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) and Uganda (Kampala) 


Since 2016 - one year per Refugee-Led Organization (RLO)


The Urban Refugees incubation program supports ambitious Refugee-Led Organizations to grow in maturity and deliver visibly better results by providing them with coaching, training, and temporary funding so they can: 

  • Provide better services to their community members.
  • Be considered and participate as key stakeholders in responses to refugee crisis.

This good practice creates a bridge between humanitarian action and development, breaks the circle of aid dependency, and engages a paradigm shift by acting with, and not for, refugees. Our approach amplifies solutions already envisioned and built by refugee communities; solutions that are inexpensive and particularly efficient. 

Project aims 

Enabling RLOs to become key stakeholders in responses at the local, national and international level. 


  • Ashoka
  • US Department of State 
  • Lateral Economics
  • Fondation Agir Sa Vie 
  • Fondation RAJA Agir pour les femmes
  • Humanitarian Innovation Fund

Main activities of the Good Practice

The program consists of 12 months of intensive training delivered on the ground to RLO leaders on their most pressing organizational challenges, coupled with a grant. Our program may vary depending on the needs and ambition of each Refugee-Led Organization we support.  

However, the program typically consists of: 

  • A needs assessment phase (1 month) during which the whole organization’s leadership is involved. During this phase, the program outline is co-built with leaders based on their specific requests and needs as well as our observations with community members and partners (local NGOs, UNHCR, service providers) 
  • Weekly coaching sessions to guide improvements. They are delivered at the community office to 2 main leaders as well as other leaders or volunteers involved in specific improvement activities.  
  • Regular soft skill trainings delivered to the whole leadership of the organization and, if interested, volunteers, to develop team spirit and skills like learning from feedback, creativity or conflict management. 
  • Temporary financial support: a level of financial support may be provided to qualifying RLOs, based on need. The support, if provided, may be in the form of a stipend for staff / leaders to cover their time commitment to the work of the RLO or may be put towards more general support such as office rent or community centre support. 

How challenges were overcome

  • Limited networking opportunities: RLOs are often overlooked by other stakeholders. This challenge is being addressed with advocacy and campaigning activities. 
  • Fundraising: For donors willing to support RLOs, leaders mentioned the difficulties of writing proposals in English instead of their native language. This challenge includes a lack of resources and limited access to digital tools. This challenge is being addressed by providing tailored training enhancing the ability of leaders to write effective proposals, identify potential donors and pitch projects, raise donations from the wealthiest members of the community or develop income generating activities for the organization. 
  • Funding: our approach is at the crossroad between a humanitarian and development approach and we often face challenges in funding our programs. 

Results of the Good Practice

Participating RLOs during our pilot program in Malaysia have shown that they are increasingly: 

  • Supporting their communities, with a focus on the most vulnerable, through the provision of additional services and the sharing of information. 
  • Expanding their reach and impact. 
  • Facilitating the work of humanitarian actors and local partners by acting as key reliable interlocutors, by facilitating the delivery of services and humanitarian aid and by identifying needs and particular target groups. 
  • Enhancing local integration of refugee communities by providing services such as language classes or cultural orientation and by approaching and creating linkages with local authorities, businesses and individuals. 
  • Fostering gender equality within their own organizations and communities. 
  • Playing a peacemakers/peacebuilders role in fragile environments.