Compra con Propósito (Buy with Purpose)

Bridging Markets to Empower Entrepreneurs and Uplift Communities in Need
Good Practices

Compra con Propósito (Buy with Purpose)

Bridging Markets to Empower Entrepreneurs and Uplift Communities in Need

"For me, this 'Compra con Propósito' space is very important because it allows us to open a window for ourselves as entrepreneurs and small producers, to make ourselves known in the local market and even in the national market. Therefore, for me, and I believe for many entrepreneurs, this is extremely valuable, and it would be fantastic if more spaces like this were opened."

- Sorelys – Venezuelan Entrepreneur

The project in brief

The project is implemented by The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Ecuador. It began in 2022 and is currently ongoing.

"Compra con Propósito" is an initiative dedicated to empowering vulnerable entrepreneurs by promoting the sale of their products in retail markets. The project supports a diverse range of goods from across the country – crafted by people from various backgrounds, including urban and rural dwellers, women, people with disabilities, refugees, migrants, and local population. In 2023 the project reached 129 entrepreneurs, 70% of whom are women and 50% of whom are refugees and people forced to flee.

The initiative seeks to help vulnerable entrepreneurs, that have been previously supported by business incubation projects, to connect to new market opportunities that could ensure sustainable sales.

Participants of the inauguration of Compra con Propósito - a group of people standing round a display of products

© Omar Ganchala

Main activities of the Good Practice

"Compra con Propósito," initiated in early 2023, aims to assist forcibly displaced entrepreneurs with market-ready products who face challenges in market integration due to their vulnerable status. This initiative serves as a crucial final step in the support system provided by humanitarian organizations to refugees and displaced individuals, focusing on helping them establish sustainable business connections with retail markets.

Key activities and practices of the project include:

  • Empowerment of Entrepreneurs: The primary goal is to empower these entrepreneurs to become job creators and stimulate local economies.
  • Funding and Incentives: Funding was secured to produce "Compra con Propósito" branded displays, offered as incentives to participating businesses.
  • Targeting Entrepreneurs: The project collaborates with entrepreneurs associated with the UNHCR and those referred by other UN agencies, specifically those who have formalized their businesses but struggle to access markets.
  • Training Programs: Entrepreneurs receive training in retail, pricing, and marketing, particularly in B2B contexts, to enhance their market-readiness.
  • Digital Presence: A webpage and digital catalog showcasing the products and services offered by these entrepreneurs were created.
  • Business Roundtables and Retail Collaboration: The project facilitated business roundtables and engaged with various retail stores to promote these entrepreneurs.
  • Geographical Reach: While mainly based in the capital, the project has expanded to include retail spots in five other cities.
  • Diverse Participation: Half of the participants are refugees or individuals forced to flee, emphasizing the project's commitment to supporting vulnerable populations.
  • Current Progress and Future Plans: As of now, 129 entrepreneurs are involved, with 40% having successfully connected with a retail store. The project is expected to continue into 2024 with a new group of entrepreneurs.

Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice

  • We had identified groups of refugee and local entrepreneurs who had already been supported to create formal businesses but had difficulties entering the market.
  • The project had the buy-in and support of several local UN agencies to coordinate with entrepreneurs.
  • Strategic alliances with businesses in the retail sector.
Woman of the Épera community with their woven baskets

© Diana Diaz

Partners involved

What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?


  • Entrepreneurs had little or no experience selling products as retail suppliers.
  • The project had modest funding internally and no funding by allied organizations.
  • Difficulties approaching new retail markets.

How they were overcome

  • Developed workshops focused on pricing and retailing for entrepreneurs.
  • Working with organizations to integrate the vision of the project in their normal programming and Procuring specific funding for the initiative
  • We created an online catalogue of products to be able to approach retail markets with a more professional tool.

Results of the Good Practice

  • 50% of participants of the project are refugees and forcibly displaced population.
  • Participating entrepreneurs are reporting an increase in their sales and a few have started scaling up their production.
  • Participating entrepreneurs have benefited for networking opportunities with new markets and other entrepreneurs.
  • The project visibility is starting to attract more support and allies that will allow to connect more entrepreneurs.

In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?

Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries

The primary goal is to empower these entrepreneurs to become job creators and stimulate local economies, thus reducing pressures on host countries and becoming drivers of growth.

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

Entrepreneurs, as they connect to new and sustainable market opportunities, can rely on their productive activity as a stable source of family income and plan for the future.

Next steps

The project will continue to be funded in 2024. It is expected to support a new cohort of entrepreneurs, as well as to continue supporting existing ones. It also aims to connect to new and larger retail markets.

Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?

The project needs to strengthen communication and publicity geared towards potential retail businesses, potential allies, and the general consumer.

Submitted by

Ahmad Newton, Livelihoods and Economic Inclusion Associate, UNHCR – Ecuador, [email protected]; Daniela Navas, Livelihoods and Economic Inclusion Officer, UNHCR - Ecuador, [email protected]

Contact the project

To: [email protected]; cc: [email protected]