Same Skies: motivating refugees to take charge of their lives 

A community-based approach that emphasizes strengths, resilience and access to human rights, in other words “Refugee-Led Action”.
GCR Objective 2: Refugee Self-reliance

Same Skies: motivating refugees to take charge of their lives 

A community-based approach that emphasizes strengths, resilience and access to human rights, in other words “Refugee-Led Action”.

The project in brief

Implemented by

Same Skies






Over the past five years, Same Skies has developed and tested a community-based approach that emphasizes strengths, resilience and access to human rights. We call this “Refugee-Led Action”. The core of this approach is the belief that refugees have strengths and abilities to contribute to society. In the absence of formal support systems, refugee groups are willing to take matters into their own hands, and we believe that they should be allowed to take charge of every step involved in seeking and implementing responses to the challenges they face. Same Skies has been supporting groups in Indonesia and Malaysia but we believe that our programme is adaptable to different contexts.

We disseminate this approach through the Transformative Leadership in Action programme, at the same time promoting global citizenship and collaborative leadership. This programme is a means to grow and strengthen partnerships between the humanitarian and corporate/private sector. Transformative Leadership in Action is an action-based blended-learning programme for professionals from diverse backgrounds that focuses on professional development, while creating a tangible and lasting impact.

Participants are expected to assume joint responsibility and accountability for the design, implementation and evaluation of a sustainable refugee-led initiative.



  • UNHCR Indonesia
  • The Border Crossing Observatory of Monash University
  • HOST International 
  • Beyond the Fabric
  • The Make it Right Movement

Results of the Good Practice 

Refugee-led initiatives can help to fill a gap in humanitarian action and provide displaced communities with a sense of belonging. They build resilience and contribute to the community-based social protection system. The facilitation of meaningful engagement, personal development, self-confidence, hope and aspiration is also critical to the coping strategies, resilience and overall mental wellbeing of the refugee participants. Their participation can help them to add purpose to their lives, and lift them out of inactivity, depression and trauma. 

The programme also focuses on strengthening civil society through the creation of a community of like-minded people who collaborate across borders to contribute to social change. By sharing their experiences, participants broaden the effect locally and internationally. Since the refugee participants are responsible for all practical steps, there are frequent examples of positive interaction, growth of trust and mutual understanding between them and the host community. Refugee-led initiatives demonstrate that refugees are serious and passionate about contributing to the community and making themselves useful. This will help change the perception of refugees and generate more support for integration.

Main activities of the Good Practice

Through Transformative Leadership in Action, aspiring leaders from any country and sector collaborate with refugees. As the first programme component, they study online courses, and are connected to the experts who developed them through video conferencing. 

They then apply their new knowledge as a team. During a residential session, they consult the wider refugee community to assess the context and then co-design and implement a refugee-led solution. As half of the programme participants are refugees who live in the country of project implementation, these members will manage the project long-term. 

Participants are paired with a leadership coach based on personal learning objectives they set for themselves. 

Our academic team is made up of cross-sectoral experts. The practical part of the programme is guided by the Same Skies team as project mentors. After the official programme is competed, Same Skies continues to support the refugee team with training and mentoring for another 12 months.


A foreseeable challenge could be refugee participants pulling out of the programme after seven months, where they use their newly gained knowledge to find a different opportunity. The likelihood for this to happen is medium, thus Same Skies has taken steps to meet this challenge by conducting thorough interviews and reference checks, clarifying expectations, asking participants to sign agreements and reiterate commitment to the participants and the refugee community.

Submitted by: 

Julia Frei, International Director, Same Skies