Self-reliance runway for refugees in Nairobi

Providing concrete, measurable pathway to enhance self-reliance for refugees.


Contact details

Submitted by: Simar Singh

Email: [email protected] 


2018 Annual Report available here.

Journal of Refugee Studies field report from Nairobi available here.


Twitter: @RefugePt




Introduction to the project




Since 2005


RefugePoint’s Self-Reliance Runway approach provides a concrete, measurable pathway for enhancing self-reliance for refugees. The training and technical assistance components of the program help to replicate, adapt and expand self-reliance programming with partners around Africa and globally.

While livelihoods programs and the ‘graduation approach’ traditionally focus on refugees who appear ready and ‘viable’ for employment or entrepreneurship, RefugePoint endeavors to identify at-risk refugees, help them stabilize and address their social protection needs, giving them a ‘runway’ to reach the point of viability for economic pursuits.

Over the past year, this approach has been implemented with host communities in Nairobi alongside refugees, with positive results for both communities.

Project aims

The main aim of RefugePoint’s Self-Reliance Runway approach in Nairobi, Kenya, is to help at-risk refugees stabilize their lives and achieve a degree of self-reliance – that is, to earn sufficient income to cover their essential needs and improve their quality of life. While directly improving the lives of thousands of refugees is the main aim, a secondary goal is to test and refine a holistic programming approach that can inform policymakers and practitioners working to expand self-reliance opportunities for refugees.

By focusing on at-risk refugees the project also aims to demonstrate that self-reliance may not be off limits even for some refugees considered to be highly vulnerable, provided they have the desire to become self-reliant and are properly supported in their journey.

Main activities of the Good Practice 

RefugePoint’s Self-Reliance Runway Approach includes the provision of holistic economic and social support, coordinated and facilitated by a case manager based on the specific needs of each refugee family. It also includes livelihoods training, business development support and startup capital to engage in income-generating activities.


Financial support for the development of the Self-Reliance Runway approach was provided by many private donors and foundations over 14 years, including:

  • IKEA Foundation
  • Jasmine Social Investments
  • The Charitable Foundation
  • Imago Dei Fund
  • Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
  • G. Barrie Landry, Landry Family Foundation
  • Patrick J. McGovern Foundation
  • Alchemy Foundation
  • ELMA Relief Foundation
  • and others.

How challenges were overcome 

RefugePoint’s clients faced the barriers to self-reliance that most refugees have to confront: lack of legal status; work authorization and access to financial services; lack of stable, safe housing; food insecurity; health conditions; trauma and depression; language barriers; lack of childcare and social capital; etc.

Many of these challenges have been overcome by the holistic ‘runway’ approach taken by RefugePoint. Similar to the breadth of coordinated services a resettled refugee would receive in their new country, RefugePoint provides a one-stop-shop of interlinked social services for its urban refugee clients in Nairobi. It helps with housing, food, healthcare, psychosocial counselling, education, livelihoods coaching and small business grants, etc. When necessary, it also helps refugees acquire business licenses from the city council offices. While advocating for refugees’ enjoyment of the full spectrum of rights, RefugePoint also capitalizes on the opportunities that already exist in the entrepreneurship space.

Results of the Good Practice 

  • Nearly 3,000 refugees have ‘graduated’ from RefugePoint services through this program.
  • RefugePoint has found that by addressing the barriers to self-reliance (e.g. by providing the needed healthcare, prescriptions, household goods, trauma counselling, and enrolling the children in school), many adult refugees that initially appeared highly vulnerable can actually become self-reliant and regain control of their futures and finances.
  • The measurement tool that RefugePoint created to support its programming in Nairobi has helped inform the creation of the new Self-Reliance Index. The Index encourages a holistic approach to programming by considering a multi-sectoral socioeconomic view of self-reliance.
  • RefugePoint, both on its own and through the Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative, offers training and technical assistance to partners interested in learning more about the measurement tool and the holistic self-reliance runway approach used in Nairobi.