Supporting Refugee-Led Organizations Globally
The project in brief
“I love Tafawol so much because of the way they treat me. In Tafawol, I was a recipient of the handicrafts training 3 month program. This training for me has been life-changing because I learned a new profession that I am now using to put food on the table for my four children. I, myself, now train 20 other women from our community on handicrafts work, such as henna art and making hand bags and purses. Thanks to Tafawol, my four children go to Tafawol school too and they feel very safe and included there.”
- A Sudanese refugee benefitting from the holistic programs offered by Tafawol (one of RRLI’s refugee-led grantee partners in Egypt)
The project is implemented by the Resourcing Refugee Leadership Initiative (RRLI) in Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon and Uganda. It began in May 2021 and is currently ongoing.
The first-of-its-kind global RLO-to-RLO Fund is a fund for refugees by refugees, governed by the RRLI Coalition and housed at Asylum Access in the United States. The fund aggregates and safely distributes funding to RLOs globally. The fund has two types of grants: seed funding up to 25,000 USD for high-potential but smaller RLOs, and scaling funding of 100,000 to 200,000 USD annually for organizations with demonstrated ability to grow their impact.
RRLI aims to transfer power and resources to refugee-led organizations within the current international humanitarian and development system. RRLI’s mission is to resource refugee-led organizations (RLOs) to uplift communities and combat systemic refugee exclusion within refugee response. When local RLOs have funding and access to scale their impact, their communities can access holistic, community-driven support and solutions. As the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of community-based actors in providing critical services, as well as within the broader context of growing calls for shifting power and localizing humanitarian and development efforts, RRLI aims to put these ideas into practice and change the current landscape of the refugee response system.
© Refugiados Unidos
Main activities of the Good Practice
- RLO-to-RLO Fund: The first-of-its-kind global RLO-to-RLO Fund is a fund for refugees by refugees, governed by the RRLI coalition and housed at Asylum Access in the United States. The fund aggregates and safely distributes funding to RLOs globally. The fund has two types of grants: seed funding up to 25,000 USD for high-potential but smaller RLOs, and scaling funding of 100,000 to 200,000 USD annually for organizations with demonstrated ability to grow their impact. Currently, the RLO-to-RLO Fund makes grants in Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Uganda. This US-based legally registered fund offers donors a way to safely, quickly, and smoothly fund RLOs globally, especially for those donors who need more time to adapt to funding RLOs directly. RRLI basically acts as an intermediary; in a recent report by ODI, RRLI came 3rd among the largest intermediaries funding RLOs in the world in 2022.
- Strengthening RLOs Partnership Program: Through this peer-to-peer support program, RRLI coalition members support new RLO-to-RLO Fund grantees to build systems, develop leadership, and, most importantly, overcome location- and context-specific barriers to funding and growing their impact. The Program also connects RLO grantees to useful networks such as relevant local civil society networks, donor networks, and advocacy initiatives so they can better sustain their work and promote their agendas.
Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice
As we organized our governance structure, built and deployed our advocacy strategy, and designed and implemented our grantmaking mechanism, we ensured refugee inclusion and leadership was embedded in every step of the process. The lived experience and professional experience of our coalition members and implementation team, and the inclusion of their perspectives at every step of the process, have led to trauma-informed, locally relevant materials and programming that resonate with the organizations we work with. Beyond our coalition members, we also aim to conduct an inclusive approach to grantmaking by working with our grantees in a collaborative manner. This includes providing grants in timeframes and sizes in line with the needs and position of the grantees and being open to new ways of conceptualizing and presenting impact.
The Resourcing Refugee Leadership Initiative (RRLI) is a coalition of six refugee-led organizations (RLOs):
- Basmeh & Zeitooneh in Iraq and Lebanon
- Refugees and Asylum Seekers Information Centre in Indonesia
- Refugiados Unidos in Colombia
- St. Andrew’s Refugee Services in Egypt
- Young African Refugees for Integral Development in Uganda
- Asylum Access, a global advocacy organization
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
Over the past two years, RRLI has encountered a widespread skepticism from influential entities within the sector, questioning whether refugee-led organizations (RLOs) possess the capability to handle substantial funding and whether forming equitable partnerships could truly enhance responses to refugee situations. This skepticism posed a substantial barrier, slowing down our progress towards achieving our ambitious objectives. Secondly, key stakeholders, including governments, donors, foundations, and INGOs, showed reluctance in directly supporting RLOs. This resistance further complicated our efforts to foster a more inclusive and effective approach in the sector.
How they were overcome
In response to these challenges, RRLI has taken a proactive and collaborative approach. We recognize that the issues we face are deeply embedded in the existing power dynamics of the refugee response sector. To address this, we are actively working with our partners to identify, acknowledge, and dismantle these problematic power structures. By doing so, we aim to pave the way for a more equitable and effective approach to refugee response. Additionally, RRLI is committed to continuously generating and presenting evidence that highlights the significant impact and importance of refugee leadership in the sector. Through these efforts, we are not only challenging existing norms but also demonstrating the value and necessity of empowering RLOs in transforming the refugee response landscape.
© Makani/ Aline Deschamps
Results of the Good Practice
- 633,123 community members were supported in total in Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon & Uganda in 2022-23 and over 820,000 since RRLI’s inception.
- Refugiados Unidos in Colombia, New Vision in Egypt, and Refugees and Asylum Seekers Information Center (RAIC) in Indonesia unlocked long-term solutions through legal aid and/or private sponsorship. Ten partners, including Tafawol and Faysel in Egypt and Help for Refugees in Indonesia, supported thousands of children to receive high-quality education. KOWED and Tomorrow Vijana in Uganda, and Makani in Lebanon launched economic inclusion initiatives that led to job placements, income generation, or marketable skills development.
“I have three children. I got injured during the port explosion in Beirut. I was rushed to the hospital with internal brain bleeding and many other broken ribs and bones. I lost my memory and lost my ability to speak. I couldn’t recognise my children or any of the people around me for four months. After that I started to regain my memory bit by bit. I got involved with Makani and started crocheting. When I go to the center I feel like I am going home to a place that belongs to me. I got so much better mentally, I changed and I started to be more positive and a better person for my children. The work makes me feel that I belong somewhere. I met other women, I made money, I feel I am creating a better future. When I go there I feel that I am actually living.”
- Participant of the Oshana program by Makani (one of RRLI’s refugee-led grantee partners in Lebanon)
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
In terms of easing the pressures on host countries, our support for RLOs plays a critical role. RLOs facilitate the socioeconomic integration of refugees into local communities. They implement various projects and programs focusing on crucial areas such as livelihood development, education, and legal aid. This strategic support allows refugees to become active, contributing members of the host community. Rather than being perceived as a burden, refugees, through the assistance of RLOs, demonstrate their potential as valuable and productive members of society. RRLI commitment to empowering RLOs thus serves a dual purpose: it nurtures the independence of refugees and fosters harmonious coexistence with host communities, creating a positive impact for all involved.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
To enhance refugee self-reliance, we provide quality funding to Refugee-Led Organizations (RLOs). This approach is highly effective because RLOs deeply understand the unique challenges faced by their communities. Being part of the same community, they are intimately aware of the most pressing needs and viable solutions. This insider perspective ensures that RLOs are not only representative but also accountable to the people they serve. Furthermore, RLOs demonstrate remarkable efficiency and impact in creating and executing community-specific projects. Their cost-effective operations ensure that resources are maximized for the greatest benefit.
Objective 3: Expand access to third-country solutions
RLOs support communities in expanding access to third-country solutions, such as refugee resettlement, by guiding refugees through legal processes and private sponsorship processes so members of their community can be resettled into a third country.
RRLI will continue to provide funding to refugee-led organizations in the coming years. Specifically, we intend to provide renewals in funding to our coalition members and current grantee partners, as well as provide funding to a new cohort of ten refugee-led organizations in 2024.
Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?
We require funds to ensure the sustainability of RRLI over the long term, including to provide grants to new cohorts of refugee-led organizations. Furthermore, we require additional funding to scale up our efforts beyond our current five countries of presence to ensure that refugee-led programming is central to refugee response globally.