Refugees and Social intrapreneurship: think beyond donations

There are more than 20 million people in the world who leave their countries looking for a better life. All over the world. Every day arrive thousands of people in Western countries and discussion on the refugee issues dominate the media andsocial  channels. There are many needs to fulfill for the arriving refugees. Not everyone is welcoming refugees, mostly because of personal fears, uncertainty on how to deal with it and persona reasons, but there is a lot of willingness to help, as well. Donations of all kind are frequent. And that’s a first and essential step to help: We, the people who can donate, give money, clothing, food. Many companies ask employees to collect whatever is needed. We give, they receive.   

Did you ever think about how to create a win- win instead a one way support only? If we talk of the huge trend of social intrepreneurial thinking, why not apply some mechanism to cover the needs of refugees and create at the same time a win for those who want to help?

Are there ways to achieve more for all?

Yes, there are. And it does not require much. Besides the fact to deliver “items” and to wait if integration works we as individuals – and organizations – can create relationships and overcome emotional bareers. All this is possible without asking too much  in terms of time or money. 

One example is combining real engagement and the nomination principle so much liked in Facebook. 

The idea: organize 2-3 hours lasting welcome workshops – there where refugees live. A small group of employees interacts directly with a group of twenty refugees. Do a quiz on tipical elements of our culture, let them find out how the country where they have arrived look, where are the big cities and rivers, who are the influencers and general activities we all like ( politicians, actors, writers, national sports…). Inform them about unwritten rules, behavior, give information on values that are important in our societies such as private freedom, equal treatment of men and women, sanitation, and let them talk what is strange to them, what they like and what seems to be strange to them. You will find out that it helps a lot to talk, discuss and interact. 

There are a lot is smiles in it

Invite also to create a collage by using news magazines – of things they like, do not understand, dream of. I remember a young man from Siria who wondered why our cooking sets are all small or what is this strange green vegetable. We ended up with exchanging recipes and learning so much about food habits… We had a lot of fun. 

Real integration is based on human relationships, not on shoes we donate 

The biggest impact was the fact that we started to build human relationships during these workshops.  When we left we had a completely different idea about the “humans” behind the rather emotionless term of “refugees”. We realized that our fears were disappeared. We were happy because we and the refugees had a good time together. We had seen that we can make it. Yes, we can. 

And the nomination principle? 

Well, everyone participates in such a workshop just three times. Not more, not less: Three times, three hours each – an engagement of nine hours totally. Based on a rotatimg and nomination system which works so well on Facebook. Why not adapt it?

There are three colleagues and three roles. The first time the new colleague who is nominated just joins in the role of an observer. There is the workshop leader and one colleague who supports. The next time the observer becomes the supporter, the supporter the workshop lead. Who had run a workshop as leader (what happens the third time) has finished his/her “work” afterwards. 

So, it does not cost too much time and affords. I could imagine that many employers could even support that kind of engagement and make it part of counted working time. Not because of social support, but because it creates a huge win for the employees. Being innovative, leadership skills, teamwork, flexibility, testing own capacities and learning – all these elements are practiced. With a purpose. 

What’s in for whom?

For the refugees it is a huge help of orientation and to learn about a country they have never been before. For the employees it is an opportunity to go beyond pure donations. It’s about a purpose-driven engagement, about overcoming fears, training leadership skills and having a chance to feel proud of their organization. 

The materials?

A map, some scissors, glue, paper and a read through the refugee guide. A fantastic guiding paper on German unwritten rules and behavior.  It can be downloaded here. Think about some questions you can ask for the quiz. Keep it simple. 

And besides that it requires just your willingness to engage. It’s really just a small thing, but it has so much impact. 

I wish I could talk to all of you and share what I have learned. It was much more than in many expensive leadership trainings. It is about our companies values, about implementing what normally we just think in theory. The costs for achieving all that? No big money needed. Just think about it. 

Related material

Refugee guide, available in many languages

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