Through ongoing participatory action research, we have captured the learning resulting from the first year of the project and we will be sharing it with all our Fresh Start project collaborators and all the other projects funded by the Entrepreneurial capacity building for young migrants Programme. We are looking forward to learning more this year from their stories and experiences and, in this way, it is hoped that this kind of projects as a whole will be useful for similar programmes, policy makers and migrant entrepreneurs.
Local partnerships have been established with a number of relevant organisations in each country who are providing their expert knowledge and experience of working with migrants in these challenging times.
For example, project partner Citizens UK in London is an advocacy and campaigning organisation which works closely with community citizen groups and local municipalities in welcoming refugees and migrants to London. They have been organising a number of successful listening events with refugee and migrant groups to hear what their needs and expectations are from the Fresh start project. The project partner NWES has been providing business advice and mentorship.
UCLL developed a wide network of local co-contributors. They started off by mapping local initiatives for integration and agencies promoting entrepreneurship. Then they created a first conversational space in their advisory group session. Following on from that, they developed a second virtual one in their portal site, a third through their networked course and a fourth through extensive networking and finally through communities of practice and the matching platform of Unizo, an interest organization for SMEs. This allowed them to draw on the expertise and experience of the whole network of organisations as well as to develop interest and engagement from this wide network.
Zuyd works together with different local partners, that all have were assigned different roles in the project. For example: the local branch of the Dutch Refugee Council is assisting in the recruitment phase, the Starter’s Centre, a business that assesses and supports potential entrepreneurs is involved in coaching and training, and the Maastricht Centre for Entrepreneurship does further research into the effectiveness of the programme. Along the way, Zuyd met new and different partners active in the field of migrants and the labour market that proved to be useful for new insights concerning integration issues.
Hopes and expectations
Interest has been high so far among migrant entrepreneurs and there are plenty of potential participants. Launch events have proved very inspiring and we have already learned a great deal from participants who have shared a wide range of exciting business ideas. In London there were some concerns by the participants about possible clashes in the timing of the Fresh Start programme with their job centre requirement to be available for work but these have been addressed by offering courses in the evening and weekends.
In Limburg refuge participants have other obligations as well: they have to get their diploma accredited by Naric, take care of their children, attend language courses, take care of all obligations administrative and network to get into the right professional communities.
Also in the Netherlands it is sometimes difficult for the participants to balance their time between the training (1,5 days per week) and other obligations, such as their search for work (required by the municipalities), child care, language courses. At the same time they have limitless ideas about possible businesses, and they are full of zest for action!
A culture of shared learning
We were all very impressed with the passion and commitment shown by participants. Many of them felt that this was a great opportunity to follow the dreams they once had and which they had had to shelve because of circumstances. They wanted to move on from just doing a job to pay the bills to a future where they could make use of their skills and creativity, forge a future career and contribute more to society.
This is, of course, one of the aims of Fresh Start, to help to build participants’ confidence as both people and entrepreneurs, resulting in both individual and societal benefits.