Creating refugee camp entrepreneurs

  • September 17, 2015
Creating refugee camp entrepreneurs

Governments should promote entrepreneurship in refugee camps, says paper.

As the number of forcibly displaced increases, the urgency to find solutions to redress the negative aspects of life in a refugee camp for those in protracted exile also rises.

Marlen de la Chaux and Helen Haugh

Policymakers should foster entrepreneurship at refugee camps to help fill an “institutional void” that leads to despair, boredom and crime, according to a new paper co-authored by a Gates Cambridge Scholar.

“Refugee camp entrepreneurs reduce aid dependency and in so doing help to give life meaning for, and confer dignity on, the entrepreneurs,” says the paper authored by Marlen de la Chaux and Helen Haugh, Senior Lecturer in Community Enterprise at Cambridge's Judge Business School.

While such camps are created on the assumption they will be temporary in response to a passing emergency, such displacement is in fact often protracted – so “the rules of the game concerning temporary institutions do not reflect the reality of life in the camp”, the paper says.

The paper – entitled “Entrepreneurship and Innovation: How Institutional Voids Shape Economic Opportunities in Refugee Camps” – was presented by the authors at this summer’s 75th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in Vancouver, Canada.

The paper identifies three institutional barriers to refugee camp entrepreneurship: a lack of functioning markets, inefficient legal and political systems, and poor infrastructure. It says this presents a number of opportunities for policymakers to boost entrepreneurship opportunities, including urban planning techniques to design useful infrastructure because long-term refugee camps “tend to resemble small cities rather than transient settlements”.

In addition, it says cash-based aid programmes and partnerships between refugee camp organisers and micro-lending institutions can provide seed capital to refugee camp ventures; innovation hubs such as those recently established in Nairobi, Kenya, can help provide access to business advice and seed capital; and the host country can create employment opportunities within the refugee camp by outsourcing some tasks to refugees.

“As the number of forcibly displaced increases, the urgency to find solutions to redress the negative aspects of life in a refugee camp for those in protracted exile also rises,” the paper says. Enlightened policies to boost refugee-camp entrepreneurship “may also make a positive contribution to the economy of the host country and in so doing help to reduce the local resentment experienced by those living in camps.”

Marlen [2013] is doing a PhD in Management Studies with the support of a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

*Picture credit: By US Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Latest News

Shaping policy and Alzheimer’s research

Just six years since leaving Cambridge, Brianne Kent has secured a role as Assistant Professor, won multiple awards,  become the first early career researcher on the Governing Council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [CIHR] and is currently setting up her own laboratory to further her studies on Alzheimer’s disease. Since January, when she […]

Ed-tech wins Gates Foundation funding for access work

An ed-tech non-profit co-founded by a Gates Cambridge Scholar has received a $980,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop its free college affordability tool. Moneythink, co-founded by Greg Nance who is also its Board Chair, says the money will help it to accelerate the development and reach of DecidED, its free […]

Gates Cambridge: a purposeful community

As the Gates Cambridge Scholarship reaches the end of its 20th anniversary year, its alumni association is holding an event late this month which celebrates some of the factors that have shaped the scholar community. That sense of community, of a global network of leaders, developed and owned by the scholars and alumni themselves, is […]

Fibre optic project aims to improve Sri Lanka’s infrastructure

A Gates Cambridge Alumnus has formed a partnership between his university, Cambridge and Oxford universities and a local engineering company to introduce a cutting-edge technology to Sri Lanka. A team of researchers and industry experts from the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka, the Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC), the University of […]