Impact Shakers
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Impact Shakers

Changemakers at the margins — Social entrepreneurs with a migration background

Current narratives place people from marginalised communities as passive agents in need of help or compassion instead of active changemakers who are eager and able to contribute. People with a migration background often lack a seat at the table when migration is discussed and debated. At the same time, there is evidence that social entrepreneurs with a migration background are both creative and resilient, and often develop highly innovative solutions to complex challenges.

Why are their voices not included and how can we shift the narrative?

Esade Business School and Ashoka Hello Europe presented a report about how social entrepreneurs with a migration background are making a difference, co-authored by one of our judges at the Impact Shakers Awards, Asma Naimi. In this interview, we asked questions about her research and view on how we can support changemakers at the margins.

Asma, please, tell us about yourself and about the topic you’re working on!

I focus on creating knowledge-based practices in the area of entrepreneurship and social impact. My aim is to ensure the well-being and inclusion of marginalized and disadvantaged people through innovative and empowering approaches that build on their talent and potential. As a PhD candidate at Esade Business School in Barcelona at the Institute for Social Innovation, I researched social entrepreneurs and how they tackle large scale societal challenges like migration and poverty.

The overarching narrative which dominated the media in Europe during the so-called “migration crisis” in 2015 was extremely negative. My motivation for the study was to shine a light on changemakers from migrant communities, who I know existed in my personal and professional surroundings. There is an urgent need to remove the stigma associated with migrants. Social entrepreneurs with a migration background are uniquely positioned to develop solutions that are tailored to their communities’ needs, and to the development of countries and regions in general. If we are able to lower and remove the barriers that keep this change from happening, the results can be astounding.

Can you give us some examples of changemakers you’ve been working with?

I’m privileged to have met a fantastic group of people making a difference, day by day. For example, Abdoulaye Fall who started Winkomun, an association of self-financed communities along with a methodology to set up self-funded communities around the world — giving ownership to the people — or Arjita Sethi who started Equally and uses tech and AI to create virtual labs for learning to provide equal educational opportunities for kids globally. Another example Anas Ragheb, the founder of Mpowerment to help newcomers and refugees to get certification for their qualification and work experience, so they can start working in their profession in their new home countries.

What are the main challenges that people from migrant communities are facing?

People from these communities have to deal with the adversity of having little to no social network in their host countries while they have to adapt to a new culture and language. Due to the lengthy asylum processes, oftentimes they are not allowed to work which adds to the financial difficulties they face. Besides, there is a gap in representation at a decision-making level. The voice of migrants is often not included in policy discussions. Migrants and refugees need to get a seat at the table to ensure that proposed solutions are informed and reflect realities on the ground. This leads to the third issue: stigmatisation. There is a negative portrayal of migrants in media and politics and a victimising paradigm is prevalent, which is detrimental to the perception of migrants, including their self-perception, and leads to polarisation in society.

How can we reverse these trends? How are the social entrepreneurs you worked with handling these issues?

The social entrepreneurs we met are handling these problems head-on thanks to their ability to navigate multiple systems, having an interconnected view as well as perseverance and adaptability. Their solutions include the voice of migrants and are empowering these communities.

By having an empathic approach to the challenges they face on a daily basis, they can act as a bridge between the supporting NGOs and policymakers. We need to proactively support them in elevating the status of their communities by creating space for positive narratives and success stories.

What can we do as a society?

Our role is to support these changemakers in their work and amplify their impact by adopting empathic and empowering approaches in our own practices and organisations. We need to propagate a message that ‘they are more than just refugees’ and put humans at the center of our work. These changemakers are role models for their communities and we can learn from their approach. Time to give them a seat at the table!

About the Impact Shakers Awards

With the Impact Shakers Awards, our goal is to celebrate the impact ecosystem, to showcase businesses working on societal challenges and to amplify the voice of underrepresented founders. We firmly believe entrepreneurs with a migration background are some of the most resilient entrepreneurs and we encourage you, who is reading this article now, to apply with your solution!

Apply for the inaugural Impact Shakers Awards as an impact business or forward this call to someone whom you think fits the profile and should be recognised.

Be part of the movement shaping the new economy by connecting impact movers and shakers around the world!



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