Sara’s Blog: Chamber plays key role in creating refugee entrepreneurs

Research shows that entrepreneurship offers refugees economic independence; boosts self-confidence; and brings communities together. Refugees tend to be young adults who are less reliant on state benefits. As their businesses grow it brings more jobs, and generates more taxes, with economic activity far outweighing governmental costs. They have also been found to display key traits for business success, from high confidence to strong risk-awareness, and they have gone on to start countless businesses which enrich their host countries.

I am therefore extremely proud that Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce is one of four organisations across the UK to have received funding for a pilot scheme to support refugees starting a business. The UK Refugee Entrepreneurship Pilot Scheme commissioned four organisations to design and run tailored business support programmes for refugees over a one-year period. The aim of the pilot project was to prove the efficacy of refugee entrepreneurship programmes and to experiment with different models of delivery. It was designed and run by the Centre for Entrepreneurs and funded by the Home Office and The National Lottery Community Fund.

A report just published is the culmination of the year-long pilot scheme illustrates how Staffordshire Chambers and projects in Bristol, the East of England and Belfast provided direct support to 112 refugee participants. The evaluation looked behind the hard outcomes (numbers engaged, businesses launched) to identify the important role that refugee entrepreneurship programmes play in helping refugees acquire the skills, industry experience and finance needed to start and grow a business.

The Chamber’s pilot scheme was titled Positive Pathways and was coordinated by our entrepreneur advisor, Polly Hargreaves. The aims and objectives of our pilot were to highlight self-employment as an opportunity for refugees and help overcome initial barriers such as understanding the UK business culture. It was open to any refugee, with a leave to remain status, interested in exploring starting their own business. We had 52 refugees access our ‘Exploring self-employment’ sessions with an entrepreneurship advisor and we went on to recruit 18 participants, 12 men and six women. Over 12 months participants attended ten ‘Exploring self-employment sessions’ and underwent a 10-week enterprise workshop programme. They had further support for start-up grant funding, and post-start mentoring.

This complements our excellent existing business start-up programmes for adults and students in further education. So many refugees just want to make a positive start in their adopted country and by providing the opportunity, inspiration and support we can help them to get their lives back on track and help them integrate and make a positive contribution to the local economy.

The detailed evaluation report now presents a vision for refugee entrepreneurship programmes to be available nationwide and it can now be used by programme funders, delivery organisations, and wider stakeholders seeking to expand refugee entrepreneurship support across the UK. You can view the report UK refugee entrepreneurship pilot scheme – Independent Evaluation at www.centreforentrepreneurs.org

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

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