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Social Innovation for Refugee Inclusion (SI4RI): Sowing Innovation in the Cracks of Crisis
October 4, 2021

Virtual Conference

Social Innovation for Refugee Inclusion (SI4RI): Sowing Innovation in the Cracks of Crisis

Multimedia Tabs



2021 SI4RI-SESSION 1-The COVID-19 Crisis: A Make-or-Break Moment for Social Innovation for Inclusion

2021 SI4RI-BREAKOUT SESSION 1-Narratives and Social Cohesion

2021 SI4RI - Planning and Shaping Inclusive Post-COVID-19 Recovery

2021 SI4RI Conference Breakout: Refugee and Migrant Inclusion in Smaller and Rural Communities

2021 SI4RI BREAKOUT-Strengthening the Social Innovation Ecosystem in Challenging Times

2021 SI4RI BREAKOUT: Digital Equity How Will Rapid Digitization Impact Migrant and Refugee Inclusion

2021 SI4RI SESSION 3- Innovation Within Government. Rethinking and Modernizing Integration Policy

This virtual conference explores how the diverse landscape of partnerships, social enterprises, participatory models, and community-led initiatives spearheading social innovation for inclusion has fared during COVID-19. It also focuses on how this ecosystem can emerge strengthened from the pandemic, and be a vital force in addressing new humanitarian challenges. 

In recent years, as migration and global displacement have changed the fabric of communities on both sides of the Atlantic, many public, private, and community-based actors have joined forces around a common goal: shaping inclusive, cohesive, and prosperous communities in diversity. Mobilizing untapped resources, they pioneered hundreds of innovations for newcomer inclusion—from skill-profiling apps to co-housing models—often benefiting from the leadership and entrepreneurial energy of refugees and migrants. Yet important weaknesses have remained. The spread of innovations has been geographically uneven, and promising solutions have often lacked the tools to deliver change at scale.

Over the past one-and-a-half years, the outbreak of COVID-19 has tested the adaptability and resilience of this young and evolving field. The pandemic has exacerbated disadvantage for refugees and migrants in job markets, education, and civic life. At the same time, it has upended forms of outreach, engagement, funding, and service delivery upon which social enterprises and community-based initiatives often rely, forcing them to innovate.

As the dramatic situation in Afghanistan evokes memories of recent displacement crises, there is renewed urgency to examine how social innovation can contribute to the safety and inclusion of those seeking protection, while catalyzing solidarity and cohesion within communities.

This Social Innovation for Refugee Inclusion conference (SI4RI 2021) includes insights and experiences from Europe and North America, as well as select voices from other regions. Social entrepreneurs, community-based organizations, and refugee and migrant associations participated alongside representatives from the private sector, academia, and authorities at local, national, and EU level. Participants engaged in a community of dialogue and practice to discuss rapidly evolving challenges and promising responses. Breakout sessions allowed attendees to engage in depth with key themes: advancing digital equity and inclusion; promoting the participation of migrant women; exploring inclusive narratives to foster social cohesion; leveraging small and rural communities’ innovativeness; and more.   

On the conference website, you can find the final conference program and list of speakers.  


2:15 - 2:45 P.M. CEST

Welcoming Remarks

Hanne Beirens, Director, MPI Europe

Brian Street, Refugee and Migration Affairs Officer, U.S. Mission to the European Union

Mary Coulter, Counsellor for Migration, Mission of Canada to the European Union,

Paul Soete, President of the Thematic Study Group on Immigration and Integration, European Economic and Social Committee

2:45 - 4:00 P.M. CEST

The COVID-19 Crisis: A "Make-or-Break" Moment for Social Innovation for Inclusion?
Plenary Session

Kenny Clewett, Director, Ashoka Hello Europe Initiative

Mustafa Alio,  Managing Director, R-SEAT (Refugees Seeking Equal Access at the Table)

Fayrouz Saad, Director of Public Engagement, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

Kava Spartak, Managing Director, YAAR e.V, Germany

Moderator: Liam Patuzzi, Policy Analyst, MPI Europe

  • What role has social innovation played in responding to new forms of marginalization and inequality exacerbated by COVID-19, supporting the most vulnerable while preventing rifts within diverse communities?
  • How has the pandemic affected the operations of civil society, social enterprises, public service providers and other key players that have propelled social innovation for inclusion in recent years—on both sides of the Atlantic?
  • What models of engagement and service provision have suffered, and which ones have proven more resilient? What new forms of community engagement and solidarity have originated amid crisis, and how sustainable are they?
  • What main adaptation strategies have we observed—from shifting to digital to expanding emergency services, from seeking new funding/financing sources to strengthening collaboration with community leaders and other stakeholders?
  • What short- and long-term impact could these transformations and adaptations have on refugee and migrant inclusion?
  • After years of vitality and experimentation, but also persisting weaknesses and sustainability challenges, how well-placed is the ‘infrastructure of inclusion’ to address urgent and long-term needs of newly arrived refugees—both in Europe and North America?
4:00 - 4:15 P.M. CEST

Coffee Break

Relax & Networking

4:15 - 5:30 P.M. CEST

We’re All In This Together? The Potential of Narratives to Strengthen Social Cohesion.
Breakout Sessions - Day 1

Agnieszka Kosowicz, President of the Board, Polish Migration Forum

Suzette Brooks Masters, Senior Strategist, Center for Inclusion and Belonging, American Immigration Council

Sophie van Haasen, Coordinator, Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Mayors Mechanism

Moussa Al Jamaat, Journalist, Baynana, Spain

Moderator: Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan, Associate Director, International Program, MPI

  • How have new initiatives at different levels—from local efforts to international campaigns—sought to promote more positive narratives around diversity? What evidence do we have on what works (and what does not) in terms of shifting attitudes on highly polarized issues? What pitfalls should be avoided when seeking to shape inclusive narratives?
  • How can innovative public communication strategies contribute to sustained investments in migrant and refugee inclusion, even as diverse societies move out of crisis?
  • Beyond public communication strategies, what other types of activities and modes of engagement can foster positive narratives around diversity and inclusion? What are their strengths and limitations?
  • How can refugees and migrants proactively and effectively contribute to shaping narratives around migration, diversity, and inclusion?

Where Challenges Intersect: Promoting the Inclusion of Migrant Women and Vulnerable Groups
Breakout Sessions - Day 1

Beba Svigir, Chief Executive Officer, Calgary Immigrant Women's Association

Lama Jaghjougha, Founder, Raise Women's Awareness Network

Kava Spartak, Director, YAAR e.V

Drocella Mugorewera, Board Member of Refugee Congress and Executive Director of Bridge Refugee Services, United States 

Moderator: Jasmijn Slootjes, Senior Policy Analyst, MPI Europe

  • What are the key success factors for interventions aiming to protect groups at high risk of exclusion and marginalization, promoting their well-being and participation? How far have we come since 2015-16, and what is still missing?
  • How have organizations adapted their models of service provision in response to the pandemic, and how successful are these adaptations proving to be—for example, in recreating a sense of community and trust even in virtual and hybrid formats?
  • How can holistic, highly tailored, and often resource-intensive forms of support be sustained and brought to scale?
  • What models can help leverage the entrepreneurialism, innovativeness and resilience of migrant and refugee women, whose vital role in our societies has been further highlighted by the pandemic?
5:30 - 6:00 P.M. CEST

Coffee & Networking Break

Relax & Networking

2:15 - 3:30 P.M. CEST

Planning and Shaping Inclusive Post-COVID-19 Recovery
Plenary Session

Anila Noor, Member, European Commission's Expert Group on the Views of Migrants; Founder, New Women Connectors, the Netherlands

Scarlet Cronin, Acting Executive Director, The Tent Partnership for Refugees

Katharina Bamberg, Policy Advisor on Migration and Integration, Eurocities

Christina Pope, Senior Director of Welcoming International, Welcoming America’

Moderator: Meghan Benton, Director of Research, MPI International Program and MPI Europe

  • Over the past year-and-a-half, we have heard a lot of conversations about (and calls for) "inclusive recovery". If we were to make this more concrete: what does inclusive recovery look like for you?
  • How can government, the private sector, and social-sector organizations partner design and promote strategies for post-COVID-19 recovery that reflect the needs and resources of diverse communities? Where can we identify examples of these strategies?
  • How can "social innovation for inclusion" evolve into "inclusive social innovation"—expanding opportunities for diverse groups to participate in social entrepreneurship, community engagement, and policymaking?
3:30 - 4:45 P.M. CEST

Refugee and Migrant Inclusion in Smaller and Rural Communities
Breakout Sessions - Day 2

David Campbell, President, Jupia Consultants Inc.

Andrea Soler Eslava, Senior Rural Integration Project Manager, International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC)

Danielle Gluns, Head of the Research and Transfer Office for Migration Policy, University of Hildesheim

Khmlin Haj Mohamad, Regional Refugee Ambassador, SHARE SIRA project (Expanding Social Orientation & Integration for Newcomers in Rural Areas in Europe)

Maher Dahdal, Regional Refugee Ambassador, SHARE SIRA project 

Moderator: Liam Patuzzi, Policy Analyst, MPI Europe

  • As smaller towns and rural areas have stepped up their efforts to welcome refugees and migrants in recent years, what can we learn about these communities’ resources and limitations in promoting social inclusion and cohesion? What new bottlenecks has the COVID-19 pandemic generated?
  • What does social innovation for inclusion look like in rural areas, and what conditions does it need to develop? How is it linked with other trends shaping the future of small and rural communities—such as demographics, infrastructural, and environmental ones?
  • How can small communities successfully transfer and adapt innovative practices that originated in larger cities? At the same time, how can they nurture ‘home-grown’ innovations specifically tailored to their context(s)?

Digital Equity: How Will Rapid Digitization Impact Migrant and Refugee Inclusion?
Breakout Sessions - Day 2

Imad Elabdala, Founder, Hero2B and Kidnovation

Josephine Goube, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Techfugees for Impact

Marco Campana, Freelance Communications Consultant

Moderator: Jasmijn Slootjes, Senior Policy Analyst, MPI Europe

  • What lessons can recent innovations provide on how to advance migrant and refugee inclusion through digital services—particularly in a context of social and physical distancing?
  • What limitations, challenges, and inequities should social innovators in civil society, the private sector, and government keep in mind when exploring the potential of tech for inclusion?
  • What investments are necessary to ensure that digitization does not lead to widening inequalities in diverse communities and societies?
  • How can we prevent a proliferation of short-lived, fragmented digital tools and tech solutions—thus improving sustainability, quality, and impact?

Strengthening the Social Innovation Ecosystem in Challenging Times
Breakout Sessions - Day 2

Brian Ssebunya, Economic Recovery and Development Senior Technical Advisor, International Rescue Committee’

Awmaima Amrayaf, Pro Bono Legal Officer and Coordinator of ‘Know Your Rights’ program, DLA Piper

Asma Naimi, Esade Business School 

Moderator: Meghan Benton, Director of Research, MPI International Program and MPI Europe

  • How can we maximise the contribution of social-innovation models and players to advance refugee and migrant inclusion, as Europe and North America re-emerge from crisis?
  • How can promising innovations for inclusion leave their "comfort zone" and reach underserved places and groups where the challenges are tougher, but where the returns are potentially greater
  • What has been the private sector’s contribution to countering refugee and migrant vulnerability during the COVID-19 crisis—as an investor, employer, and knowledge provider? What opportunities exist to strengthen private-sector involvement—not just in kickstarting new solutions to inclusion, but in consolidating them and making them sustainable?
  • Talking about "inclusive recovery": What does the COVID-19 emergency tell us about the role of refugee and migrant entrepreneurs within social innovation ecosystems? What should programs supporting inclusive and diverse social entrepreneurship look like?
4:45 - 5:00 P.M. CEST 

Coffee & Networking Break

Relax & Networking

5:00 - 6:15 CEST 

Innovation Within Government. Rethinking and Modernizing Integration Policy
Plenary Session

Laura Batalla, Migration Policy Representative, Ashoka Hello Europe Initiative

David Cashaback, Senior Director, Settlement and Integration Policy, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Drocella Mugorewera, Board Member, Refugee Congress

Cameron McGlothlin, Policy Team Lead, Office of Refugee Admissions (PRM), U.S. Department of State

Vincent Catot, Policy Officer, Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, European Commission

Moderator: Hanne Beirens, Director, MPI Europe

  • How is integration policymaking evolving, under the combined pressures of the pandemic, economic shifts, rising social needs, and technological transformation?
  • How have policymakers in Europe and North America responded to the need for rapid and agile policy action to address COVID-19-induced disruption, at a time in which many of their usual routines, practices, and tools have been upended? How might these experiences shape integration policy in the longer run—in its objectives, practices, and overall mission?
  • How can multi-level governance approaches and multi-stakeholder cooperation help governments address evolving integration challenges and promote innovation? How to ensure systematic learning and transfer between community-level innovations and government policy?


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