what we do
Evidence has shown time after time that refugee-led organizations (RLOs) are holistically and cost-effectively addressing their communities’ needs. Around the world, RLOs are running innovative programs with the trust, connections and knowledge necessary to uplift their communities and facilitate long-term solutions. However, RLOs are profoundly under-resourced; of the nearly ~$30 billion flowing through the humanitarian system annually, we estimate that RLOs collectively receive less than 1% of funding. Community-driven solutions are being deprived.
There is money available, and there is an acknowledgment of the problem (e.g. the Grand Bargain). But institutional barriers such as bank access, lack of relationships with key donors, and bias within the system make it virtually impossible for RLOs to access funding. Meanwhile, the recipients of this money—typically large international groups—allocate funding to foreign salaries, travel and bureaucracy, taking exorbitant cuts from impactful work.
Imagine instead that local refugee leaders had the funding and access to scale their impact. With these resources, RLOs could grow their reach and unlock more solutions for their communities. Children will go to school. Parents will have the right to work. Families will stay together without fear of arrest or deportation. This will happen fast and cost-effectively because the people who lead the programs intimately know and live within local communities.
The Resourcing Refugee Leadership Initiative (RRLI) is realizing this vision.
The recent recipients of the Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award, the Resourcing Refugee Leadership Initiative (RRLI) is a coalition of local refugee-led organizations that, together with ally and convening organization Asylum Access, is bringing this vision to life. In our first 5 months, we raised over $12.5 million dollars, committed $8.3 million USD to highly impactful RLOs who already reached thousands with holistic services and solutions, and planned our next grant cycle to reach 10 new RLOs by June 2022.
We have established the first-of-its-kind RLO-to-RLO Fund—a fund for refugees by refugees. The fund is governed by our 6 organizations, and housed at Asylum Access in the United States. The fund will aggregate contributions and redistribute them to RLOs around the world. Our US-based legally registered fund puts philanthropic power in the hands of refugees and offers donors a way to safely and smoothly fund RLOs.
We plan to unlock at least $40 million USD for local RLOs over the next 5 years.
We call upon our proven support models and proximate knowledge to help RLOs overcome the location and context-specific barriers to accessing funding and growing impact. We also connect each RLO with relevant local networks, donor networks and advocacy initiatives in order to better sustain their work and grow their influence.
We generate data on the impact of RLOs in order to combat dominant, inaccurate and harmful narratives of RLOs as small, unstructured, or primarily implementers. For example, our first round grantees are currently undergoing external evaluations, which we will publish as a metastudy in the coming year. We aim to further bolster data through case study development of future grantees, and partnerships with academic institutions to track increases to RLO funding over time.
We partner with key donors to examine the policies and practices that set parameters for RLO access to funding. Through this examination, we offer implementation-ready solutions that can dismantle the barriers (e.g. bank account access, funding funding and ceilings, thematic limitations, language requirements) that make financing for RLOs difficult.
Through our strategies, we have established a funding and support model that will enable local RLOs to sustain and scale their impact within the next 5 years.
Through this effort, we will reach over 1,000,000 people across every major refugee-hosting region globally with holistic, community-driven support and solutions.