Enterprise Development

Entrepreneurship and inclusive market development
• Approach to Inclusive Market Systems (AIMS) for refugees and host communities
• Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB)
• GET Ahead
Social Finance

Entrepreneurship and inclusive market development

Approach to Inclusive Market Systems (AIMS) for refugees and host communities

  While refugees face multiple challenges and barriers in sustaining their livelihood, they are also people with marketable skills and abilities to start businesses and contribute to local economies. The ILO’s work in fragile and displacement contexts supports refugees’ and host communities’ inclusion in high-potential value chains so that they can contribute to job creation and poverty reduction and strengthen their resilience.

Specifically, the ILO Approach to Inclusive Market Systems (AIMS) seeks to develop holistic and market-based livelihoods strategies for refugees and local hosting communities in forced displacement settings by adapting the principles and tools of Market Systems and Value Chain Development for Decent Work Approaches.

Whereas traditional approaches tend to focus on “refugee livelihoods” that strengthen skills and competencies of refugees, AIMS employs a “push-pull approach” that seeks to work on both, demand and supply sides of the labour market.
Forced displacement is becoming increasingly global in scope and protracted in nature, making it critical to devise innovative responses. Entrepreneurship promotion constitutes one such response. Specifically, as research and practical experiences show, supporting refugee and host community members in creating and growing sustainable businesses improves economic self-reliance and peaceful coexistence.

Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB)

SIYB is one of the largest global business management training programs and has been introduced in over 100 countries. The program’s modular training structure accompanies entrepreneurs from developing their initial business idea (Generate Your Business Idea and Start Your Business modules) to creating and expanding their business (Improve Your Business and Expand Your Business modules). It is composed of a combination of training, field work and after-training support, and helps participants assess their readiness to start a business and to prepare a business plan and evaluate its viability. By helping small-scale entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses, SIYB contributes to the creation of more and better employment for women and men. In the context of forced displacement, it is being used to help thousands reach their entrepreneurial goals.

Get Ahead

GET Ahead is a gender-responsive entrepreneurship training programme designed to support women and men entrepreneurs with low levels of literacy in starting, managing and growing small businesses. The training programme attempts to redress some of the gendered barriers of conventional entrepreneurship training programmes and recognises the gendered opportunities and constraints that affect women and men’s abilities to acquiring skills and dedicating time and resources to leading a successful business. In the context of forced displacement, it is being used to strengthen trainer networks at the national level and to support entrepreneurs with low levels of literacy in starting and running successful enterprises.


Displacement brings a wide variety of challenges, including practical concerns related to basic services and income generation, as well as social concerns including a loss of social cohesion, a breakdown in trust, and a strong need for psycho-social support and peacebuilding.

Self-help organizations such as cooperative enterprises play a key role in combining activities that support economic and human capital development, alongside a strong focus on collective action and self-help. By placing an emphasis on ownership, solidarity and trust, cooperatives build confidence to adapt and seek out solutions through mutual support. As a result, cooperatives are particularly well suited to building the resilience of those affected – both displaced and host – to address the many, and often changing, challenges they face. Further, cooperatives offer an opportunity to address loss of social cohesion that sits at the root of displacement, by building trust and breaking down cultural barriers.

Cooperatives provide a social structure that can facilitate empowerment, peacebuilding and problem solving – all characteristics that are vitally important in a displacement context. Cooperative members share a feeling of ownership, solidarity and trust, and gain confidence to seek out solutions through mutual support. Historically, cooperatives have shown to be pools of social integration and effective tools in peacebuilding, enabling a strong sense of civic agency, participation and empowerment.

Furthermore, in a situation of crisis, host country governments are often overwhelmed; hence local community-based solutions are needed. Cooperatives are inclusive and can engage various groups in dialogue, bridging differences among members of differing perspectives.

They are uniquely positioned to address the needs of both displaced persons and host populations because of their ability to combine both practical assistance as well as psycho-social support, through collective action.Therefore, PROSPECTS will support cooperative enterprise development in advancing youth employment, rural economies, gender equality, social protection, elimination of child labour, formalization and local economic development.

Social Finance

Access to appropriate financial services is a fundamental condition for poverty reduction, job creation, income security and social protection. But access to finance alone does not automatically yield social benefits. For this to happen, refugees, low-income workers, small business owners, families with working children and others on the margin of the financial market must be able to make informed choices about taking a loan, finding safe mechanisms to save and transfer money, and what to look out for in the small print of insurance contracts. Financial capabilities go hand in hand with better market access.

The Social Finance component of PROSPECTS will analyse, share knowledge and provide technical advice about what works to facilitate access to finance for refugees and their host communities, including services and products, institutional models and policies across the financial sector.

Read more about ILO's approach to Social Finance

Register to the training course “Making finance work for refugees, IDPs and host communities”. Click here to learn more.
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