NESsT and partners to deploy ‘power of social entrepreneurship’ for refugees in Poland and Romania

Two corporate foundations are teaming up with impact investing specialist NESsT to help enterprises in Poland and Romania create more jobs for refugees.

Ikea Social Entrepreneurship and Cisco Foundation are joining NESsT, which has been active in central and eastern Europe for 25 years, to launch the NESsT Refugee Employment Initiative. This will provide finance and business support to 15 organisations, aiming to benefit more than 5,000 people. 

The partners have made an initial commitment of US$3m. Eligible for the programme are social enterprises and small and medium-sized businesses that provide refugees with career training and job opportunities, and “wraparound” services such as mental health support, language classes and childcare. 

Funding will be provided in the form of ‘recoverable grants’ (long-term, interest-free loans) of up to €75,000 to finance business growth; and as grants of up to €20,000 to fund wraparound support.

Ikea staff in Poland and Romania will be involved as mentors to the selected entrepreneurs.


Diverse and inclusive

There are currently more than 6m refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe according to UN data, including around 1.2m in Poland. Many working-age refugees are women who have left husbands or partners behind and are caring for children while looking for work. 

We seek to demonstrate how citizens of Poland and Romania and Ukrainian refugees can work together to build vibrant and robust economies

This week a report from charity World Vision warned that tensions were beginning to rise between Ukrainian refugees and host communities in central and eastern Europe, and that action was needed to  prevent the situation deteriorating to “dangerous levels”. 

In a statement first announcing the initiative in June, NESsT co-CEO and co-founder Nicole Etchart said she hoped the Employment Initiative would emphasise how economies and businesses “benefit immensely by becoming more diverse, equitable and inclusive”. 

She added: “Through our work, we seek to demonstrate how citizens of Poland and Romania and Ukrainian refugees can work together to build vibrant and robust economies.”


Long-term needs

Previous support from the Ikea group for the crisis in Ukraine includes €30m in monetary and in-kind donations to humanitarian organisations. 

Åsa Skogström Feldt, managing director of Ikea Social Entrepreneurship, said: “This additional investment from Ikea Social Entrepreneurship focuses on the mid- to long-term needs of refugees. We want to build on what has been already initiated and use the power of social entrepreneurship in the region to create job opportunities for refugees.”

Information for enterprises on how to apply for the scheme will be available later this month.

Photo: Refugees from Ukraine working with Being Together Foundation, an organiastion supported by NESsT Poland (photo courtesy of NESsT)


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