Greenwich: Facilitating Entrepreneurship: refugees and migrants

The Social Integration of Refugees through Education and Self Employment (SIREE) project commenced in 2018 as an initiative to help the growing number of refugees across the 2 seas region of Europe to better integrate into their communities. The University of Greenwich lead the project and provide enterprise education expertise.

The project supports refugees interested in starting their own businesses with tailored support such as practical workshops, mentoring and networking opportunities.

The university has also developed a specialised website in four languages that offers entrepreneurship support tailored to refugees and migrants in the UK, France, Belgium & The Netherlands. In turn, the project aims to demonstrate the value of refugees to the regions they settled in to show how they can make a social and economic contribution via entrepreneurship and job creation.

Development and Delivery

The project received funding from the Interreg 2 Seas programme 2014-2020 co-funded by the European Regional Development Fundunder subsidy contract No SIREE 2S03-035. The project is run alongside 8 other partners across 4 countries.

To better understand the challenges facing refugees in each region a needs assessment and research study was undertaken in 2018 including a literature study and report summarising the findings of a gap analysis, focus groups & interviews[1].

The key barriers to entrepreneurship for many refugees and migrants were identified, along with the opportunities entrepreneurship and enterprise education could bring.

To find a target group of refugees and migrants to benefit from the support we developed marketing materials and used social media, advertised through established trusted groups and existing entrepreneurship support services in Medway.

We launched our enterprise support by running full day practical workshops which included information about migrant led businesses in the UK, and an interactive workshop where each team went through the process of planning a new food business in the area they live. It concluded with training in accountancy, marketing, pitching, collaboration, and iterations of business ideas.

[1] Coemans, S. and Meyvis, H. (2018) Social Integration through Self-Employment: Entrepreneurship among refugees and migrants.

Through the workshops we recruited participants who wanted to work with us in the longer term. We helped them to come up with an Entrepreneurship Action Plan (EAP) for their business idea using our template which they worked on over 6 months. Through this action plan, we measured their self-efficacy and supported them to structure their next plans in terms of training and finances. We gave participants access to our specialised website, a mentor and our network.

Our biggest obstacle was recruitment of our target beneficiaries. As a university we had not previously worked specifically with refugee and migrants’ communities in the local areas, so it was hard to attract people without an existing relationship of trust. Therefore, we worked alongside other partners including Migrant Help, the Diocese of Canterbury, and Diversity House as trusted partners. To improve recruitment, we also offered childcare and 2 workshops were interpreted into Arabic.


14 people who took part in the programme have registered their businesses in the UK (so far). This will ultimately lead to less reliance on government support (72% of those who completed an EAP were unemployed) and the creation of new jobs. We also envisage that some participants will go on to register a business in the future. Some participants were unable to at this stage due to their status (seeking asylum). 44 people attended workshops and 100% of those that responded to the question rated it ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’. 35 people completed EAPs & 640 people accessed our training website.

Lots of the impacts were very individual. The University of Greenwich connected one refugee we worked with to lots of organisations, increasing his network. He was introduced to Greenwich Council, Greenwich Community Development Agency, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and through the University of Greenwich received contacts within estates, sustainability, and the Connected Cities Research Group. Through a university employee, he was referred for the Innovate 2 Succeed program at Innovate UK.

Another person who joined the programme did not register a business but was connected to social enterprise Clear Voice as she wanted to become a freelance interpreter. Instead, Clear Voice offered her a free Level 3 Community Interpreting course and a chance to apply for a role with them. This offered her autonomy as her small family are currently relying on her husband’s small market stall income and benefits.

Impact Measurement

The SIREE project measured impact in several ways:

  • Number of businesses registered following involvement on the programme.
  • Pre and post survey workshop surveys (examples below).
    • What are you hoping to achieve?
    • Do you currently own your own business or social enterprise?
    • To what extent do you feel you have a good understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur from 1 to 10? (pre and post)
    • How would you rate your knowledge of how to set up a business in UK from 1 to 10? (pre and post)
  • Entrepreneurship Action Plans and 6 months follow up meetings.
    • Including self-skills analysis (examples below)
      • I am a strong leader.
      • I am determined.
      • I am happy to take risks, if I believe it is worthwhile.
      • People trust me and consider me honest & reliable.
      • I am confident at managing money.
    • Case studies
    • Qualitative interviews
    • Change in opinions of local Policy Makers towards integration
    • Google Analytics on our website

Entrepreneurial Organisation

The work has contributed to our organisation becoming more entrepreneurial in several ways. The team working on the project have developed their skills by working with entrepreneurs with different challenges. We have developed support tailored to people setting up a business abroad which we are now using to support our international students who are interested in entrepreneurship, for example via the Tier 1 Start Up Visa programme.

The project has been a small example of how start-ups can use the services, connections, and expertise of the university to develop. The university focuses on this with local businesses, known as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, a key focus for the university.

Next steps?

  • Publish findings of the project through a dissemination guide and eBook and promote these through the EEUK network.
  • Look at how support can exist post project – i.e., through network and website.
  • Complete ETC toolkit case study.

Contact Name

Elaine King

Contact Email Address