Making a difference through being enterprising: Migrants and refugees and starting a new business

Written by Leigh Sear, Chief Executive, SFEDI Solutions.

The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, reflected that change is only the constant. The level of change and dynamism that we are currently experiencing in the economy and society can lead to differences between perception and reality. A good example here is immigration to the UK.  With the impact of the Brexit decision and tighter visa regulations for certain groups of migrants, there has been a recent slowdown in migration to the UK. Recent statistics from the Office for National Statistics shows that net migration levels are now similar to those levels in 2014 and lower than rates witnessed in 2015 and 2016, with EU net migration falling over the last year1.

Despite this slowdown, there is evidence to demonstrate that people believe that immigration rates are higher than they are and that these perceptions are shaping policies and practices designed to support migrants and refugees in integrating into local communities and making a positive difference. For example, in a report on the economic contribution of migrants and refugees, the Centre for Entrepreneurs comment that ‘Despite a warm welcome, bureaucracy, discrimination in the labour market, and a lack of support has left too many new arrivals languishing’2.

However, a number of recent reports have highlighted that there are opportunities for migrants and refugees to make a positive economic and social contribution, particularly through being enterprising and entrepreneurial. Research shows that migrants and refugees start a higher than average number of businesses but face additional challenges in starting and running their businesses. These challenges include access to mainstream finance, awareness of available business support and access to appropriate learning and skills provision.

In terms of the access to learning and skills provision, SFEDI are part of an Erasmus Plus Project (ONDGO) which will provide a route by which migrant entrepreneurs can receive a tailored programme of learning and skills development that will help support them in the start-up process.

Led by Meath Partnership in Ireland, the overall aim of ONDGO is to support the economic integration of displaced people through the creation of a tailored migrant entrepreneurship training programme, along with a suite of flexible and adaptable training resources that will assist vocational education and training professionals to enhance their understanding and skills to effectively support displaced people in managing the journey from idea to action.

Over the next two years, the project will be developing:

  • An enterprise learning curriculum and resource toolbox for displaced people interested in starting a business
  • A new in-service professional development training programme for vocational education and training professionals working with displaced people interested in starting a business
  • An e-learning portal to support learning ‘on the go’ for both displaced people and VET professionals
  • A policy paper which will examine the experiences of supporting displaced people into enterprising and entrepreneurial outcomes in the seven partner member states and the associated implications for policy
  • Case studies profiling how enterprising learning and skills development has assisted migrants and refugees to effectively integrate into host communities and the labour market.

If you are interested in learning more about the project please visit

If you are working with displaced people to support them into enterprising and entrepreneurial outcomes and you would like to explore ways of adding value to the ONDGO project, please contact Leigh Sear at [email protected].



Photograph sourced from