Over 10 million refugees rely on humanitarian aid to meet their basic needs. But as aid organizations contend with budget cuts and growing displaced populations support is subject to change or disappear without notice. Programs that help refugees start their own businesses are a powerful step toward breaking this dependence, but refugees face unique barriers to being successful in local markets that these programs can’t solve alone.
Village Enterprise and Mercy Corps are teaming up to bring two evidence-based approaches together in a model called DREAMS (Delivering Resilient Enterprises and Market Systems). Village Enterprise brings deep expertise in implementing the poverty graduation model, helping the poorest households start their own businesses. Mercy Corps layers in their powerful Market Systems Development approach, driving systemic change in local economies to ensure the success of these new businesses. These two models have been combined before but have never been rigorously evaluated in combination — limiting the potential for scale. This first-of-its-kind model combines small business mentorship with systemic change in local economies — making markets work for refugees’ new ventures so they can move from survival mode to self-reliance. In success, DREAMS will transform not only refugee relief but poverty alleviation writ large, bringing the development and private sectors into lockstep to support millions of people globally in achieving and sustaining financial autonomy. Our goal is to create an evidence base that proves the power of DREAMS to build financial autonomy among displaced people so we can bring it to more communities worldwide.
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Village Enterprise will design, pilot, and test a mobile business management application to support home-based early childcare providers for vulnerable children in Vietnam. The app intends to track, streamline, and improve childcare providers’ financial management, child attendance, and data used to improve programming.
DREAMS Uganda continues to make remarkable strides, transforming the lives of 6,000 refugee and host community households to date. Through dedicated efforts, 2,000 microbusinesses have been established, accompanied by the formation of 200 Business Savings Groups. DREAMS Ethiopia launched this year with the first cohort beginning in August 2023. The program aims to start 1,200 businesses, 120 Business Savings Group, and reach 3,600 households in the first year.