Applying Social Enterprise to Refugee Settings
Humanitarian assistance relies on a charity model of providing immediate relief in emergency situations. But once the emergency has passed, other approaches might better deliver services in a market-driven, customer-centric way.
A self-sufficient and successful couple—a teacher and a judge—suddenly found their world turned upside-down in March 2011, when they were forced to flee their home in Syria due to the violent civil war. Today, they live in a foreign land, impoverished, unable to pursue their careers or support their children without the help of others. Meanwhile, a mother becomes tearful as she laments the fact that her children must work and have no time for school. In another family, a teenage son has now been out of school too long to be allowed back. He lives in a sort of limbo: no school, no recreation, no money. We hear stories like these again and again in our conversations with refugees and humanitarian workers in Lebanon.
Lebanon has a refugee problem—a bad one. War and political turmoil have brought more than one million Syrians to this tiny Mediterranean nation. These newcomers join previous waves of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees; approximately 1 in 4 persons of the country’s 4.4 million is now a refugee.
The result is a major humanitarian catastrophe, now in its seventh year. The original goal of the humanitarian response was to stabilize the situation and return refugees to their homes in Syria; that is now a distant hope. Many refugees have now spent the better part of a decade in the country, and are still living on the margins, neither benefiting from nor contributing to the local economy...