Refugee and Migrant Social Entrepreneurs and Big Society

Last week, MRCF hosted a group of refugee and migrant social entrepreneurs to discuss their role in Big Society and the challenges they face.

What emerged from our discussion was both grim and optimistic– on one hand everyone in the room understood the implications of the upcoming budget cuts. We each had examples of projects being cut, colleagues being made redundant, or whole departments being closed but we were looking toward the future.

But on the other hand, as resilient social entrepreneurs, we spoke of new opportunities, our strengths and talents, and new models to shake up old services. Here are a few highlights from our discussion.

What is happening now

Budget cuts are happening, whether we like it or not, and will seriously affect how MRCOs (migrant and refugee community organisations) and social enterprises do business.

We are afraid that the cuts could set us back 10 years on the progress we have made in getting mainstream services to have better outreach and access to migrant and refugee communities.

MRCOs are the link and gateway to these communities.

MRCOs and social enterprises reduce demand on mainstream services.

Some noted that funding is going toward faith groups and ‘hard-to-reach’ groups rather than BME and MRCOs.

Barriers for Migrant and Refugee Social Entrepreneurs:

  • Lack of opportunities to learn and improve English language- especially lack of provision for ESOL. Current classes cost too much.
  • Volunteering isn’t recognised by individuals as a skill or asset
  • Religion and gender
  • Access to credit and other funding

What we can do next

We need to have more of a ‘parish mentality’. Think local.

We need to rediscovered our talents and remember our strengths.

MRCOs accomplish great value for money. We need to shout about our accomplishments when we do it better and at lower cost.

We want to gather evidence about what MRCOs and social enterprises do right and how budget cuts are affecting us.

We need to find new ways of making money and staying afloat.

MRCOs and social enterprises should be producing products for outside of their community.

We need to connecting information about Corporate Social Responsibility to MRCOs and social enterprises.

We should encourage business partnerships between migrant and refugee social enterprises.

Following this event, MRCF will continue to support migrant and refugee communities– as community organisations, social enterprises, or as individual social entrepreneurs. As our country and communities continue to change, we hope to be a centre of support and facilitate new and empowering ways of integration.

As one attendee last week said, “These are exciting times depending on your attitude. But we need to be in it for the long haul.”

If you are a migrant or refugee interested in social entrepreneurship, social enterprise, or starting a community organisation, please contact Beth Crosland, Community empowerment Worker at MRCF at or 020 8962 3042.

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