Apr 13 2019

A Marketplace That Values Refugees is Forming

Imagine thinking about refugees, not simply as a host of challenges, but as an opportunity. There is, in fact, a broad contingent of players who want to create a marketplace that values and is centered on refugees and immigrants. These players see refugees as investable.

The group includes smart NGOs who know the current system of dealing with refugees and immigrants is broken and needs to be transformed. It includes new technology-based startups that can help immigrants connect and live better lives and innovators creating new financial tools that follow the path that self reliant immigrants in savings circles are carving toward creating collective community wealth and stability for these marginalized communities. There are big corporates concerned about the stability and resilience of their supply chains and brand fallout, and finally, a new generation who doesn’t want to be part of a system that has injustice built in.

A movement is building where entrepreneurs are creating justice and making money at the same time. Why? Because there is not enough money in the public sector or in philanthropy to solve the wicked problem of refugees and immigrants. Innovation around system change in a fundamentally broken system requires new capital vehicles, new ways to organize and coordinate communities of support and alliances to counter the movement to turn these vulnerable people who have fled to our shores into an enemy and the source of all that’s wrong as the last stages of capitalism wreak their escalating damage.

In the face of all of this, I think the best thing to do is to create a marketplace that values immigrants and refugees and centers on them as an alpha customer, a keystone species like the salmon in northern California; if they are well, the whole ecosystem is well.

The marketplace should not only value them but invest in them, and follow their own savings circles-led investment. A marketplace should be designed by the reliable savers and wealth builders in immigrant savings circles. International development funders and well meaning impact investors can be involved, as well as the general citizenry as we follow the protocols of neighborliness to create a situation for immigrant entrepreneurs to get investment. Imagine replicating the runway project, the saving circle with leverage innovation and attracting other financial innovators to help us hack the financial and economic and social and political system around refugees and immigrants.

The concept needs a database. A new kind of entrepreneur profile, a map of power and financial relationships with each funder, their partners, etc. a real roadmap to how power and money flow will have to built to guide people in the hacking. A swat team for projects that erupt. But that’s getting ahead of myself.