Work and employment are fundamental components of an individual’s social identity. However, it is a universal reality across the OECD countries that migrants, and refugees in particular, are commonly under-employed. This can lead to social exclusion, which is one of the key barriers to integration. Capacity aims to address this issue by offering a mentoring programme for people with migrant and refugee backgrounds.

“We want to move away from a dominant cultural approach of ‘helping refugees and migrants’ and instead recognise that each person brings with them a unique combination of skills and experience which add a substantial amount of value to their new society.”

Emily Elsner, Co-founder of Capacity Zurich.

At Capacity Zurich, the goal is to empower participants to develop their potential through self-sustaining, collaborative frameworks, rather than to reinforce any form of dependency. People with migration or refugee backgrounds are supported to shape their journey into self-employment through setting up their own business or social/cultural initiative. In other words, we work on the intersection between entrepreneurship and migration.

We have seen that companies in Switzerland are increasingly recognizing the value of working with persons with refugee or migrant background. For example, our 6-month mentoring programme includes a multi-stakeholder engagement in a cross-sector collaboration. The cantonal government agencies AWA and the Fachstelle für Integrationsfragen as well as UBS, The Impact Hub Zurich, Ecloo, Global People Transitions, Crescenda and Cablex support Capacity’s endeavours on multiple fronts.

This support can come in various forms. For instance, apart from financial support, UBS offers their employees the chance to engage with Capacity on a volunteer basis as mentors or trainers. The Impact Hub in Zurich offers its inspiring event space and premises during the entire duration of our mentoring programme. They also offer discounts on expert help desks. Cablex not only donates iPads but also engages in one-to-one tailored IT training for the programme.

The eighth goal of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all. We believe that by working with persons with refugee or migrant background, companies stand to gain from the diversity of skills and experience that are brought to the table. They will also directly impact social integration efforts positively. After all, it does take a collective effort to achieve radical inclusion.

By Valentina S. Velandia
Community Manager at Capacity

Capacity’s first public event of its mentoring programme was held on 14th June 2017 in the Impact Hub Garage . During Capacity’s Pop-Up Fair refugees and migrant entrepreneurs presented their business- and project ideas.

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