Self-reliance involves stabilizing refugees in the countries to which they have fled and helping them regain the social and economic ability to meet their essential needs and reduce dependence on assistance.

In recent years, fewer than 2% of refugees have been able to access the three long-term “solutions” envisioned by the refugee response system. Those solutions are: return home, legally settle in the country to which they have fled; or resettle.

Most refugees are stuck in limbo in their host countries for decades. They are often dependent on aid and denied the right to work, move freely, own property, and access public services.

Refugees don’t want to rely on handouts and humanitarian aid for survival. They want to use their skills, work, contribute to their communities, and make decisions about their lives. They want to be self-reliant. We help refugees move from being dependent on aid to being self-reliant, from living in danger to living in safety.

“When you’re on assistance, your well-being is unstable. You never know when you will be cut off.” – a refugee in Nairobi

For refugees who are stuck in the country to which they’ve fled, we help them move from vulnerability towards self-reliance. First, we provide services like housing, mental health counseling, food support, and health care. These services help to stabilize the refugee household. We then empower people to support themselves by providing business training and small business grants.

We also aim to transform how the world responds to the refugee crisis and build new programs that lead to long-term solutions for refugees.

For too long, the focus of humanitarian response has been to wait for legal solutions for refugees before addressing their need for livelihoods, well-being, and resilience. There is growing recognition of the importance of addressing these needs, so that refugees may rebuild their lives and become contributing members of their host communities.

Our work to improve self-reliance outcomes for refugees involves three tactics:


Direct Services

We provide a holistic range of services to meet the needs of refugee individuals and households.

Today, more than 50% of the world’s refugees live in urban centers. Refugees who have fled to urban areas are often in highly vulnerable situations. RefugePoint’s Urban Refugee Protection Program (URPP) in Nairobi, Kenya, identifies and provides stabilizing services to at-risk refugees. These services include healthcare, food and housing assistance, education, and counseling services.

Once stabilized, we partner with refugees as they work towards self-reliance and graduation from assistance.

The URPP reaches about 10,000 refugees annually, working with a core caseload of about 1,500 refugees. Learn more about our Urban Refugee Protection Program (URPP).



More than 10,000 refugees are served annually by our Urban Refugee Protection Program in Nairobi, Kenya.

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The program provides a range of holistic supports, including healthcare, food and housing assistance, small business grants, education, and counseling services. The goal of the URPP is to help refugees achieve self-reliance.

Rose's Story


4,305 refugee clients have graduated from RefugePoint assistance since 2015.

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Once refugees’ basic needs are met, including addressing physical and mental health, RefugePoint provides livelihoods support focused on small business development. Our support is tailored to each household’s needs, desires, and capacity. Households are re-assessed every six months to determine when they are stable and self-reliant enough to graduate from the URPP. On average, this takes two years.


Field Building

We support other organizations to expand programs to reach more refugees.

RefugePoint focuses on finding long-term solutions for refugees. Rather than asking, “how can we feed and shelter more refugees longer?” we like to ask, “what are the long-term solutions that will enable refugees to lead healthy lives and become contributing members of society again?”

Humanitarian response systems have been slow to transition from a long-term “care and maintenance” approach to a more sustainable approach of supporting self-reliance. RefugePoint has developed a model that provides a clear alternative. Key elements include: coordinated, laddered services; a built-in “exit strategy;” holistic case management; and a measurement tool for charting refugees’ progress.

This approach moves away from focusing on needs and vulnerabilities to emphasizing refugees’ strengths and skills.
We support the expansion of effective practices by sharing our tools and knowledge. Our staff frequently provides training and technical assistance to other organizations. We also host observation visits to our Urban Refugee Protection Program in Nairobi, Kenya. To support the expansion of self-reliance efforts by other organizations, we award grants to community-based and refugee-led organizations.

The Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative promotes opportunities for refugees around the world to become self-reliant and achieve a better quality of life

The Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative

The Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative (RSRI) promotes opportunities for refugees around the world to become self-reliant and achieve a better quality of life. The RSRI is a coalition of more than 100 partners, including government agencies, international non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, refugee-led organizations, foundations, research institutes, and private sector organizations.

The Initiative aims to reach five million refugees with self-reliance programming by 2027. Additionally, the RSRI aims to identify the most effective models and accurate measurements to aid the global expansion of self-reliance opportunities.

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Systems Change

We work to influence policy and decision-makers to drive large-scale change.

RefugePoint works to influence policies, practices, and systems to accelerate impact. We convene and participate in high-level global dialogues, such as the Global Refugee Forum, the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR), the High Commissioner’s Dialogue, the World Economic Forum, and the UN General Assembly Meeting.

We also inform and influence strategies, policies, budget planning, and programming models to support policies and practices that enable refugee self-reliance.

As the world’s governments adopt the new Global Compact on Refugees, RefugePoint endeavors to keep self-reliance high on the agenda and prominent in implementation plans.

RefugePoint helped create and provides leadership for the global Community of Practice (CoP) on Self-Reliance, demonstrating our commitment to supporting collective action for global systems change. Read more about our CoP and the Self-Reliance Initiative here.


Policy & Practice

RefugePoint regularly participates in high-level meetings with governments and the UN that impact global refugee policy and practice.


Raising Awareness

Through outreach and awareness activities with philanthropists, the business sector, and the general public, RefugePoint is building a strong base of support for refugee self-reliance efforts.


Collective Action

Collective action is necessary to shift the refugee response paradigm towards a model built on self-reliance. The Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative (RSRI) mobilizes a wide range of stakeholders around this shared goal to achieve broad change.