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.

Very few of the world’s refugees are able to either: return home; legally settle in the country to which they have fled; or resettle to a third country. These are the “durable solutions” envisioned by the refugee response system, yet in recent years fewer than 4% of refugees annually have been able to access any of these. That leaves the vast majority of refugees stuck in limbo in their host countries, dependent on aid and denied key rights such as the right to work, move freely, own property and access public services.

That fact – combined with today’s scale of displacement and overstretched humanitarian budgets – requires us to think in new ways and create new programmatic responses to refugees. Helping refugees achieve a better quality of life where they are, while they await a permanent solution, is what we refer to as our “self-reliance” approach.

For too long the focus of humanitarian response has been to wait for legal solutions for refugees before addressing their need for livelihoods, dignity, well-being and resilience. There is growing recognition that it is vital to address 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, Field Building, and Systems Change.

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


Direct Services

Providing services to meet the needs of individuals and households.

RefugePoint’s Urban Refugee Protection Program (URPP) in Nairobi, Kenya delivers comprehensive services including outreach and community navigation, food, housing, healthcare, counseling, education, livelihoods coaching and small business grants.

A case management approach allows us to work with clients to jointly develop action plans tailored to their needs. Once stabilized, clients work towards self-reliance and graduation from services and assistance.

The URPP reaches approximately 10,000 refugees per year, working intensively with a core caseload of about 1,500 refugees.

Nairobi serves as our flagship site, allowing us to test innovative approaches and refine practices before disseminating them to others.



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

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We work to help refugees achieve long-term stabilization through our Urban Refugee Protection Program (URPP) in Nairobi, Kenya. The program provides a range of holistic supports, including food and housing assistance, small business grants, access to health care, education, and counseling services.

Rose's Story


3,839 refugee clients have graduated from RefugePoint assistance since 2015.

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Most refugees do not want to depend upon aid and are eager to support themselves. Our Urban Refugee Protection Program in Nairobi first stabilizes refugees and then helps them to establish small businesses in order to generate income.


Field Building

Supporting other organizations to accelerate and expand programs for reaching refugee populations.

Humanitarian response systems have been slow to transition from a long-term “care and maintenance” approach to a more sustainable approach of facilitating 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.

We support the expansion of effective practices by sharing our tools and knowledge. Our staff frequently provide training and technical assistance to other organizations and we host observation visits in Nairobi. We may also award grants to support the expansion of self-reliance efforts by other 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 Self-Reliance Initiative

The Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative is a collaboration among NGOs, UNHCR, foundations, government agencies, the private sector and others that aims to support refugees to achieve a better quality of life and regain agency over their finances and futures, while at the same time supporting the peace, stability and prosperity goals of the hosting countries.

The Initiative is focused on promoting self-reliance opportunities for refugees around the world to enjoy lives of dignity and hope, even during protracted periods of limbo in their host countries.

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Systems Change

Influencing policy and decision-makers to drive large scale change.

RefugePoint endeavors to influence policies, practices and systems to accelerate impact. We convene and participate in high-level global dialogues and conduct targeted advocacy with decision-makers. We work to attract new resources and influence the allocation of existing resources.

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

Through bilateral meetings with governments and the UN, and multilateral meetings in Geneva and New York, RefugePoint effects improvements to 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

RefugePoint works to align the goals and methods of disparate actors within (and outside of) the refugee sector to catalyze lasting change. Read more about our Self-Reliance Initiative here.