Building a new life in a new country is hard enough, one would think. For refugee entrepreneurs, however, this process is even more challenging, as they face many hurdles when starting a business in their new ‘homeland’. Jarrod Ormiston, assistant professor in social entrepreneurship at the Maastricht Centre for Entrepreneurship (MC4E), has been awarded an Alumni Fund Grant by the University Fund Limburg/SWOL, for a research project regarding refugee entrepreneurs. He seeks to answer the question: how can we support those people through education programmes?

From frustration to passion

Jarrod: ‘My initial interest in studying refugee entrepreneurship was triggered by frustration with immigration policies in Australia, where I was born. Those policies viewed refugees as burdensome, rather than seeing the potential opportunities they offer for expanding economic activity. My research and practical work with refugee entrepreneurs in Australia, the Netherlands, Germany and around the world over the past two years has further developed my passion for researching this rising phenomenon.’

Successful action project

The rest is history. One result of Jarrod’s interest in studying refugee entrepreneurship is the project for which he received the grant of the University Fund Limburg/SWOL. ‘This action project involved two stages. Stage 1 consisted of observations, informal interviews and case studies of (inter-)national refugee enterprises and entrepreneurship education. The findings from the first phase were then incorporated in stage 2, which involved a practical workshop in Maastricht for future refugee entrepreneurs. Both the data collection and the ‘bootcamp’ workshop turned out to be very successful!’

An unexpected twist

His research project has brought Jarrod a lot. ‘Insights from the research were presented at the European Group on Organization Studies Conference in Tallinn, Estonia. Building on feedback from that conference, I have submitted the paper to various management and entrepreneurship journals.’ And there is more! Jarrod explains: ‘The original idea was to focus on refugee entrepreneurship in the Netherlands only. However, in December 2017, I was contacted by the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), and the IOM (International Organization for Migration). They asked me to be the lead author on a global policy report on refugee and migrant entrepreneurship. Thus, the original planned report for the Netherlands is now a global report! I feel honored.’

The future is bright

What is Jarrod’s next step? What does the future of his project actually look like? Well, we can be sure of one thing: the ambitions of Jarrod never sleep. He says: ‘This project formed the basis of my VENI application. So, I will continue exploring refugee entrepreneurship practices and outcomes across Europe!’ In other words: to be continued.