Paradigm Shift: How investment can unlock the potential of refugees

The Refugee Investment Network’s flagship report offers impact investors, grant-makers, and development finance professionals with the first overview on how to invest in and with forcibly displaced people.

Paradigm Shift tells a story of need, opportunity, and promise, and presents an exciting pathway for investors to build a sustainable refugee investment strategy.

Paradigm Shift: How investments can unlock the potential of refugees

It’s a story of refugees, forcibly displaced people, and their hosts—collectively tens of millions of people worldwide—who in many cases are poised for economic growth, but need leadership from innovative and courageous capital partners to unlock it. This report aims not only to describe the massive and urgent need to bridge private capital that will help mitigate today’s refugee crisis, but also presents concrete and sustainable opportunities to do so, along with strategies for success. In the end, it argues that changing the current investor paradigm to usher in an era of refugee investments is not only achievable—it’s already underway.

In Paradigm Shift, the RIN presents a market that is both hopeful and often overlooked because of the high perceived risks associated with investing in refugees. The report’s data reveal that refugees are indeed employable, hardworking, credit-worthy, and ultimately, investable—facts that are already benefiting smart investors and their refugee partners. International donors, most notably the United Nations, are also pressing ahead to fill the massive funding gap in their budgets to finance the 2030 development agenda represented by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, to which global forced migration is inextricably linked.

So, what exactly is a “refugee investment”? In Paradigm Shift, the RIN presents a first-of-a-kind “Refugee Lens” as an actionable tool for investors to qualify both prospective and historical deals.

The report also presents the rationale for a broad definition of refugee to include not only forcibly displaced people, but also their hosts.

Research and analysis for this report reveals that innovative refugee investments are already taking shape—even in a resource-constrained environment where billions of dollars rest on the sidelines, waiting for guidance on how to engage. The RIN conducted over 100 interviews for this report to understand the primary barriers to refugee investing and how existing efforts are overcoming them. Concerns around sourcing, structuring, human capacity and restrictive policy and regulatory environments topped the list of challenges for investors. Meanwhile, the report shares several case studies of deals demonstrating how the use of blended capital and other creative financing structures can mitigate these risks.

One theme central to Paradigm Shift is the current lack of—but urgent need for—“connective tissue,” or the specialized intermediaries in the refugee investment marketplace that can bridge the need with the opportunity to create a sustainable and scalable market. The RIN fills this gap with targeted and timely research and education on investable refugee opportunities; facilitation enhanced by its network of partners, contacts, and members; and through advocacy for pro-refugee policies using creative financial incentives.

Above all, Paradigm Shift highlights that more can— and must—be done. The report concludes with an “all capital on deck” call to action and recommendations for the impact investment community, foundations and corporations, and institutional and faith-based investors: Be bold, take the lead in changing your system, and collaborate with the RIN and other early movers to shift the paradigm!

Download the full report to learn more.