By Jon Browning, Co-Founder of the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition and CEO of Global Mentorship Initiative

Jon Browning poses with students

GMI Founder and CEO Jon Browning with the first student cohort – South Africa, 2019. Photo: GMI

The refugee crisis isn’t going away, and though assisting with basic needs or helping one refugee at a time helps, there are broader solutions available.

More companies are committed to hiring refugees and providing career development opportunities tailored to their needs. This process, called “impact sourcing,” supports groups with limited prospects for formal employment and is an important way companies can champion diversity, equity and inclusion.

But impact hiring is not just a feel-good strategy or a charitable act. It is also a smart business move that can boost your bottom line, your talent pool, and your brand reputation.

Studies have shown that refugees have higher retention rates, low absenteeism, and strong loyalty to employers who invest in them. They also bring diverse perspectives, creativity, resilience, and language skills that can help your company tap new markets and innovate faster. And they can enhance your corporate social responsibility profile, attracting socially conscious customers, investors, and partners who share your values.

Lives Left Behind

We imagine refugees leaving behind only physical belongings when fleeing danger. We don’t think about the disrupted educations, careers, relationships, and dreams. Many refugees face significant barriers to education and employment, and even resettled refugees often face income caps and bureaucratic obstacles to finding work. With support, young refugees can overcome these challenges.

Alnarjes was forced to flee Syria when she was 12. She dreamed of becoming a doctor but was unable to attend university due to her refugee status. With the help of Southern New Hampshire University’s Global Education Movement, she earned a four-year accredited degree remotely while living in a refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon. She’s now in London with a full scholarship pursuing a Masters in Global Health in Crisis. Because of the adversity they’ve faced, she says, “Refugees have a power that distinguishes them from others.”

Solutions Require Partnership

Alnarjas’ story shows that while the challenges are very real, so are the solutions — but they require deep partnerships and collaboration.

First, we must support universities in war torn nations so they can continue operating and if necessary, provide opportunities for refugees to continue their studies abroad. In the months following Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian President Zelensky and a consortium of universities launched the Ukrainian Global University to connect college students with internships and academic programs abroad. While buildings can be rebuilt, the loss of an entire generation of doctors, lawyers and teachers is not easily remedied.

Second, we must address low refugee graduation rates by providing support networks and resources that people fleeing conflict or disaster can’t bring with them. The organization I lead, Global Mentorship Initiative, provides mentorship and soft skills training to refugee learners and connects them with a growing professional network. Our nonprofit and university partners provide computers, internet connections, mental health support, and sometimes even clothes for job interviews.

Third, we must connect refugee graduates with jobs by reinforcing pipelines to employment and providing mentorship during the challenging transition from education to career. GMI’s partner Talent Beyond Boundaries, for example, coordinates with host country governments and enables refugees to meet the administrative requirements to relocate for work.

We must act now to establish a system that ensures becoming a refugee doesn’t derail an entire community’s opportunity to live dignified, peaceful lives and contribute to the global economy. It’s the right thing to do, and it just makes good business sense.

Jon Browning is founder and CEO of Global Mentorship Initiative, which connects students from underserved communities to careers through structured, short-term, online mentorship. He co-founded the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition to establish and share guidelines and best practices in impact hiring.