Seven steps to success: Enabling refugee entrepreneurs to flourish



Seven steps to success header image - a man standing behind the country of a cafe smiling at the camera

Seven Steps to SUCCESS: Enabling Refugee Entrepreneurs to Flourish, is a major report from the Centre For Policy Development’s Effective Government Program and the Open Political Economy Network

It draws on Australian and international best practice to outline policy recommendations to government, business and civil society on how to better support refugee entrepreneurs.

Seven Steps to SUCCESS report was written by Philippe Legrain, founder of OPEN, and Andrew Burridge, Centre for Policy Development Research Coordinator.

Download Seven steps to SUCCESS

Seven Steps to SUCCESS draws on Australian and international  best practice
to make a series of key policy recommendations to government,
business and civil society
on how to better support refugee entrepreneurs

Findings from Seven Steps to SUCCESS

Seven Steps to SUCCESS finds that:

  • Despite the huge challenges they face, refugees are the most entrepreneurial migrants in Australia – and nearly twice as likely to be entrepreneurs as Australian taxpayers as a whole
  • Contrary to popular belief, female refugees are more likely to report income from their own business than men
  • While some promising ventures supporting refugee entrepreneurship exist, these are largely confined to Melbourne and Sydney, and are limited in scale and funding. Australia is only scratching the surface of what refugee entrepreneurs could achieve with appropriate investment and support
  • An ambitious but achievable target of launching 1,000 new refugee-run businesses each year could yield $98 million in annual economic and fiscal gains. Within ten years, the boost to the economy could be nearly $1 billion a year. The social benefits would also be significant

Recommendations from Seven Steps to SUCCESS

To improve support to refugee entrepreneurs, the report outlines Seven Steps to SUCCESS. They are:

Strategic approach

All public-funded initiatives that help refugees to become economically active should present entrepreneurship as a viable option, about which suitable refugees can make informed choices.
  1. Integrate self-employment and business formation pathways into the economic participation strategies of refugee settlement and employment services.
  2. Include a strategy that addresses refugee entrepreneurs’ particular needs and challenges in existing programs to encourage entrepreneurship.
  3. Provide targeted and timely support for prospective refugee entrepreneurs, notably through an early assessment of their entrepreneurial potential


Prospective entrepreneurs need suitable training to realise their ambitions.
  1. Offer prospective refugee entrepreneurs appropriate business and language training.
  2. Offer skilled refugees small loans to enable them to obtain local licenses and qualifications, and thus become self-employed or small business owners.
  3. Incubators for refugee entrepreneurs should consider offering part-time employment opportunities to entrepreneurs with their business partners.


Supportive networks are also crucial for refugee entrepreneurs.
  1. Establish an online platform to help connect refugee entrepreneurs to each other and to networks equipped to help them.
  2. Create a network for the sharing of best practices about how to support refugee entrepreneurship.
  3. Provide refugee entrepreneurs with structured help in connecting to potential customers and markets.


A lack of funding is perhaps the biggest stumbling block for prospective refugee entrepreneurs

  1. Provide access to capital through partnerships with financial providers as a component of support programs for refugee entrepreneurs.
  2. Encourage a diversity of funding sources, with the overarching aim of greatly increasing refugee entrepreneurs’ access to capital.
  3. Provide loan guarantees backed by federal and state governments to enable refugee entrepreneurs to obtain low-cost loans from commercial banks, together with partners such as Thrive.

Enabling Environment

Lifting regulatory and welfare barriers is also important for encouraging refugee entrepreneurship.

  1. Lower federal and state regulatory barriers that impede entrepreneurship by refugees and other disadvantaged groups.
  2. Continue providing government welfare support to refugee entrepreneurs for the first year after their business launch.
  3. Create additional visa places for would-be refugee entrepreneurs to come to Australia via the business talent pathway.

Specific Support

To be effective, assistance needs to be properly targeted.

  1. Target support for refugee entrepreneurs at different stages of business development.
  2. Provide, where possible, intensive, one-on-one, ongoing support in the pre- incubator and accelerator stages, leverage support from incubator hubs and volunteer networks to keep costs down.
  3. Target support at the needs of specific groups – notably young people, women and refugees in regional and rural areas.

Spotlighting Success Stories

Recognising refugee entrepreneurs’ achievements and communicating them more widely are vital.

  1. Celebrate successful refugee entrepreneurs as role models, to inspire other refugees and to create a more positive narrative about refugees in Australia.
  2. Create an annual Refugee Entrepreneur of the Year awards program.
  3. Encourage local areas with substantial refugee communities to develop local Community Hero awards.

Background to the report

Seven Steps to SUCCESS has been developed under the umbrella of CPD’s Cities and Settlement Initiative, a three-year program that aims to improve the economic and social participation of refugees in Australia. The Initiative makes the case for more effective settlement, employment and related services across the board. An important part of this agenda is greater and more strategic support for refugee entrepreneurs, while recognising that it is only one potential pathway through which refugees may participate in the economy.

The findings in the report are particularly significant as it is shaping up to be a big year for the future of Australia’s employment and settlement services. The Employment Services Expert Advisory Panel’s report I Want to Work, was released in December 2018. The findings of the Shergold Review into Integration, Employment and Settlement Outcomes for Refugees and Humanitarian Entrants are expected to be released soon.

Seven Steps to SUCCESS was launched at a special event in Canberra on Thursday 11 April, to coincide with the third meeting of the Council on Economic Participation for Refugees.

The full report, along with a CPD media release and other supporting documents are available below.

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