top of page
A woman in headscarf holds up balloons

Our Goals

Together with our members, we've created 4 cornerstones for sustainable, tangible change.

Goal One: Direct funding for RLOs

Ensure Refugee-Led Organisations have direct access to funding and resources, and can build the capacity, relationships and recognition necessary to deliver effective and impactful work for people of forced displacement.

Refugee-Led Organisations (RLOs) face significant obstacles in accessing direct funding, largely due to a system that favours established NGOs over RLOs. In our experience, NGOs are often ineffective intermediaries and there is a tendency to take credit for work that was implemented by RLOs, often at very low costs, creating missed opportunities for RLOs to prove their expertise and worth to funders.

In the long term, systemic changes are needed to debunk myths surrounding RLO funding and to make funds and the funding process more accessible to RLOs, allowing us to focus on project development and implementation.

The Grand Bargain's Shortfall in Local Funding

The Grand Bargain, established in 2016, is an agreement on 51 core commitments between 66 signatories to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian action “to get more means into the hands of people in need”(). 

In 2018, Grand Bargain signatories represented more than 70% of both contributed and allocated humanitarian aid. There is very little opportunity for refugee leaders to influence decisions made in this forum, which  raises key questions on equitable aid distribution and inclusive decision-making().  

Targets, realities, and the need for inclusive decision-making in humanitarian funding

Grand Bargain Core Commitment 2.4: Allocate at least 25% of humanitarian funding to local and national responders by 2020 to enhance outcomes and reduce transaction costs.

The Grand Bargain's Shortfall in Local Funding

Financial Tracking Service (FTS) data from 2022 shows that funding to local and national actors grew by 5.2% from 2021 to 2022. This increase pales in comparison to the 34.4% surge in global funds over the same time period.

This disparity underscores a widening resource allocation gap, emphasising the urgent need for more equitable distribution (page 67, ).

Navigating Funding Hurdles in Refugee Support

RLOs urgently need direct funding to continue their crucial work. Even when funding is available, obtaining it is almost impossible due to stringent requirements and limitations.


Refugee-Led Organisations provide accessible, trusted and transformative services to their communities. However, they face significant barriers when it comes to accessing the funding they need to continue their vital work.

Yasmin Kayali, Co-Founder, Basmeh & Zeitooneh ()

You can apply if you want, but you will never ever be able to qualify.

Navigating Funding Hurdles in Refugee Support

In 2022, UNHCR introduced the Refugee-led Innovation Fund, allocating $700,000 to RLOs across 18 pilot countries.

This stark contrast underscores the significant gap between the overwhelming demand from RLOs and the limited funds made available directly to RLOs ().

Facts about this goal
With funding we can...

Fashingabo Chocho, Youth Voices Community

reach more refugees and provide more comprehensive services to our people

Stephen Pech Gai (Gawaar), Refugee Coalition for Climate Action

respond effectively to pressing community needs and build capacity and self-reliance among refugees

Wesal Alloush, The War Made me Stronger Initiative

focus on continuity, sustainability, and the ongoing development of our projects
Goal Two: Influence Policy for Refugees

Influence decision making at all levels that affects the lives of refugees and advocate for systemic change.

There are wide-reaching systemic and social barriers that block Refugee Leaders from participating meaningfully in the decision-making processes that affect their lives. Institutions of power are often impenetrable, intimidating, and exclusionary, especially to refugees and individuals from the global majority.

There is a strong desire among Taking The Lead network members to get the voices of a wider community of Refugee Leaders into decision-making forums at all levels, from local to global, so that key policy decisions can be shaped by the authentic voices and experiences of persons with lived experience of forced displacement.

What good is a seat at the table if we can’t travel to sit there? 

Access to proper travel documentation is fundamental for refugees’ participation in decision-making spaces. UNHCR’s 2019 compliance update reveals significant disparities that reinforce the barriers preventing refugee voices from influencing decisions that directly affect their lives. 

What good is a seat at the table if we can’t travel to sit there?

The issuance of Convention Travel Documents (CTDs) is an obligation for States Parties to 1951 Refugee Convention (Article 28) and/or its Protocol, the 1954 Statelessness Convention (Article 28), and the 1969 OAU Convention (Article 6). In 2022, more than 5 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate live in a host country that hasn’t signed any of these three documents.

What good is a seat at the table if we can’t travel to sit there? 

Access and representation in decision-making spaces are vital for Refugee Leaders to shape the decisions that impact their lives. This comparison of three critical international events highlights the persistent limitations and inequities in these crucial forums.

Digital barriers to participation

In 2016, refugees were 50% less likely to own a smartphone compared to the general population, and 29% of refugee households didn't have a phone at all. In rural areas, about 20% of refugees resided in places with no connectivity. ()

Facts about this goal
More influence means…

Abdisalan Abdullahi Aden, Urmaax Refugee Network

a transformative improvement in living standards

Co-Managing Director, R-SEAT

heightened empowerment and improved integration policies that foster peaceful coexistence and protection

Olivier Nkunzurwanda, Refugee Innovation Centre

the placement of more efficient policies proportional and accurately catered to refugee needs
Goal Three: Reframe Refugee Narratives

Change the negative narratives on refugees and people with lived experience of displacement.

As well as structural barriers, harmful attitudes and mindsets also hamper the progress of Refugee-Led Organisations and initiatives. These act as stumbling blocks at various stages, from establishing organisations and securing essential resources like funding and training, to advocating for meaningful policy changes for displaced people.

Changing these mindsets means shifting the negative narratives about refugees and refugee-led initiatives in society, in political fora, and among donors. As a network we want to create a new narrative that supports refugee-led initiatives to have greater impact in their communities and globally.

Global attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers

Globally, many hold neutral or negative perceptions about refugees' influence on culture, cost of living, and crime. Highlighting the positive contributions of refugees is essential to shift these views.

Perspectives on refugees and asylum seekers

The Migration Policy Institute highlights three primary narrative frames—Victim, Benefit, and Threat—that shape discussions and perspectives on refugees and asylum seekers. 

Victim Frame
Depicts refugees and asylum seekers as vulnerable, emphasising their need for compassion. This can sometimes lead to perceptions of them as undeserving.

Benefit Frame
Refugees and asylum seekers are recognised for their potential valuable contributions to host societies. This risks establishing conditional acceptance based on perceived "value."

Threat Frame

Refugees and asylum seekers are viewed as potential risks, broken down as:

→ Economic Threat: Seen as burdening welfare systems and competing for resources.

→ Security Threat: Perceived association with higher risks of crime and terrorism.

→ Cultural Threat: Perceived as challenging or disrupting societal norms and values.

Facts about this goal
Goal Four: Strengthen RLO Skills and Reach

Building skills and capacities of Refugee-Led Organisations and Refugee Leaders to increase their collective power and reach.

Our network members are innovators, changemakers, and leaders in our communities. Despite challenges like forced displacement disrupting traditional avenues for education and skills development, we have a collective wealth of knowledge and expertise and are well-positioned to make an even greater impact when barriers are removed and more resources are allocated.

We aspire to further develop specific skills, including securing funding, advocating for political change, and enhancing communication and organisational management strategies.

Traditional capacity-building methods fail to recognise the unique strengths of refugee-led organisations. 

Observe: Recognise that while many institutions promote refugee leadership, they often inadvertently restrict access to resources and decision-making through traditional capacity-building prerequisites.


Challenge: Confront the prevailing mindset that Western "experts" possess the only roadmap to success. Actively seek and value the intrinsic expertise within refugee communities to rebalance the power dynamic and ensure genuine support.


Rethink: Question the universal applicability of traditional capacity-building. Advocate for a thorough evaluation of its impact on RLOs and champion the exploration and adoption of more inclusive and equitable strategies.

Read more at Resourcing Refugee Leadership Initiative

Empowering RLOs means recognising their resilience, collaborating genuinely, and innovating together for a brighter future.

Recognise: Acknowledge the unique challenges faced by RLOs. Understand that our lack of traditional institutional and financial track records stems from specific circumstances and systemic barriers, not from any deficiency in skill or commitment.

Collaborate: Dive deep into partnerships with RLOs, starting from the grassroots. Commit to co-developing performance metrics, integrating refugee staff into monitoring and evaluation processes, and ensuring that programs are both relevant and mutually advantageous.

Innovate: Before launching any initiative, embed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) principles into your organisation's frameworks. Collaboratively design capacity-strengthening programs with RLOs, ensuring they align with our distinct needs and strengths.

Read more at COHERE research report

Facts about this goal
A positive shift means…

Mayada Zaza, Together for Justice

changing societal perceptions of refugees, proving they can positively influence their communities

Abass Abdi, Hormud Development Organisation

the cultivation of positive memories and reliable capabilities among refugees

Emmanuel Wetnhiak Ambrose, RELON Kenya

a significant reduction in criminalisation, stigmatisation and discrimination against refugees and migrants

See who is part of our network

Capacity building opportunities help us...

Noura Aljizawi, Start Point

engage in collective change-making and acquire skills to address pressing challenges are vital components of our involvement [with refugees].

Houda Al Bareedi, Women's Circle of Aarsal

aim for broader participation and access for women within decision-making spheres, and to create self-sufficient refugee communities that are more exposed to the world outside of camps, and focused on development, integration, and multicultural respect.

Rabea AlKadri, We Are There For Each Other Initiative

unlock new leaders and foster peace in both refugee and host communities.
bottom of page