Expanding services for Syrian refugees

New approaches to humanitarian aid are needed to serve the Syrian refugees flooding into Lebanon and other countries, according to a new article by Teresa Chahine, a research associate at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She and co-author Edward Grom suggest that once emergencies have passed, social enterprise can fill the funding gap between donor-funded humanitarian agencies and the countries hosting the refugees.

The article was published September 27, 2017 in Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Chahine and Grom are the founders of the venture philanthropy organization Alfanar, which supports social enterprises that serve the most marginalized populations in Lebanon.

For this article, they conducted focus groups of Syrian refugees in Beirut asking them about the services they receive, level of satisfaction, and their willingness to pay for improvements. While they found that many were dissatisfied with the services they receive, paying for improvements would be difficult given the barriers that refugees face to earning an income. However, the researchers found that some health service providers have been able to expand to refugee patients by offering tiered pricing based on their ability to pay.

“The formation of new social enterprises targeting Syrian refugees may not be an obvious solution,” they write. “Nonetheless, the possibility of expanding existing social enterprises to serve Syrian refugees appears to be a viable option. As funders look for ways to maximize the impact of their investments in a crisis in which every dollar counts, we recommend they turn their attention in this direction.”

Read Stanford Social Innovation Review article: Applying Social Enterprise to Refugee Settings

Read more

The Business of Social Change (profile of Teresa Chahine in Harvard Public Health)