The NESsT Refugee Employment Initiative focuses on financing and assisting a cohort of fifteen impact-driven enterprises in Central and Eastern Europe that provide refugees with long-term employment opportunities, especially those affected by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The initiative is welcoming the first six social enterprises to continue building upon important aid efforts in the region.
NESsT, a global impact investor and venture philanthropist, announced today the first six social enterprises to join the NESsT Refugee Employment Initiative. The Refugee Employment Initiative invests in local businesses committed to creating dignified employment opportunities for refugees living in Central and Eastern Europe to support long-term stability and community development.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine triggered Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II. Close to 4 million refugees from Ukraine have sought refuge in Poland and Romania since the war began. In an effort to move beyond the immediate humanitarian needs of refugees, the Refugee Employment Initiative is supporting enterprises focused on helping refugees including those from Ukraine with the tools and resources needed to rebuild their lives. Examples of resources that these enterprises provide to refugees are career training and job opportunities, and additional services such as mental health support, language classes, and childcare.
"The Refugee Employment Initiative was developed as an emergency response after the war broke out, with the vision to provide access to quality employment resources to refugees and migrants, regardless of their nationality," said Nicole Etchart, Co-Founder and CEO of NESsT. "Since launching the initiative last year, we have welcomed six companies into our portfolio, with more in the pipeline. Before joining our portfolio, these six companies had already helped hundreds of refugees find quality jobs, and we're thrilled to provide them with the capital and business services to amplify this to thousands."
Together, these six companies aim to create more than a thousand jobs for refugees in the next five years.
The Being Together Foundation is a social enterprise in Poland specializing in four key business verticals: laundry, catering and bistro, carpentry, and training. Each business line trains, employs, and reintegrates people from excluded groups into the labor market by creating individual paths of professional re-adaptation.
Box Elyte is a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) based in Romania that manufactures premium, eco-friendly cardboard boxes for chocolates and pastries. Box Elyte creates decent working conditions for its employees, with a focus on full-time employment contracts and additional employee support such as English classes and basic computer skills.
Mamo Pracuj Foundation is a Polish social enterprise that helps women, especially mothers, to access high-growth careers. Since the start of the war, Mamo Pracuj has supported nearly 2,000 Ukrainian women refugees to rebuild their lives, helping them find quality employment opportunities through its digital recruiting platform for women Talenti.pl.
Nebucode is a software development company in Poland that creates innovative digital solutions for SMEs and corporations. With support from the Refugee Employment Initiative, Nebucode is launching the NebuLab:Starters platform, a training platform that teaches IT skills and development, with an emphasis on placing graduates from marginalized backgrounds including refugees and migrants into jobs in the digital sector.
Tango builds digital products for scaling startups and corporations, specifically targeting B2B, B2B2C software and marketplaces. The Polish enterprise leverages innovation to create transparent supply chains and foster an even playing field for all stakeholders. Beyond its core business, Tango is committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in its own operations in Poland and throughout its marketplace ecosystem.
UtilDeco is one of the largest work integration social enterprises in Romania, known for its diverse operations in archiving, production of textile protection equipment, coffee roasting, and digital printing. With more than 55% of their workforce consisting of individuals with disabilities, UtilDeco is committed to promoting social inclusion and providing comprehensive socio-professional integration services.
"With the invasion ongoing in Ukraine for over a year now, refugees remain one of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities within the region," said Åsa Skogström Feldt, Managing Director, IKEA Social Entrepreneurship. "Through the Refugee Employment Initiative, and our partnership with NESsT and the Cisco Foundation focusing on positive social impact, we're continuing to invest in long-term livelihoods and community in a region facing incredible disruption."
"Together, these six companies with their deep industry expertise, willingness to donate time and resources, and knowledge of local economies and communities are working to make invaluable, lasting differences for the refugee communities in Poland and Romania," said Charu Adesnik, Executive Director, Cisco Foundation. "We're proud to continue deepening our work together for the Refugee Employment Initiative and expand the number of individuals impacted."
The Refugee Employment Initiative will continue building upon the foundational work done by NESsT and others in the Central Eastern European region, supporting underserved and marginalized communities. The initiative is still accepting applications: https://www.nesst.org/refugee-employment-initiative.
NESsT is a catalyst for social enterprises in global emerging markets. NESsT provides financial capital, training and mentoring, and access to markets for a high-impact portfolio of social enterprises that solve critical social problems within marginalized communities across Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America. Since its founding in 1997, NESsT has invested over $24M, trained and supported over 24,000 entrepreneurs, and accelerated and financed 223 enterprises sustaining more than 89,000 formal jobs, and improving the lives of over one million people. Visit the NESsT website for more information about the Refugee Employment Initiative.
About IKEA Social Entrepreneurship
IKEA Social Entrepreneurship was established in 2018 to support programs that accelerate the movement of social entrepreneurship in order to create a more inclusive and equal society. The Entrepreneurship's focus areas of investment are livelihood, equality, and inclusion, in a collaborative effort with social entrepreneurs and civil society organizations. IKEA supports social entrepreneurs all over the world to create new opportunities for vulnerable people and communities while fighting the root causes of poverty and inequality.
About The Cisco Foundation
Established in 1997, the Cisco Foundation partners with non-profit and non-government organizations (NGOs) to foster stability, independence, and economic security for underserved populations globally. To do so, the Foundation provides support to NGOs to design, test, and implement technology-based solutions in their investment areas: crisis response/critical human needs, education, economic empowerment, and climate regeneration. Together, these investment areas help people overcome barriers of inequity and make a lasting difference by fostering thriving communities and a healthy planet.
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Sabrina Ni, Communications Manager