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Supporting the economic inclusion of refugees

Kagoma weekly market uganda RSC / N Omata

The Refugee Economies Programme undertakes research on the economic lives of refugees.

Through primary data collection, it explores the conditions under which refugees can become self-sufficient and make positive economic contributions to their host states and societies. The Programme’s research is interdisciplinary, combining economics, anthropology, history, and political science. It is collecting original qualitative and quantitative data, and often draws upon a range of participatory methods, including working with refugee researchers. It aims to be policy-relevant but not policy-driven, and collaborates with governments, international organisations, NGOs, refugee-led organisations, universities, and businesses.

"Refugees often have skills, talents, and aspirations. And yet too often we focus just on their vulnerabilities rather than their capacities. Our research challenges the view that refugees are an inevitable burden, identifying the conditions under they can help themselves and contribute to their host societies."
Alexander Betts
Professor of Forced Migration and International Affair

The Programme’s work has three complementary pillars:

Collectively, these represent the questions that need to be answered in order to effect policy change.

1. Economic Outcomes

What explains variation in economic outcomes for refugees and their impact on host states?

2. Innovative Practices

What innovative approaches have been tried and with what consequences?

3. Political Economy

What shapes national and local policies on economic inclusion?

Panel Data

The centrepiece of the Programme’s research is the collection of an original panel data set, based on multi-country and time series data collection. With an initial focus on Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia, and covering 2017-2020, the dataset covers urban and rural areas, refugees and hosts, and includes multiple data collection periods.


The Programme’s partners include the IKEA Foundation, Stephanie and Hunter Hunt, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, RefugePoint, the World Food Programme, UNHCR, Deloitte, and YARID.


The Refugee Economies Programme was formerly known as the Humanitarian Innovation Project.

To find out more about the Programme, take a look at the website

The team


Refugee Economies: Forced Displacement and DevelopmentRefugee Economies: Forced Displacement and Development

Written by Alexander Betts, Louise Bloom, Josiah Kaplan, and Naohiko Omata. Oxford University Press, November 2016

HIP2015: Humanitarian Innovation Conference

The second Humanitarian Innovation Conference took place in Oxford in July 2015. The theme for #HIP2015 was ‘facilitating innovation’. In the lead up to the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, conference participants worked together to explore the challenges of creating an enabling environment for humanitarian innovation. Full details can be found here >>

The report of the inaugural conference, HIP2014, is available here >>

Impact Case Studies

Humanitarian Innovation Project

HIP has a dual research and policy engagement mission. It is working not only to engage with a fundamental rethinking of the political economy of the refugee experience, but also to directly inform the work of humanitarian actors. Find out more >>

Refugee Economies in Uganda

The report Refugee Economies: Rethinking Popular Assumptions was launched on World Refugee Day 2014. Drawing on research in Uganda, the report sought to explore the economic lives of refugees. It has had a significant impact on policy, practice, and public debate. Find out more >>

Selected publications