Refugee Livelihood Lab

Introduction to the Refugee Livelihood Lab

The Refugee Livelihood Lab is a social innovation lab housed within RADIUS at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business.

Our vision is a world where systems enable, rather than limit, the dreams and potentials of displaced and migrant peoples.

Our mission is to facilitate systems change toward migrant justice. We do this by building power with communities through leadership development, convening, and advocacy.

Our principles include centring the leadership of impacted communities; addressing power skillfully; building transformational relationships; growing awareness of Canada’s role in displacement globally, as well as the link between Indigenous sovereignty here and abroad; designing practical initiatives that create the conditions for equity; and co-creating liberating new narratives that challenge social and economic myths about displaced and migrant peoples.

Our goals include enhancing the networks, influence, and transformational leadership capacity of migrant communities; increasing impacted communities’ access to dignified pathways to social and economic capital; and building alignment within the refugee and immigrant services sector toward greater equity.

Our central program, formerly called Beyond Borders, is now a non-credit certificate course called the Migrant Systems Change Leadership Program offered through SFU, Beedie School of Business.

Our advocacy contributions have included support and leadership with the Canadian Experience Barrier Policy Project, the Trained to Save Lives Initiative, and the Refugee Claimant Tuition Pothers.

To receive updates from the Refugee Livelihood Lab, including recruitment notifications, add yourself to the email list here.

About the Refugee Livelihood Lab

The Refugee Livelihood Lab is part of a growing movement supporting deep shifts in the systems which govern our lives towards equity, dignity, and sustainability for all people and the planet.

Today, in a time of heightened attention to racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, gender-based violence, climate change, and more, there is an urgency and commitment to move from innovation that simply improves systems towards disrupting patterns and transforming systems.

Given that one entrenched, systemic pattern facing refugee and newcomer communities is exclusion from decision-making – to disrupt this pattern, we need to be intentional about how we practice innovation, why, and who we support to be at the heart of innovation practice. Without this framework, we risk perpetuating the same problems we are aiming to change.

In the Refugee Livelihood Lab, we center the voices and leadership of communities directly impacted by the issues of forced migration and displacement. We believe this practice in itself creates a new pattern and a new world of possibilities for change. Beyond tokenism, we see the need for community organizing and practical initiatives that create new storylines about refugee and newcomer communities.

Defining Our Terms

Refugee: The Lab uses the UNHCR definition of refugee, which is “someone who has been forced to flee their country because of persecution, war, or violence.” We recognize the complex humanity of people outside their country of origin who are seeking to build a meaningful life regardless of their status.

Livelihood: The means by which people get the necessities for life. This includes economic survival needs and the deeper socio-cultural, ecological and political necessities for the human spirit to thrive.

Lab: A collaborative space for focused learning, discovery and action, focused on systemic change.

The Programs

Migrant Systems Change Leadership Certificate

Migrant Systems Change Leadership Certificate

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The first certificate offered by the Refugee Livelihood Lab serving people who have lived a refugee or immigrant experience and are passionate about working with and supporting these communities. Over several months, the cohort discusses foundational concepts related to equity, racial justice, and decolonization through a collaborative process. Participants apply these lessons by working alongside other leaders with lived experiences to develop, test, and share initiatives that address social, political, or economic issues specific to refugee and immigrant communities.

Applications for the 2024 program are now open!

Click here to apply, and visit the Migrant Systems Change Leadership Certificate webpage for more information.

Trampoline: Ideas Into Action!

Trampoline: Ideas Into Action!

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A free 12-week program for people with an idea for a social venture or non-profit addressing problems refugees and newcomer communities face. People with lived experience of forced migration and displacement or who hold deep networks in these communities are encouraged to apply.

Trampoline emphasizes the importance of learning from the people engaging with your venture. Participants conduct weekly interviews to test their assumptions and shape their product or service offering based on feedback. Communication ‘wise practices’ are developed to reach the population you serve, determine the most appropriate finance methods, and assess the market to confirm demand for your offering. We also examine the project through a “migrant justice” lens – asking about models that support democratic ownership, profit-sharing, and freedom from exploitation.

Applications for Trampoline are now closed.


The Myth of Canada

A Community-Engaged Research Report

RADIUS worked with a team of community-based researchers at Simon Fraser University to publish a report that highlights Internationally Trained Physicians experiences throughout the Canadian medical licensing process.

The Myth of Canada: The Exclusion of Internationally Trained Physicians

The Myth of Canada


Case Studies

Roots 'N Shoots Case Study


The Global Market Place Case Study


PowerHack Case Study


LiteraC Case Study



Meet the RADIUS Team Behind Refugee Livelihood Lab

The Refugee Livelihood Lab is developed in ongoing consultation with community partners, entrepreneurs, and innovators with lived experience as refugees, service providers, policy-makers, and advocates. The Lab responds to the Surrey LIP’s 2017 “Our New Home” Refugee Integration Strategy priorities around economic and social inclusion.

Nada El Masry

Program Manager (on-leave)

Nada El Masry (she/her) is a Libyan-born Palestinian who came to the unceded land of the Coast Salish peoples just over ten years ago. Due to her life experiences and education, Nada has fostered a deep passion for social justice and has shaped her life goals around values rooted in that field. She has been working with and engaging newcomers for several years and currently manages the Refugee Livelihood Lab, which aims to build social, economic, and political capital for racialized refugee and migrant communities.
Nada is pursuing a Master’s in Equity Studies in Education at SFU and was a recipient of a 2019 BC Anti-Racism Award. She has also been nominated by the Future of Good as a 2020 Top 21 Founders to Watch, and received a 2018 Leadership Award from Voices of Muslim Women. In her free time, Nada enjoys playing and watching soccer.

Yara Younis

Program Manager

Born and raised in Dubai (UAE), Yara is a Palestinian refugee who had felt detached from her ‘home’ in the Gaza Strip for the longest time. Now, having spent years contemplating and unlearning colonial narratives, she considers the meaning of statelessness, as well as how systems of power co-opt and shape refugee experiences. Prior to settling on unceded Coast Salish lands, Yara worked at the Delma Institute in Abu Dhabi as a MENA research analyst and as the deputy advisor and project coordinator for the UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development. She completed her MA in International Studies at Simon Fraser University, where she was a Researcher for the Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies. In her spare time, Yara enjoys reading sci-fi, listening to heavy metal, and walking for long hours to nowhere in particular.

Camille Dumond


Camille co-designed the Refugee Livelihood Lab at RADIUS. The lab aims to increase the social, political and economic capital of diverse racialized migrant communities. Camille’s role includes using the lab’s resources to amplify initiatives emerging from communities with lived experience of forced displacement and migration. She also works with an incredible team to surface systemic patterns that cause harm and support new patterns which value the dignity, experiences, skills, and dreams of racialized migrants. She brings 18+ years of experience in community-based facilitation, program design, conflict mediation and healing-centred engagement.  

In addition to her work at RADIUS, Camille practices somatic therapy. She has a rich connection to the dreaming world, loves poetry, spontaneous dance parties and her two sisters.

Alia Sunderji


Alia is a social entrepreneur and lecturer at Simon Fraser University, where she teaches Sustainable Innovation and Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Passionate about the fields of sustainability, poverty alleviation and impact investing, Alia is the Founder of Luv The Grub, an emerging social enterprise that operates at a number of levels in the food system by capturing produce seconds that would otherwise go to waste, hires newcomer refugees and immigrants through a paid employment training program and produces delicious chutneys and spreads for the local market. In addition, Alia is also the Co-Founder of Liv & Lola, a fair trade home decor business that works with artisans in rural areas of Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Thailand where employment opportunities are scarce in an effort to lift them, their families and their communities out of poverty.

Jorge Salazar


Jorge Salazar works as Project Director of the Inner Activist, a project of Tides Canada. The Inner Activist is a leadership education program that is part of a global movement rooted in social justice, equity, self-awareness and our place in nature. Jorge co-founded, in partnership with immigrant and refugee youth and allies, the Fresh Voices Initiative with Vancouver Foundation, where he worked as Project Manager. Fresh Voices gathers a network of more than 200 migrant youth to address systemic issues via policy change in BC. Jorge came to Canada as a refugee from Colombia in late 2000. He uses his own immigration journey, life experiences, and training to bridge communities and facilitate positive change.


Paola Ardiles

Curriculum Contributor

Paola Ardiles BSc (Hons) MHSc MBA is a public health advocate, an educator and a social entrepreneur. Throughout her career, she has led various collaborative and innovative approaches in research, policy and practice, to enable a broader understanding of our collective role in promoting health and well-being for all. Paola came to Canada as a refugee child in the mid-seventies and formed part of the Chilean diaspora who established itself in Toronto during the military dictatorship. Since then, Paola has been driven to create social change by sharing knowledge and creating space for people’s voices to be heard. Today, she serves as a bridge or a “knowledge broker” through her roles as an educator, mentor, advocate, policy analyst, entrepreneur, advisor, facilitator and public speaker. In 2017, Paola was recognized as one of TD Bank’s 10th Most Influential Hispanic Canadians.

Shikhank Sharma


Shikhank has been actively involved in the social impact space academically and professionally for a number of years in areas of social innovation, impact investing, education, and sustainability.
His journey to grow and learn led him from his home in the vibrant city of Delhi in Northern India to North America over ten years ago. During this time, Shikhank has been grateful for the communities that he has been a part of, his own lived experiences, and the shared knowledge of those around him for helping him better his understanding of the world in all its brilliance and juxtapositions. Over the years, Shikhank has collaborated with various impact organizations – nonprofits, universities, and social enterprises – in roles and projects related to strategic planning, community engagement, capacity building, and research. 
It brings Shikhank utmost joy when he is able to help individuals and groups facing a sticky issue related to an idea or a project have the “a-ha” moments where they are able to figure out a path forward.

Simran Purewal

Research Associate

Simran (she/ her) is a Research Associate at RADIUS SFU, exploring internationally trained physicians’ experiences with the medical licensing process in BC and the systemic barriers throughout this process. Simran settled on the traditional, unceded Coast Salish lands over sixteen years ago. Simran completed a Bachelor of Arts in Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University and is passionate about health equity, im/migrant and community health. Outside of work, Simran leads the SFU Health Sciences Undergraduate Journal and is involved in research examining the health literacy levels of post-secondary students.

Reyna Villasin


Reyna is currently serving as the Co-chair of Fresh Voices, a grassroots organization that advocates for migrant justice in Canada. She was part of the first cohort of the Run for Office program in early 2019 and is currently involved with the Women4Politics in Vancouver. As Reyna continues to navigate spaces in electoral politics as a young migrant woman of colour, her work and passion will always be grounded in community organizing and relationship building among racialized and marginalized communities. She is in her last year at SFU as a Biochemistry major with a minor in Philosophy and Legal studies.

Lab Contributors

Thank you to the following people who have contributed their leadership to the lab over the past years:

  • Ayaan Ismail (Facilitation, Design, and Evaluation)
  • Yara Younis (Writing, Research, and Advocacy)
  • Hala Aurangzeb (Writing, Research, and Design)
  • Holden Bonwit (Teaching and Advising)
  • Jennifer Reddy (Advising)
  • Sean Condon (Advising)
  • Ralph Baddour (Advising)
  • Shaheen Nanji (Advising)
  • Kiri Bird (Design)
  • Aileen Murphy (Advising)
  • Nav Chima (Advising)
  • Will Tao (Advising)
  • Ajay Puri (Advising)
  • Anthonia Ogundele (Advising & Speaker)


Questions About Refugee Livelihood Lab?

For more information, please contact Yara Younis, Program Manager at

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Recent Blog Posts

Funders & Partners

Making the Refugee Livelihood Lab possible

Founding Funders & Partners

Making the Refugee Livelihood Lab possible

The Refugee Livelihood Lab would like to acknowledge our founding funders for making the Lab possible. The Government of Canada’s Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, The World Education Services Mariam Assefa Fund, Canadian Western Bank, Columbia College, Vancouver Foundation, and The Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation.