Refugee Livelihood Lab

People who dare to dream another world is possible, and who courageously come together to create that world, have existed in every culture, region and time in human history.

Innovation is natural to us all. But in the face of violence, trauma, complexity and entrenched, systemic patterns that produce inequity – we need to be intentional about how we practice innovation, why, and who we support to be at the heart of innovation practice.

Centering the voices and leadership of communities most impacted by the issues of forced migration and displacement in itself begins to create a new pattern, and a new world of possibilities for change.

In the Refugee Livelihood Lab, we believe the most compelling and sustainable innovations come from those at the margins of our communities. We believe in the incredible power, creativity and commitment of refugee communities to create positive change. We know this power is sourced from many places, including:

  • the need to find new ways of living together in order to simply survive
  • the desire for our children to thrive
  • believing we matter
  • caring for community members here and around the world who suffer and courageously meet every day, and
  • to dignify the memory of those we love who have not survived.

The Refugee Livelihood Lab is a three year innovation process which brings people together to connect to these deep sources of power, collaborate with leaders in diverse positions in the refugee integration system, and create new initiatives and social businesses that answer the question: 

How might we co-create paths where refugee communities can go beyond survival, towards meaningful livelihoods in Surrey?

We support building on what’s working, then going beyond the current mindset that often produces heart-breaking results. We will be bold in breaking boundaries in our power relations, and expand the limits on what refugee social and economic well-being could look like. We do this by supporting collaborative, action-oriented relationships between affected communities and those invested in refugee livelihoods to put practical, visionary new initiatives on the ground.

RADIUS’ Refugee Livelihood Lab is made possible by support from our partners, including…


Refugee Livelihood Lab Goals

  1. Create new social and economic opportunities by/ for refugee communities

  2. Support capacity for service delivery innovation in the refugee integration sector

  3. Generate replicable insights for broader systems change that address key barriers to refugee communities social/economic integration

  4. Be changed – transform/ decolonize our and wider systems through the learning process of engaging with communities

The Central Program

Beyond Borders


Beyond Borders is the central program of RADIUS’ Refugee Livelihood Lab. It provides a platform for the leadership of people who have lived experience as refugees and other players in the system including employers, settlement workers and managers, artists, funders and entrepreneurs to go beyond established approaches… collaboratively building new initiatives and social businesses that make a difference to the lives of refugee communities in Surrey. 

It is an applied learning experience of 11 days over 5 months for new and experienced leaders, refugee entrepreneurs, creators and innovators who are passionate about building practical solutions. Participants will radically reimagine what is possible to address the challenges facing refugee communities and design new initiatives that help these communities build lives of meaning in Surrey.



Nada Elmasry & Camille Dumond co-led the program design with the team at RADIUS SFU and partners, speaking with close to 80 people impacted by, and involved in the work of supporting refugee communities to create a new home in Surrey. The biggest theme we heard was that people wanted to go beyond everyday ways of approaching the challenges of refugee integration.

Many people including entrepreneurs, job-seekers and innovators who are refugees wanted to go beyond the survival-based options they face to building meaningful livelihoods, and to re-center their autonomy and value in leading change.

Service-providers wanted to relate differently to each other within the sector, with more collaboration, creativity, and freedom to go outside the box in putting solutions on the ground.

Employers described wanting to bridge the employment gap with refugees who want work, and find ways to contribute to their communities.

Funders wanted to make a difference with their investments, but struggled with old systems that limited their impact and responsiveness.

Everybody wanted work that is fair, meaningful, and supports who they are in the world.

Many wondered how we can transform the deeper structures that give more social, economic and political support for some than for others, and wanted to bring all key voices to the table.

We chose the metaphor “Beyond Borders” to describe the journey of imagination and action beyond the current constraints, where refugee communities in Surrey can move from survival to thriving, from lack of belonging to community, from discrimination to justice, and from stuck challenges to innovative solutions.


World Refugee Day: Standing Together

We launched The Refugee Livelihood Lab on World Refugee Day, 2018 with the theme “Standing Together”.

World Refugee Day commemorates the strength, courage and perseverance of refugees, and is a moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee.

Through panel discussion with Surrey-based refugee and Indigenous youth leaders, film, and info booths from local organizations we explored, celebrated and named the interconnections between Indigenous peoples and refugee communities –  asking what does it take to stand together in the face of ongoing displacement? Hosting these types of conversations is one way the lab begins to look at the process of decolonization. Check out our blog post to find out more.

Couldn’t make it? Watch the short film we aired created by film-makers from affected communities: UPROOTED by Sepideh Yadegar, Featuring: Valeen Jules and Yaspian,  and produced by the amazing people at Access to Media Education Society.

Stay tuned for how you can bring films like this one, along with facilitators with lived experience to support dialogue , to your school, workplace or organization.


Defining Our Terms

Refugee: The lab uses the UNHCR definition of refugee which is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. We also 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 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.

Meet the Refugee Livelihood Lab Team!

Nada Elmasry

Program Strategist

Camille Dumond

Program Manager

Kiri Bird

Associate Director, RADIUS

Shawn Smith

Director, RADIUS

Khayla Almonte – Davila

Program Support


Making The Refugee Livelihood Lab Possible

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.


Questions about how to apply, and more?

For more information, please contact Camille Dumond, Program Manager,