Refugee Livelihood Lab

What is the Refugee Livelihood Lab?

The Refugee Livelihood Lab (RLL) is a social innovation lab housed within RADIUS at the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University.

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 centering 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 Project among others.


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

Beyond Borders

Beyond Borders is a systems change leadership program for people who have lived a refugee or immigrant experience, and who want to level the playing field for these communities. The program takes place during 12 days over 6 months, mostly in Surrey.  You will work alongside a group of other leaders with lived experience of forced/migration to develop projects that create new patterns of thriving beyond survival. We aim to amplify your projects, ground your impact in the communities you serve, and invest in you as a person.

Trampoline: Ideas Into Action!

Trampoline: Ideas into Action! is a free 12-week program for people who have an idea for a social business or non-profit that addresses problems faced by refugee and newcomer communities in Surrey. People with lived experience of forced migration and displacement and/or with deep networks in these communities are welcome to apply.

This program emphasizes the importance of learning from the people engaging with your venture. Participants will conduct weekly interviews to test their assumptions, shape their product or service offering based on feedback. We will work on communications best practices to reach the population you serve, determine the most appropriate finance methods, and assess the market to see if there is demand for your offering. We will also examine the project through a “migrant justice” lens – asking about models that support democratic ownership, profit-sharing, and freedom from exploitation.

Project Spotlight

Roots 'N Shoots Case Study


The Global Market Place Case Study


PowerHack 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

Nada is a Libyan-born Palestinian who came to the unceded land of the Coast Salish peoples just over 10 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 is currently the project manager at RADIUS Refugee Livelihood Lab, which aims to build social, economic, and political capital for racialized refugee and migrant communities.

In addition to working with RADIUS, Nada is also involved in other programs and initiatives including the Inner Activist, World University Services of Canada, SFU CCMS Muslim Fellowship and the Fresh Voices Initiative.Nada is also pursuing a Master’s in Equity Studies in Education at SFU. In her free time, Nada enjoys playing, watching and talking about soccer.

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 experience in community-based facilitation, program design, conflict mediation and healing centered 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 which 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 (far right) 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 a 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.


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)
  • Terri Rutty (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)
  • and many more!


Questions About Refugee Livelihood Lab?

For more information, please contact Nada El Masry, Project Manager,

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