Beyond Borders

What is the Beyond Borders program?

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

Applications are currently closed

Who should apply?

This program is open to everyone who identifies with the refugee or immigrant experience, including new and experienced leaders, settlement workers and managers, artists, activists, funders, employers entrepreneurs, parents, community members and more.

If you answer YES to these questions, then this program is for you.

  • Do you have a passion to address challenges such as credential recognition,language barriers,
    racism, poverty, homophobia, anti-Blackness, Islamophobia, detention policies, access to health care, social and economic exclusion of refugee communities or other issues?
  • Do you have ideas for your community you want to put in action but have not yet found a way?
  • Do you believe in the value of collaboration with people most affected by the
    issues AND people with access to institutional power?
  • Are you willing to invest in your personal leadership and growth?
  • Do you want to contribute to building diverse communities that can create and lead together?
  • Are you able to commit a minimum of 12 days of time over 6 months to the process?
  • Do you identify with the refugee or newcomer experience?

BENEFITS & Eligibility

Program Information

Through a collaborative process, you will develop, test and share community action projects, service innovations, or social ventures (click here to see some examples of projects from last year.)  You will choose your projects to address an issue important to the social, political and economic participation of refugee and immigrant communities. We will challenge and support each team to design their initiative to be able to shift power dynamics towards more equity. You will be part of a group committed to responding to the current moment in communities with fresh narratives, relationships of trust, and increased access for excluded groups.

You will receive:

  • Input from influential stakeholders in the community, helping expand your reach
  • Learning with experienced faculty who have lead systems change as racialized migrants
  • Access to a powerful pool of mentors
  • You will have a voice in shaping the program experience, and co-creating the community.


12 days over 6 months,  plus 5-10 hours per week of take-home work per month

Schedule: Please make sure you are available for all the following program dates

September 6th,  5:30-8:30pm: Meet and Greet Orientation

September 17th, 5:30-9:00pm: Panel on Community Organizing for Systems Change

October 11-13th, all days/nights: System Sensing Retreat

November 8-9th, Friday 9:30-5pm/ Saturday 10-5pm: Community Listening & Ideation

  • Advisor evening session in between to be determined

December 6-7th,Friday 9:30-5pm/ Saturday 10-5pm: Prototyping and Testing

  • Advisor evening session in between to be determined

January 10-11th, Friday 9:30-5pm/ Saturday 10-5pm: Refining Prototypes

  • Advisor evening session in between to be determined

February 7-8th, Friday 11-9pm/ Saturday 10-5pm: Sharing Our Work & Closing

Location: Most gatherings will take place at the Surrey Central Library. The October retreat will be at Eagle Valley Retreat Centre near Squamish.  Transportation will be provided for the retreat. The Panel event on September 17th will be at SFU Harbour Centre.  The final presentations of your work will take place at Surrey City Hall.

Cohort: Limited to 20 people

Cost: Thanks to the generous support of The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, SFU International, the Vancouver Foundation, Tosan Omatsola and the Mowafaghian Foundation, there are reduced fees to participate in this experience.

We are committed to making the program affordable regardless of how much access to money you have. At the same time, we must cover costs associated with the programming. As a result, there are three options for payment:

  1. Bursaries: No fee
  2. Pay what you can: Range of payment between $50-250
  3. Institutional Support: For those with support from their organization, agency or group, there will be a sliding scale fee from $750-$1250.

Program Benefits

We have heard the program helps people to grow in the following ways:

  • Grow your confidence

  • Grow your leadership: Learn to influence power dynamics in systems that affect the lives of refugee and newcomer communities

  • Grow your skills: Get hands-on practice of community organizing and project development. Learn how you can make things happen.

  • Skillful coaching: Get tailored support and mentorship

  • Grow your community: Build a base of relationships and shared power with other leaders impacted by forced/migration

  • Grow your influence: Engage with organizational leaders, grassroots groups, and policy makers who also want to affect systemic change

What is innovation, anyway?

Innovation happens when people dare to dream another world is possible, and courageously come together to create that world. This process has existed in every culture, region and time in human history. Innovation is natural to us all.

We are curious about how you see innovation – let us know!

What are we learning at the Refugee Livelihood Lab?

On September 17th, 2019, we co-hosted a sold-out event on Migrant Justice & Systems Change, exploring what we are learning. Our panelists included Harsha Walia from No-one Is Illegal, Reyna Joyce from Fresh Voices, Anthonia Ogundele from Ethos Lab, and Jennifer Reddy from EdMeCo and SFU Continuing Learning. Valeen Jules opened with spoken word, reminding us that land acknowledgment is related to real and ongoing struggles for reclamation of land and Indigenous sovereignty.
Hosted by Nada El Masry, the panellists were real, vulnerable and covered themes including:
  • who are we as migrant communities? what are the different experiences within the word “refugee”?
  • who has a role in making change? does it happen in the family? in yourself? in your organization? in your community? all?
  • what about language accessibility?
  • how do we make this relevant to all our people, and use our immense number of languages to support change?
  • do we change systems slowly, or are they fundamentally broken and need a radical redo?
  • how do we support those who work within existing systems, outside systems, and across many different political perspectives?
  • how do we build nourishing spaces for ourselves as people targeted by oppression?
Adriana Contreras from Drawing Change captured the themes in this graphic recording.


How to apply

Applications are currently closed

We will now hold face to face interviews for short-listed candidates the week of August 19th-27th. The final cohort will be announced on September 18th.

Info Sessions & Help with Applications

If your group or organization would like us to come speak to your team about Beyond Borders, please contact Nada Elmasry ( to schedule an information session, or for support with the application process.

The Program Team

The Refugee Livelihood Lab Trampoline: Ideas Into Action! will be stewarded by the following team of individuals. This team will also invite in a variety of guests from the local community.

Nada Elmasry

Nada is a Libyan-born Palestinian. Prior to coming to Canada as a landed immigrant, Nada and her family were among the millions forced out of their country and deemed stateless. Due to her experiences and education, Nada has shaped her life goals around values rooted in social justice. Nada currently oversees the refugee and new Canadian support programs at SFU. Nada is also currently involved in Beyond Borders: Refugee Livelihood Lab at RADIUS, The Inner Activist, and Fresh Voices Initiative of The Vancouver Foundation, which offers a way for racialized youth across B.C. to engage in dialogue and action to remove barriers to their success. Nada has been active in the BC Muslim community and a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion. She is pursuing a Master’s in Equity Studies in Education at SFU.

Ayan Mohamud Ismail

Ayan is a Black, African, Muslim woman who is grateful to live on the Unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples. She works directly with the Refugee Livelihood Lab and co-leads design, facilitation, evaluation and participant support. Ayan is a third-year SFU student pursuing a major in International Studies and a minor in Sociology. Her passion of wanting to see and bring change to her immediate community and the larger global community made her pursue this field. She is also invested in facilitation and programs that support meaningful youth engagement, specifically racialized migrant, refugee voices because of her lived experiences as a Refugee. When not deeply intrigued in decolonial poetry and African literature books, you can find Ayan gushing about basketball, acting + filmmaking, and organizing the Afrocentrism Conference 2019!

Camille Dumond

Camille is a facilitator, poet and healer who helps groups find the radical heart of change.  For the past 20 years, she has used popular education, conflict facilitation, and relationship building to support communities to critically engage with their own experiences. Her priority these days is creating institutional platforms where equity-seeking communities can take action together to shape the systems that shape their lives. Camille co-led the collaborative design of the Refugee Livelihood Lab at RADIUS SFU with her colleague and friend Nada Elmasry. Currently, Camille manages the Refugee Livelihood Lab.

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.


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

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