Vision and objective

The Refugee-led Innovation Fund champions the creativity of all displaced and stateless people. It aims to reshape their participation in the delivery of humanitarian work by ensuring they take centre stage in the decisions affecting their lives, leading the identification of needs and the design of innovative solutions.

The Fund provides holistic support – combining financial resources, mentoring, and other expertise – directly to refugee-led organizations, to enable them to design and deliver new interventions that have a lasting positive impact on their communities.

About the Fund

Organizations led by displaced and stateless people make remarkable contributions to their communities but face considerable challenges accessing direct and flexible funding. Too often, they are excluded from existing networks of entrepreneurs and innovators, resulting in poor access to knowledge, information, and resources that could help them amplify their impact.

The Refugee-led Innovation Fund proposes a fundamental shift in programme architecture. It takes a grassroot approach whereby people who have experienced forced displacement are directly provided with meaningful financial resources and support to implement innovative approaches.

Who can apply

The Fund supports innovation by all organizations led by people with lived experience of forced displacement, including refugees, asylum-seekers, the internally displaced, returnees, and stateless people.

Applicants are asked to apply as a team, usually as part of an existing organization. The Fund accepts applications from both registered and unregistered organizations. Additional attention will be given to ensuring organizations led by LGBTIQ+ persons, women, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups receive support and encouragement to apply to the Fund.

What the Fund offers

Selected organisations can expect the following support:

  1. Financial support: Organizations can apply for up to 45,000 USD in funding to test and implement ideas with strong community-approaches that generate value for community members, not specifically linked to any thematic area or technology.
  2. Programme and project management support: Grantees will receive assistance from UNHCR and experts to help build their capacity to design and implement programmes effectively.
  3. Technical support, expertise, and coaching: Needs-based specialist advice will be offered, on topics ranging from technology to legal support and innovation methodologies.
  4. Peer-to-peer networking: Supported organizations will be encouraged to engage with each other, share experiences, learn from each other, and explore partnerships.
  5. Other support based on project needs: This could include organizational support, help with project sustainability and scale, training on specific topics, business model advice, and media and communications support.
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How to apply

Applications go through a two-stage selection process.

In the first stage, organizations are invited to submit a brief expression of interest by 30 June 2023 at 23:59 CET. This expression of interest will provide a short overview of the identified challenge and proposed solution. The Innovation Service will review these applications and identify a shortlist of applications.

In the second stage, shortlisted organizations will have a further three weeks to submit a full application. They will receive support from the Innovation Service and UNHCR country offices to develop and submit these detailed applications.

To apply now by submitting an initial expression of interest, click the button below.

See FAQs below for more details.

Our Approach

To achieve its objectives, the Fund has adopted the following approach:

  • Support forcibly displaced people to identify challenges and opportunities, and develop solutions that can have lasting impact within their communities.
  • Provide a holistic support mechanism tailored to their requests, including financial support, mentorship and technical expertise across the innovation lifecycle.
  • Connect disjointed, localized innovation by facilitating peer support, learning and sharing
  • Build evidence that proves the power of initiatives developed by forcibly displaced people, and use this to overcome barriers that prevent them from accessing resources.


Who is eligible to apply?

Only organizations led by people who have lived experience of forced displacement are eligible to apply. This includes refugees, asylum-seekers, the internally displaced, returnees, and stateless people. We accept applications from both registered and unregistered organisations. As the Fund is trying to promote novel ideas proposed by refugee-led organisations to test innovative approaches, projects that have received support during past rounds of the Refugee-led Innovation Fund are not eligible to receive additional funding to continue implementation of existing initiatives. However, grantee organizations proposing a new idea/project are welcome to apply.

What counts as innovation for the Fund?

Innovation is not about technology, it is about tackling challenges in new or unexplored ways to create value for communities. We assess the innovativeness of an idea on the basis of the extent to which it represents a creative and new approach to challenges identified by forcibly displaced and stateless persons and the value/impact that it will generate in the community. Ideas may be new to UNHCR, new to the context, or new to the world.

How will you select projects?

To ensure an efficient process and avoid unnecessary efforts put by organizations in developing full proposals at an early stage, the application process to the Refugee-led Innovation Fund will take place in two phases:

  1.  Expressions of Interest (EoI): All organizations interested in receiving support through the Fund will have to submit an EoI by 30 June which briefly describes their challenge, proposed solution, and the value it will generate in the community. The Innovation Service will longlist applications received to pre-select the most promising ones. These longlisted applications will go through a vetting and due diligence process to verify some relevant details about the organizations. Not pre-selected EoIs will be notified.
  2. Full proposals: Organizations that pass the vetting and due diligence process will develop full proposals that will be reviewed by a technical committee and a Steering Committee, which includes forcibly displaced and stateless persons, to make a final decision on the projects to be supported through the Fund.
What is the assessment criteria?

The main criteria to be followed during the selection process will be:

  • Challenge framing: How well the challenge is framed and whether the views from community members and relevant stakeholders have been captured.
  • Novelty of the idea/solution: Whether similar solutions exist or not.
  • Value for community: Potential positive impact on the identified community(ies) if the proposed solution is successful.
Does the Fund focus on a specific technology, theme or impact area?

No. The Fund stresses the importance of ensuring people who have experienced forced displacement are able to frame the challenge themselves and lead the design of solutions.

Our organization has a new idea, but we’ve never tried anything like it before. Can we still apply?

Yes, you can apply whether or not you’ve previously tested your idea. Bear in mind that applicants are required to outline an idea that they want to explore in their context, and that they believe will lead to lasting positive change. This approach allows emergent ideas to surface from ongoing dialogue with their communities.

How much funding is each organization eligible to receive?

The maximum financial support applicants can apply for is 45,000 USD.

What costs are covered by the Fund?

All costs related to project activities can be covered by the Fund, including procurement of goods and services as well as personnel/staffing costs  needed to advance the aims of the project. Office costs and overhead costs, if they can clearly be linked to the project, can also be covered. The funding cannot be used for purchasing goods or services for personal use.

Can individuals apply for the Fund?

No. Applicants must apply as a team, usually as part of an existing grassroots, community-based or refugee-led organization.

Does the Fund accept joint applications from two or more organizations?

The Fund welcomes and encourages multi-stakeholder proposals. We recommended one organization take responsibility for submitting the joint expression of interest and the full proposal, ensuring to include the names of the partner organizations in the application. The maximum funding available for any project – whether led by one organization or several – is 45,000 USD.

What is the project implementation period?

Projects supported through the Fund are expected to start implementation in January 2024. We will ensure all relevant documentation to formalize the special partnership agreement between grantees and UNHCR will be prepared before the end of 2023. The financial support channelled through the Fund can be spread out over a maximum of 18 months.

Questions about the Fund can be directed to


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