Innovations are often related to technological progress, also proposing innovations in terms of corporate structure and work management. Refugee Response has a common hierarchy with a CEO, vice presidents, a financial department and members of the management team. But even within this fairly common model, Refugee Response is something more akin to a nonprofit organization, and that's where the innovation comes in.
Marie Alix Paragon
Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore)
The Refugee Response is an Ohioan business founded in 2010 that manages to have free labor (without directly exchanging money with the workers), but helps refugees in ways other than financial.
The company has a common hierarchy with a CEO, vice presidents, a financial department, and members of the management team. But even within this fairly common model, there is something more akin to a nonprofit organization, and that's where the innovation comes in.
The company makes a profit with almost no labor costs while helping refugees access education, health, work, and their new lives in The United States. The association, through partnerships, helps refugees to find work, furthermore, they respond to a need for multiculturalism.
The way the organization is run and the work model of the workers is innovative, unique, and incredible when you consider that the company manages to be profitable.
One of Refugee Response's main operations is the OHIO CITY FARM, a farm located in the middle of the city that provides fresh organic produce to many restaurants, homes, and hotels in the state throughout the year. The farm is run by The Refugee Response and staffed by an organization that helps refugees find what they need to thrive.
This form of leadership is innovative, as they say in their business description, "The Refugee Response will be a local leader and national model for innovative programs serving resettled families."
It all started in 2001 when Paul Neundorfer and David Wallis, the two founders of The Refugee Response (TRR) went to Asia and "fell in love with Thailand". Three weeks later they contacted a university in Thailand with a professor who taught English. They got to know the students in the classrooms in Thailand who were former refugees. There were about 300,000 refugees. Then they started supporting schools, giving them academic resources like computers.
Back in the US in Ohio in 2004, they started volunteering at a local resettlement agency. There are three resettlement agencies that are actually federal contractors. They volunteered through them as mentors with families, former families who had been resettled for two or three years.
They have traveled throughout SouthEast Asia and Africa to visit and support schools in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border, in Kenya, Cameroon, and Nepal. David and Paul, along with friends and family, worked with resettled refugee families in NorthEast Ohio for four years before conducting research in 2009 to determine the specific needs of resettled people, no matter where in the world they come from, "the common denominator that emerged was that the refugees knew about agriculture", so the first initiative of The Refugee Response was the Ohio City Farm. They found this 2-hectare piece of land and then employed refugees to learn skills and pass them onto restaurants in the area.
TRR was incorporated as a charity in 2010 and developed the three initiatives currently still in place, the youth home mentoring program, the scholarship program, and the Ohio City Farm.
The Refugees Response has a greater qualitative impact on the lives of those it serves by ensuring that their voices, skills, experiences, and knowledge are central to their decision-making. Furthermore, TRR gives a positive aspect with the respect of different cultures, and the Refugees Response wants to give high-quality education for all refugees and individual support. They use multiple program strategies to support family success and believe that their services in collaboration with refugee families promote a better quality of life for the whole community.
To begin with, youth mentoring. The goal of the Youth Mentoring Program is to connect refugee students with volunteer mentors. Mentors work closely with students to strengthen basic literacy and math skills, develop positive habits and attitudes, and advocate for student success between school and home.
This service has a positive impact on these young people, there is more than education but a personal psychological follow-up of each young person to help them in the professional world and to reach the same level as other young people in the country.
Finally, the Ohio City Farm. As one of the largest and most productive urban farms in the nation, welcomes thousands of visitors each year and stands as a successful model for mission-driven businesses.
The Ohio City Farm has a positive impact in terms of economy, since they make a profit and this food goes partly to TRR's refugees, then in terms of work because thanks to TRR these people have found a job, and finally in terms of the environment.
The Refugee Response allows organizations like Ohio City Farm to create events and raise funds to continue their projects and create new ones. These events bring in significant funds that are tied to donations, or the sale price of participation in these events, this information can be found in the 2019 annual report. There was an event on October 2, 2021, where a VIP seat cost $225, with seats costing between $5 and $100. This event was a success as it was sold out before it started. These events are a great way to highlight the type of organizations that are successfully helping refugees in need while providing a simple and stable economic system.
This kind of event benefits the business in a way that the company is not only socially responsible but also succeeds in being profitable while it was not the main purpose at the beginning. It enables the company to grow, to make new partnerships with corporations searching for workers, to become a business model for other potential people in developed countries, and at the end increase the global help capability for the neediest people coming from underdeveloped countries.
Since its creation, The Refugee Response is at the inception of many positive impacts on society as a whole. Indeed, by helping people who have left the poorest countries, who fled a war, or we do not know what else, they contribute to their integration in a new society, a wealthier society.
This first service offered by TRR has a positive impact on future society. If the refugees have education and trust in mentors through this service, they will be able to find a job more easily and manage their lives afterward. Since they escaped from misery, it has a positive impact on them but also on the society around them, as these people can be an asset to society by contributing to the American Gross Domestic Product.
Besides, this is more subjective, but each refugee contributes to multiculturalism which is adds richness to a society in discovering new cultures, traditions, and ways of living. That is, other perceptions toward issues that can contribute to implementing new methods and innovate to solve them.
Paul Neundorfer, Vice-chair & Co-founder
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Cleveland, OH, US
Business Website: https://www.refugeeresponse.org/
Year Founded: 2010
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
The Refugee Response helps asylum-seekers to learn English and then to find a job. It enables resettled families to put down roots, helping them to become engaged, empowered, and active members of their new communities. The Refugee Response was established to assist in bridging the gap between existing resettlement agency services and the longer support needs of the refugee population.