Manifesto for Reframing Multicultural & Migrant Entrepreneurship V.01Nothing about us, without us!

Nothing about us, without us!

Initiated by A.M. Alvarez Monge, N. Boga, A. David & J. Terstriep

The umbrella term migrant entrepreneurship has become fashionable. Before the ‘long summer of migration’ 2015-2017, when Syrian refugees entered Europe, migrant entrepreneurship was a niche topic. Nowadays, communities, networks, and initiatives dealing with migrant entrepreneurship appear almost daily offering counselling and support infrastructure for migrants and refugees to startup or upscale businesses. Here, migrant entrepreneurship is often considered as part of the social entrepreneurship or the social innovation movement or is accounted for as part of the group of ‘marginalised and inclusive entrepreneurs'. With such understanding, migrant entrepreneurship is misunderstood and distorted from what it is: migrants starting and running businesses.Not giving a voice to migrant entrepreneurs is undoubtedly one of the significant shortcomings of the recent past. Rather than listening to and engaging with migrant entrepreneurs, many debates have been about them and their supposed needs by others. Knowing migrant communities means being sensitized to exclusion, discrimination, labelling and narratives. Being directly involved and affected makes the difference when discussing migrant entrepreneurship. That is why top-down agendas, ‘synthetic’ lobbies and ecosystems and one-size-fits-all approaches fail. This manifesto is written by migrants and their allies with the knowledge and experience to make the difference. Having an organised voice - from us migrants directly and collectively - is long overdue.

Multicultural & Migrant Entrepreneurs - Why is it? Who is it?

In times of migration and super-diversity, modern societies’ ethnic and cultural composition have changed and continue to do so, as have political views. Migrants are an integral part of modern societies, labour markets and business. With resources such as diverse economic, linguistic and cultural assets, international knowledge and versatile skills, migrants have successfully contributed to regional economies and societies through innovation and entrepreneurship - historically and today. Despite imperfect migration policies, bureaucratic barriers, discrimination (intersectionality) and further burdens, migrants are not deterred but continue to work hard to establish self-employment and ventures. In many Western countries, migrants are twice as likely to start a business as native-born.Studies show that on average, migrants are younger when setting up businesses, less risk-averse and are often independent of public aid or bank loans. They frequently run multicultural businesses with a diverse workforce, networks, and customer structures. In doing so, they have not only an economic impact, but also an integrative one bridging markets and internationalising products and services. Despite these facts, in public, still migrant entrepreneurship is limited to the attribute of their ‘migrantness’ instead of their venturing. Labelling migrant entrepreneurs is relevant only for developing segmented and targeted policies, programs and support. Migrant entrepreneurship is the umbrella term, including diverse sub-groups, e.g. first- and second-generations and diasporas, ethnic businesses and refugee entrepreneurs, traditional sectors and future-oriented branches, local and transnational entrepreneurs with dual or multifocal embeddedness, entrepreneurs with heterogeneous capabilities and resources, irrespective of gender. We recognise the struggles in addressing the topic and its challenges. We need to finally stop criticising and thus perpetuating old narratives. Rather, we must unleash a new wave of inspiration and vigour to value migrants and other entrepreneurs, facilitate them in establishing and doing business, innovate policies around them, and raise public awareness by collecting updated data and creating a new understanding. Hence, themes, not politics, are in the focus.We are writing this manifesto as people who represent the phenomenon and/or have been engaged with multicultural and migrant entrepreneurs for decades. To us, these concerns are not a cyclical and niche trend. While they seem invisible or marginal to many, migrant entrepreneurs are crucial actors in local communities and neighbourhoods where they practise societal change by acting as bridge-builders between cultures, contributing to the provision of products and services of general interest, creating jobs, and providing multilayered social value. Migrant entrepreneurs are often the innovators in local environments, thinking out of the box and illustrating new ways of doing and organising.

Actions to be taken for reframing Multicultural & Migrant Entrepreneurship

1. Building an open and reliable communityActing as non-partisan information and knowledge hotspot educating diverse stakeholders from the economic, public and academic sphere, we envisage building an open, trustworthy and reliable professional community of stakeholders who mutually support each other, and learn from each other and engage in joint actions.2. Mobilising and exploiting the expertise of the crowdBeing a complex phenomenon, facilitating and valuing migrant entrepreneurship in its various facets calls for a joint effort of a multiplicity of stakeholders. Jointly exploiting the knowledge and expertise of entrepreneurs, existing networks and initiatives in the area of migrant entrepreneurship, and bringing together international students, migrants and other diasporas, including NGOs, public organisations and academia help facilitate building resilient ecosystems.

3. Scholars have a role to playUnfortunately the role of universities and researchers in providing research results on migrant entrepreneurship has been largely degraded and sidetracked while in many countries private sector consultancies have taken this role instead of informing policymakers, private sector and other stakeholders. The unpretentiousness of committed and knowledgeable scientists can help to provide valuable, reliable and unbiased data on the complex and multifaceted phenomenon of migrant entrepreneurship. Hence, scholars can support us in drawing a more concise picture of migrant entrepreneurs' economic and social added value and related dynamics.4. Power relations and ecosystemsPower relations are a key factor in determining entrepreneurial ecosystems’ composition and functioning. In vibrant ecosystems, stakeholders act on equal footing, are capable of exploiting the diversity of knowledge and create a feeling of belonging. Thus, critically reflecting on existing power relations, i.e. the relative status, power, and/or dominance of the participants, reflected in whether expectations and behaviour are reciprocal, and consequently in communicative styles, are crucial.5. Creation of jobsOften considered within the context of diversity and inclusion, social corporate responsibility and presented as migrant’s untapped potential, the current narrative runs the risk of focusing on numbers beyond talent. Majority of livelihood intervention programs focus on training migrant youth in the areas needed and expect to fill a gap and contribute to economic growth. The heterogeneous nature of any community as of migrants would require to offer equal opportunity, access to training by a choice made upon self-assessment, guidance, and community to support self-efficacy to be able to access and create employment opportunities. Migrant talents' presence in the design and implementation of access to employment opportunities programs are at the heart of building meaningful connections with economic growth.6. Appreciation goes beyond wordsAppreciation of the activities of migrant businesses must overcome the limitations resulting from the emphasis on ‘success’, ‘high-tech sectors’ and ‘size’. Instead, it is about valuing migrant entrepreneurship in all facets and raising awareness of its economic and social impact, as is the case for other forms of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship requires fair and sustainable contexts. Hence, raising awareness for entrepreneurship, in general, takes centre stage.7. Migrants at the centre of the conversationRepresentation matters! And it matters when describing needs and taking action. Although all stakeholders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem are relevant, when it comes to migrant entrepreneurship, migrants themselves should lead the discussion. Migrants do not represent one monolith, migrants are super diverse. Opening tables to those living the experience is not an option, but a necessity. Speaking on their behalf, lobbying only perpetrates stigmatisation as such and the top-down approaches neo-colonialise minority entrepreneurs. Migrants and actors from the public, academic and financial spheres must interact on equal footing within the ecosystem to allow for bottom-up approaches.8. SustainabilityAs with many topics, projects have been set up in recent years that are interested in or have migrant entrepreneurship as their subject. The funding duration of these is limited. As soon as general interest wanes (cyclic behaviour), these funds vanish and the work that has already been done and the networks that have been established collapse. Our interest is to maintain a permanent network that is not committed to our own or economic interests, but solely to the topic of migrant entrepreneurship and start-up aid.

Suggested citation: David, A., Terstriep, J., Alvarez Monge, A. M., Boga, N. & Elo, M. (2022). Manifesto »Reframing Multicultural and Migrant Entrepreneurship«.

Adopt this manifesto, and join us!

Endorsements can be done as individuals or organisations. What's important is to join the conversation and take part by sharing your research, information, experiences and voices. It's time to recognise migrant's contributions and commit our work to protect these values.

All the contributors commit to:

  • Respect the International Declaration of Human Rights

  • Follow declarations & Treaties that aim to protect migrant rights

  • Respect the Global Compact for Migration

  • Embrace failure as an opportunity to learn about systems where migrants operate and how to support them effectively

  • To value fair representation of the migrant population

  • We stand to leverage and give the stage to migrants, and not to speak on their behalf

  • Listen and improve

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