FY 16: Harnessing the Power of Businesses in Responding to Refugee Crisis: A Blueprint for Improved Humanitarian-Private Sector Collaboration (The Urban Institute)

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
October 7, 2016


In the four years preceding 2015, the worldwide refugee population increased by 4.7 million people, 89 percent of whom originate from Syria. These “humanitarian emergencies are beyond anything we have experienced in living memory” and have overwhelmed the “underfunded and unsustainable” humanitarian system. Not surprisingly, there has been a growing emphasis on tapping into private sector resources in responding to this crisis, including through the UN’s fall 2015 Business Action Pledge. This project will explore the factors contributing to the emergence and effectiveness of humanitarian-private sector collaboration efforts designed to benefit refugees in south-eastern Bangladesh and western Tanzania. Understanding the private sector’s core competitive advantages and strategic interests will help establish more institutionalized and mutually beneficial partnerships based on genuine synergies. The resulting knowledge and analytic tools will support humanitarian agencies’ quest for leveraging the private sector’s financial and technical resources. This study will develop a practical playbook to better equip both humanitarian agencies and private firms to evaluate various options for private-humanitarian sector collaborations and generate ideas and share tips for operationalizing them on the ground.


  • Systematically review, document and analyze key features of existing humanitarian-private sector collaborations across multiple contexts
  • Conduct a systemic stocktaking of successful (and unsuccessful) collaborations with the objective of distilling good practice principals
  • Design and apply a stylized conceptual model of private-humanitarian collaboration linking private sector expertise with the needs of refugees
  • Provide Humanitarian actors an applied playbook for tapping into private sector resources to help improve the socioeconomic wellbeing of refugees
  • Make an original, evidence-based contribution to the literature on humanitarian-private sector collaboration in refugee settings

The project is expected to be completed in August 2017.