Lessons learnt

Even if the project’s mandate was limited to strengthening the income-generating capabilities of youth, it acknowledged that this alone could not holistically benefit the refugees as they faced immense uncertainties trying to return to normalcy in a foreign land.

Language barriers, lack of basic needs and a sense of belonging, poor living conditions, unemployment and culture shock are some of the challenges they face every day. The Skills for Life project team found it necessary to partner with other stakeholders who offer psychosocial support services and often referred beneficiaries who needed help. Ultimately, those who were supported displayed better engagement in the training sessions and business group integration as they viewed themselves as active survivors rather than passive victims. 

2.    Not all training sessions could be delivered within the desired 3-month time frame due to their complexity. Some of these trades include screen printing, computer repair and plumbing which have extensive curriculums that require a longer training period. In the next phase, teaching will not be rushed, and appropriate extensions will be granted to beneficiaries to complete their learning.

3.    The project absorbed the training costs of capital-intensive trades which ultimately had a significant impact on the overall implementation budget. It intends to undertake another labour market analysis to ascertain the relevance and practicality of different trades before implementing them in the third phase. This is crucial as part of the analysis assesses the cost-effectiveness of implementing certain trades, identifies gaps and possible new market-driven trades that could be explored and adapted to the context. The Skills for Life project team will also look to partner with the local County Government who offer similar training sessions to increase efficiency in resource management.

4.    After project beneficiaries transition into business groups, they often face a myriad of challenges. Some of these include members unexpectedly breaking out of the groups to form their businesses and undefined group rules which sometimes lead to as many as 15 people forming a single business group. Due to group dynamics, profit-sharing becomes difficult to manage and ultimately the projected life span of these business groups becomes shorter. The project intends to work closely with the stakeholders to draft a clearly defined constitution that’s adaptable by different groups and gives operational guidance; allowing optimal resource utilization while ensuring maximum income generation. Skills for Life will also facilitate specialized expert sessions to support beneficiaries through coaching and mentorship in addition to peer to peer reviews.

5.    The financial services intervention through the savings and lending model (mavuno) has been positively taken up by both the host and refugee communities. While this methodology alone does not solve the need for beneficiaries to access large funds from formal financial institutions, it has offered them an opportunity to learn how to manage small amounts through regular saving and loaning. Group members can build better trust, guarantee each other for loans and payback promptly since the members come from the same locality and know each other. The transition of these informal savings and lending groups to formal financial services is quite challenging as this need only arises when the beneficiaries want to expand their businesses, require financial advice and access to higher loan amounts.

6.    For a long time, the project only tracked the beneficiary business groups and did not keep a close watch on those who had broken away to start their individual businesses. The external evaluation carried out in the 2nd implementation phase highlighted this as an area that needed improvement since even those in the individual business cluster were considered to have benefitted from the project activities. This was further validated by a tracer study conducted between April and May 2019. The study revealed that beneficiaries performed better in their individual businesses than in groups. In the 3rd phase, the project will focus on monitoring and evaluating data from both group and individual microbusinesses.

7.    Community involvement in project implementation is crucial and ensures sustainability. The project noticed the recruitment of Technical Service Providers from out of the project location was demanding and expensive as allocations had to me made for housing and travel allowances. A decision was made to actively build the capacities of local resource persons from the community who took up these roles when the opportunities arose. These Technical Service Providers understudied the master trainers and served as their assistants. Once assessments were done and their qualification was ascertained, they were considered to fill greater roles and allowed to integrate new ideas into their fields of specialization.