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Three years of support for migrant entrepreneurs in Europe sets stage for continued support to youth on the move

In 2017, YBI  co-founded the M-UP Network for Migrant Entrepreneurs to Scale Up and Grow along with members KIZ and MicroLab, Youth Business Spain sub-member Autoocupació and SPARK, with support from the European Union’s COSME programme. Founded during a time when migration to the EU was labelled a crisis or even a threat to European societies and economies, M-UP countered this narrative by treating migration as an opportunity and an asset for Europe.

Over the last three years, M-UP has reached over 180,000 people and built a thriving network of European organisations, entrepreneurs, practitioners, experts and policymakers who are passionate about empowering migrants to realise their full potential. As a result of this collaborative work, Europe’s entrepreneurship ecosystem is better placed to support the growing numbers of migrants seeking livelihood support as the COVID-19 crisis has further damaged economies. As the number of youth on the move continues to rise and employment opportunities are increasingly limited, enabling more young migrants and refugees to harness the opportunities presented by entrepreneurship will help secure livelihoods and grow economies.

Snapshot of work achieved over the last three years

Advocacy for support on a European level

Migrants experience many institutional barriers that hold them back from starting a business, such as right to work restrictions, lack of access to finance and an overall lack of tailored support. In addition, migrant entrepreneurs need to navigate unfamiliar business and regulatory frameworks and often deal with racism and xenophobia. This is why M-UP started a petition calling on European institutions to streamline processes and regulations and create better conditions for migrant entrepreneurs. Find out more and sign the petition here.

Engaging with European organisations and EU policymakers

In July 2020, M-UP held a virtual meeting with representatives of the European Commission to advocate for a pan-European movement to establish high quality, impactful mentoring support programmes for migrant entrepreneurs. Read more on why mentoring is key to supporting migrant entrepreneurs.

Throughout September, M-UP along with the EMEN and MAGNET networks held the virtual Growing Europe conference, which covered topics such as the importance of migrant entrepreneurship, integration processes and the impact of COVID-19 on migrant businesses. We were joined by Monique Pariat, the European Commission’s Director General for Migration and Home Affairs who provided a public policy perspective on the importance of migrant entrepreneurs and how policies can support them.

Practical workshops for migrants, practitioners and decision-makers

M-UP facilitated three workshops in Brussels, Amsterdam and Barcelona that brought together a total of 194 migrant entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship support practitioners and policymakers for fruitful discussions, networking and sharing of ideas, experiences and best practices. Following an initial welcome workshop, the second workshop focused on Migrant Entrepreneurship Support in Practice and what kind of support is needed in the pre-and post-startup stages. The third workshop in April 2019 covered financial needs, opportunities and barriers for migrant entrepreneurs. One participant commented: “You need meetings like this to get connections off the ground”.

Online learning opportunities

In February 2020, M-UP held three expert-led webinars on migrant entrepreneurship training, access to finance, and mentoring. These webinars explored how training programmes should be tailored to migrant needs, opportunities and barriers for migrant entrepreneurs’ access to finance, and how mentoring can help them.

In addition, M-UP facilitated four online learning labs on evaluation, methodology, idea generation and proposal writing. These online events brought together M-UP member organisations, migrant entrepreneurs, experts, and project managers from EU organisations. A particularly valuable tool discovered at the learning labs was the ‘Entrepreneurs’ Journey’ - a five-step guide to effective support of migrant entrepreneurs.

Looking forward

We are proud to say that M-UP has reached over 180,000 people through its regular activities over the last three years. But it’s crucial that the lessons learned are shared across ecosystems and used by other entrepreneurship support organisations. There’s an estimated 2.4 million refugees and migrants across Europe, which presents a huge opportunity for Europe: with the right support, migrant entrepreneurs will create jobs and enrich their communities with innovation and international trade.

Read more about M-UP and the inspiring entrepreneurs supported through the network on the M-UP website

Other Resources

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Learning, knowledge and innovation through regional European workshops


Barcelona hosts a workshop for the Young Entrepreneurs Succeed programme


Those who make it possible

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Citi Foundation

Citi Foundation

Standard Chartered Foundation

Standard Chartered Foundation

Argidius Foundation

Argidius Foundation

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