by Guillaume Capelle

Marie and Pierre Curie

How can we get rid of obstacles newcomers face on their way to innovation and entrepreneurship? It is only fair that anyone should be allowed to start a project with a positive impact. It is also a pity that our societies and economies are missing out when newcomers aren’t able to reveal their talents. We need new spaces and tools encouraging both newcomers and locals to find synergies, learn from each other, and build a brighter future, together.

At SINGA, we believe in migration-led innovation and we think that fusion economy is completely under-exploited. We have created incubators, spaces and accelerators to support ideas, projects and super projects fitting this description. After 4 years, our programs have supported over 300 companies, which have in turn created over 400 jobs.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” Albert Einstein

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SINGA Business Lab in Berlin

Essentially, migration-led innovation comes from the ability to use one’s diverse background to identify a gap or an opportunity in the market, or use one’s experience to create a never-seen-before product. For instance, what Shaza has missed the most in her journey from Syria to France was daily contact with her parents. She’s working on a connected object to keep bonds alive despite the distance, beyond existing digital tools like audio and video. Shaza is now prototyping her product with the support of SINGA and a renowned university in Lyon. Abbas used to be an accountant in Afghanistan, before he left for Italy, then France. His passion? Pizza. Abbas reinvented himself as the first at-home pizzaiolo, bringing his oven with him to people’s homes where he cooks and teaches small groups of friends how to make pizza with local, organic ingredients. Today, Abbas has become so popular he is turning down events, and is looking to expand his business by creating training and job opportunities for other newcomers.

SINGA’s inclusive approach also means that we are promoting solutions built with diversity instead of for diversity — a good way to avoid local resentment and objections. When we support refugee entrepreneurs who develop social innovation and businesses that target their host communities, we include local citizens. We build these bridges to avoid the “us” vs. “them” distinction, to promote a plural and evolving sense of belonging.

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SINGA Business Lab in Paris

In many ways, what we have created through entrepreneurship is contributing to a new social architecture. When you build societies and economies like houses, there are people inside and outside. You design windows to look out at others. You design doors and stairways, entryways and means to ascend only accessible to those privileged enough to have made it inside. You discuss how your precious food and drinks, the only available resources, can be split with new roommates without affecting established tenants. You get into frenzied discussions over whether you should open the door or not.

It’s time to look at it differently. Big data, AI and climate change challenge our definition of identity. We have plural, cross-borders and evolving identities. No matter our nationality or language, we can love the same sport or team, and we can commit to solving the same global issues together. We understand that migrants are not outside societies, they are also inside them. They don’t come empty-handed; they bring human and intellectual wealth. Societies are not houses with unwavering foundations and impenetrable walls, they are shaped on common stories and experiences. They are the results of everyday human interactions, which may lead us to inventing the new penicillin or the next sustainable energy source.

Alice Barbe, Guillaume Capelle, and Camille Soulier for the Global Goals Yearbook by the Macondo Foundation