Choice of a Work Rights Program

Having assessed the needs and resources of our target population and defined the goals and objectives specified, the next step is to decide what program(s) are best suited to achieve the respective goal. Below are some examples of work rights programs.

Types of refugee work rights programs

Legal Services

Purpose: Legal services programs provide individualized legal assistance and representation to refugees, helping them navigate the refugee status determination (RSD) process and access rights protected by national laws. They are the most direct way of accessing and implementing refugee work rights, however, their reach is limited by the available staffing capacities. For more detail, see Legal Services.

Rights Workshops

Purpose: Through Know Your Rights trainings, refugees are enabled to understand their options and how to exercise them. Know Your Rights Workshops are instrumental for community empowerment and an effective way of disseminating knowledge about options available to refugees to improve their situation. For more detail, see Rights Trainings.

Community empowerment

Purpose: Community empowerment projects are crucial to assist refugees in rebuilding their lives and to facilitate their integration into the host community. This could include programs such as social inclusion workshops and community capacity building programs. The long term purpose of these programs is that by law and in practice, refugees are able to choose where they live and achieve self-reliance while enjoying their other human rights.

Vocational training programs

Purpose: Vocational training programs play an important part in developing or building on the target populations’ existing skillset and matching it with the host community’s economic demands. They can foster refugee integration not only by creating job opportunities through cooperation with local businesses, but also by adjusting the refugee livelihood means to the requirements of the local economy.

Business engagement

Purpose: The private sector is a powerful ally in implementing refugee rights. They can support your refugee work rights program in a variety of ways. Most obviously companies can provide employment opportunities to refugees, however, they can support refugee rights programs by other means such as providing accommodation for refugees, funding for scholarship opportunities, vocational training programs, tickets for transport to reduce barriers to freedom of movement or support in policy advocacy. It is thus important to know how to best pitch your proposal to potential business owners.

Policy advocacy

Purpose: Policy Advocacy can influence the legal and political framework a refugee work rights program will operate in. As a result, it is of particular importance in countries lacking any form of legal framework for refugee rights as it can change the existing parameters. Successful advocacy can simplify the execution of your program and can garner widespread support within the host community as a whole. For more detail, see Policy Advocacy.

Choosing the appropriate refugee work rights program

The information collected in the assessment process should provide a “road map”, guiding the decision of which refugee rights program is most needed in the respective country. For example, if there are no legal possibilities at all for refugees to obtain lawful employment, then the most effective program would lie in the domain of policy advocacy and strategic litigation. By contrast, if there are legal paths to employment, but there is a lack of knowledge and other barriers to access, know your rights workshops or individualized legal assistance are more appropriate.

Logic Model

To determine what refugee rights program has the best fit according to your needs and landscape assessment a logic model is instructive.

A logic model describes a series of connections that link problems and/or needs you intend addressing with the actions you will take to obtain your outcomes. Your program activities should target those factors that you have identified as contributing to the problem. Logic models are frequently phrased in terms of “if-then” statements that address the logical result of an action.

Needs → Goals/Objectives → Activities → Output → Outcome Measures

Below is an example of a logic model grid that shows how there is a direct relationship between the reasons for the problem (causes identified in a needs assessment), the desired goals and objectives to correct the problem, the solution to bring about those changes (i.e., the activities of a program), and the tool (outcome measure) used to document the changes in the refugee rights context.


Needs Assessment Data Risk-Factor-Based Goals/Objectives Activities and Output Outcome Measures
Lack of knowledge of how to obtain a work permit Goal: Refugees have comprehensive understanding of how to obtain a work permit

Objective: More work permits are obtained by refugees

–       Individualized legal assistance

–       Know your rights workshops

–       Community legal empowerment

Number of work permits obtained

It is apparent from the above example that to achieve the desired goal and objectives a combination of different refugee work rights programs may be appropriate.

Fit: What actions need to be taken so that the selected program “fits” the community context?

Program fit is the degree to which a selected best practice program fits within the community context. The idea of fit describes the anticipated compatibility of the proposed work rights program with the following:

  • Values and practices of the community
  • The characteristics of the target populations
  • Culture of the target population, which affects how they can be reached and best served (eg. refugees having restricted rights and/or movement)
  • Community’s anticipated perception of the program e.g. existing sentiments of xenophobia, hostility towards immigrants etc.
  • The priorities of key stakeholders, such as funders and policy makers.
Why does it matter?
  • To ensure that the selected program matches the needs and characteristics of the target population
  • To ensure that your program’s goals complement those of other available programs
  • To ensure that the community can support the program and has the capability to benefit from it
  • To ensure adequate resources exist to implement the program properly
  • To ensure sufficient participant involvement in the program
  • To improve the likelihood of success for the program

To demonstrate the importance of “fit”, the following are examples of programs that would have a good fit:

  • Community Empowerment Programs that involve nationals as program participants where appropriate to address community tensions (if locals perceive refugees as being able to access support that they are not entitled to.)
  • Vocational Training Programs that complements and builds upon existing skills of refugees but are at the same time in line with the requirements of the local economy and involve local population.
How do you determine program fit?

To determine program fit, use the data collected from the needs, resources and landscape assessment. This information should include an analysis of the existing barriers to implementing refugee work rights such as rights restrictive legislation, barriers such as restricted movement, community values and beliefs or logistical issues such as lack of available space, funding or resources.

As program fit may change over time, it should be reviewed regularly. Periodic assessment and M&E is essential.