Scaling Up Services

There may come a time when you decide to open other offices in your country, region or further afield. While such a decision, and subsequent steps are highly contextual, this page should help identify benchmark goals and general steps for planning and expanding your operations. These considerations are also highly relevant at the start-up stage.

  • Identifying short-list locations for transferability.
  • Complete due diligence investigations for short-list locations. Larger legal firms may be willing to undertake such research on a pro-bono basis. Research should look at:
    • Political and social situation of refugees:
      • How many refugees reside in the country/city/area/region?
      • Where do they live – in camps, in the capital or other urban settings, in rural areas?  Is access to refugees restricted?
      • Are there significant numbers of refugee claimants or potential refugees who are not acknowledged by UNHCR or the government?
      • Are there significant numbers of refugees or refugee claimants in detention?
      • How stable is the economy?  Does it have the ability to absorb significant numbers of refugees?
      • What have the refugee flows been like over time?  Can we anticipate that the country/city/area/region will play host to significant numbers of refugees in the near future?
    • Legal context (general):
      • How strong is rule of law in the country/city/area/region?
      • What system of law is used?
      • Is the government ostensibly a democracy, or does it publicly espouse democratic principles?
      • What laws govern speech and association?
    • Legal conditions for NGO operations:
      • What are the legal conditions for operation?
      • What is required for registration as an NGO?  What are our registration options (local NGO, branch office of international NGO, sponsorship by other local organization, etc)?
      • Are there limitations on the type of work an NGO may undertake?
      • Are visas and/or work permits required for foreign employees?  What is the process for securing such visas/work permits?  Are there conditions for the employment of foreigners (number of local staff per foreign staff, payment of fees, etc)?
      • Are visas and/or work permits required for foreign volunteers?  What is the process for securing such visas/work permits?  Are there conditions for the employment of foreign volunteers (number of local staff per volunteer, payment of fees, etc)?
      • What requirements govern access and provision of services to the refugee population?  (If the refugee population is entirely interned in camps, for example, a permit may be required to access the camp.  Similarly, if 25 percent of the refugee population is in detention, regulations may prohibit the provision of human rights information to detainees.)
    • Laws relating to refugees:
      • What domestic laws govern refugees and asylum-seekers?  What international conventions has the country/countries signed?
      • In practice, are the laws governing refugees and asylum-seekers enforced?
      • Who conducts refugee status determination (RSD)?  If UNHCR conducts RSD, does the government respect UNHCR’s determination?
      • If the government conducts RSD, what is the process like?  Does it include due process protections?  Is it administrative or judicial?  Are there bars to legal representation in RSD?
      • Do refugees enjoy substantive economic, social and cultural rights under law (such as access to employment, financial institutions, education, healthcare and public benefits)?  Are these laws respected/enforced?
      • Do refugees enjoy substantive civil and political rights under law (such as freedom of movement, protection against arbitrary detention, and equal protection of the law)?  Are these laws respected/enforced?
    • Amenability of the legislative system to change:
      • Is the government open/responsive to policy advocacy and/or grassroots organizing?
      • Have other human rights movements been successful in improving the legislative framework that protects human rights?
      • How quickly can we achieve legislative change?  What investment is required (of time, funds, relationships, or other resources)?
      • How changeable is the political climate?  Are we at risk of losing legislative gains due to party or regime change?
    • Attitudes of policymakers, thought leaders and the public toward refugees:
      • How do policymakers and the public view refugees?  How do they view human rights advocacy?
      • How politically contentious is the refugee population (or portions thereof)?
      • Are refugees a lightning rod for popular discontent about other issues (e.g., poor economy, lack of employment opportunities, etc.)?
      • To what extent does the government care about its international reputation, both in general and vis-a-vis human rights specifically?
      • To what extent is the refugee population or the country/city/area/region politically contentious in relation to your current context and/or internationally (e.g., Palestinian refugees and Israel, respectively)?
    • Existence and effectiveness of NGOs providing assistance to refugees:
      • Who is serving the refugees, and what services are provided?
      • How open are other actors (NGOs, UNHCR, the government) to the intervention of an organization providing legal assistance to refugees?
    • Existence and effectiveness of NGOs advocating for human rights protections:
      • Who is advocating for human rights?  Is there a vibrant human rights advocacy community?
      • Do human rights advocates include refugees in their initiatives?
    • Local leadership potential:
      • Does the country/city/area/region have a strong pool of potential leaders (eg, experienced local human rights leaders)?
      • How easy will it be to instill Asylum Access’s corporate culture of rights-based assistance, respect for refugees as decisionmakers, and an insistence on rapid, decisive change where needed to protect human rights?
    • Operational costs and risks:
      • What is the primary language of official business in the country/city/area/region?
      • How easy is communication within the country/city/area/region and internationally?  How strong is the communication infrastructure (including electricity, phones, internet)?
      • How easy is transportation within the country/city/area/region and internationally?  Could we reach refugees without incurring high costs or significant travel time?  Could we evacuate staff easily if needed?
      • What security concerns will we face if we choose to operate in the country/city/area/region?
      • What costs are associated with obtaining any required NGO registration, visas/work permits, and access to refugee camps or detention facilities?
      • How interested are international donors (individuals, foundations, and government) in the country/city/area/region and/or its refugee population?
      • Begin financial planning and fundraising process including perfecting justification of why your model works and how scale-up will be managed.
  • Select most appropriate location(s) based on a comparative analysis of the factors above. You may wish to prioritize the factors in order to facilitate your shortlisting, or synthesize investigations into a ‘SWOT analysis,’ summarizing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of expansion to each particular location.
  • Create a mitigation strategy for each risk or threat identified.
  • Assess readiness and define tasks to accomplish in preparation for expansion. This will involve surveying heads of department on their readiness and workload implications relating to expansion. Approval may need to be sought at this stage from your board of directors.
  • Establish a timeline with 1 year, 6 months, 3 months etc. marks by which key objectives must be achieved.
  • Hire launch director or lead staff member for each new opening.
  • Complete new office set-up and staff hiring.

Further tools that may facilitate expansion decision-making: