Conducting an Ecosystem Analysis

Before you start building relationships with your stakeholders, it is advisable to conduct an ecosystem analysis. This enables you to:

  • Identify the breakdown of the relevant actors, the relationships between these actors and the dynamics involved.
  • Identify the parts and relationships in the systems that are expected to change, and how it will change.
  • Prioritize and make decisions on who you should establish relationships with, and for what purposes.

An ecosystem analysis has two main components, the (1) environmental conditions, and (2) key stakeholders within the ecosystem of refugee protection in your country. The following section will explain these two components in detail, and provide questions to guide you to conduct your own ecosystem analysis. There is also a downloadable template at the bottom of the page to help you conceptualize an ecosystem analysis in a visual manner. Note that when you are conducting your ecosystem analysis, the legal analysis and field analysis that you have previously conducted may already have useful information that you can refer to.

1. Environmental Conditions

Environmental conditions refer to the external factors that are beyond the organization’s control, but nevertheless influence the outcome of your work. Acknowledging these conditions can assist you in the planning process to identify potential partners and collaborators, to identify what other needs must be met in order to address the relevant issue, and to predict which parts of the issue your organization can realistically influence.

Some examples of environmental conditions that can affect the ecosystem for refugee rights could include:

  • Politics and administrative structures
    • What are the legal and administrative structures to guarantee refugee rights?
    • To what extent are refugee rights given priority in relation to other social issues faced in the country?
    • How much influence does the organized civil society have?
  • Economics and markets:
    • What is the level of unemployment and informal employment?
    • How does this affect local attitude towards incoming migration might flows?
    • Where are international funds channeled towards during humanitarian crisis?
    • How do refugees respond to large-scale humanitarian crisis, e.g. would they rely on self-employment in the informal sector?
  • Geography and infrastructure:
    • Where are the justice sectors located, and how accessible are they to the most vulnerable and poor?
  • Culture and Social Fabric
    • What are the local perceptions of refugees?
    • How far are they regarded as people with rights, or as people with the potential to contribute to their country of refuge?

2. Key Stakeholders and potential role of RRO

In addition to understanding the environmental conditions that influence refugee rights, you should also identify the key stakeholders involved. Key stakeholders are actors that can influence or be influenced by your RRO’s actions. In the suggested template above, the key stakeholders within a refugee assistance and protection space are categorized as resource providers, complementary organizations, bystanders, competitors, and opponent actors. Depending on your context and aims, you may add and modify these categories to better organize your analysis.

After you identify the relevant stakeholders, the following questions can guide you to better understand the relationships and dynamics between each of these actors.

  • What is their mission and interest?
  • Which refugee population(s) do they influence? How, and with what resources?
  • Who are their main partners and collaborators?

It is also helpful to identify how you may situate your RRO within the ecosystem. Some guiding questions might include:

  • Which actors’ approach might be complementary to promoting refugee rights? Is there space for collaboration with your RRO?
  • Which actors’ approach might be counter to promoting refugee rights? If resistant, how can these obstacles be mitigated?
  • What are the gaps in the existing ecosystem that your RRO can fill?
  • What are the obstacles to refugee rights in the existing ecosystem that your RRO can address?

Some guiding questions specific to a key stakeholder may also include:

  • Refugees
    • What degree of protection do refugees have?
    • What are their relative access to justice and administrative mechanisms that they have to wield their rights?
    • What rights do asylum seekers have when their cases are pending?
    • How does this compare to recognized refugees?
    • Are those without access to registration overlooked in the country’s protection system?
    • How can refugees play a bigger role within the ecosystem to obtain their rights?
    • NB. Different populations of refugees face different degrees of vulnerabilities. You may find it helpful to break down the refugee population into meaningful categories, such as based on age, gender, ethnicities, etc.
  • Resources Providers
    • Who are the main resource providers?
    • What resources do they provide?
    • Who do they fund?
    • Are financial resources centralized in UNHCR-mediated grants and foundational funding?
  • Complementary Organizations
    • Which organizations can provide parallel support to your RRO’s work?
    • Are there any organizations that can be in RRO’s referral system to provide tactical political support, or credibility to a rights-based approach, etc.?
    • NB. This might include UNHCR, local human rights organizations, and organizations supplying immediate needs to refugee legal clients.
  • Bystanders
    • Which actors might be able to play a bigger role if a rights-based approach is adopted?
    • Are traditional development actors who have a potential to assist refugee populations (e.g. poverty alleviation, microfinance organizations, job training programs) currently isolated?
    • What are the ways to better engage these actors?
  • Competitors
    • Which organizations might perceive a competing perspective to RROs in attracting attention, funding and resources?
    • How can this be addressed?Can a friendly competition be established, e.g. to build on clarification that there is a place for both humanitarian and rights-based approaches among refugee-serving organizations?
    • Can education and outreach conducted to involve more sustainable solutions?
  • Opponent Actors
    • Are there actors that set obstacles to refugees’ enjoyment of their rights?
    • Is there a restrictive legislation? What are the possible ways to challenge this, e.g. feasibility of litigation?
    • Is there a restrictive or wrongful application of existing laws? What are the possible ways to challenge this, e.g. through administrative mechanisms?
    • Is there an ignorance of rights? What are the possible ways to challenge this, e.g. through education?
    • Is there corruption and exploitation? What are the possible ways to challenge this, e.g. through legal empowerment education?
    • Are there opportunities for your RRO to address these obstacles?

A template can be found below, which you may adapt according to the context that you are working in.

Based on these findings, you may develop your strategic plan. This involves key questions such as:

  • What do you seek to change in the current ecosystem?
  • What are the obstacles to refugee rights that a RRO can address?
  • What are the gaps that a RRO can fill?
  • How will your strategies influence the ecosystem?
  • How can this change be measured?

For more information on how to develop your organization’s strategy and goals, you may refer to the Results-based Management in the Operate and Manage section of the toolkit.

Given the dynamics involved between stakeholders, you will notice that there are specific challenges to establishing a refugee rights organization. As a new organization with a rights-based approach, seeking to empower refugees and break cycles of dependency may lead to resistance in some sectors. After developing your ecosystem analysis and strategic plan, you should have a clearer idea for which stakeholders your RRO will prioritize in establishing relationships with, and with what strategies. The subsequent pages will highlight some practical advice in establishing effective relationships with the government, UNHCR and other NGOs.