Creating Welcome for Refugees

Refugees have long been active agents in their own livelihoods. Many have powerful stories of how they made it in America that speak to family, civic engagement, neighborliness and the value of diversity, sacrifice and giving back.

Learn More with Our New Educational Resources

About FMIP

The goal of the Forced Migration Innovation Project is to rethink refugees in resettlement as active agents in their own livelihoods. FMIP works with practitioners, the private sector, and refugees to develop sound programs based on research outcomes that contribute to alternative and sustainable livelihood practices in resettlement. In looking at longitudinal refugee employment outcomes, we hope to capture the enabling environments that facilitate upward mobility in newcomer populations.

Though there is a significant base of research on U.S. immigrant economic adaptation, how refugees fair over long periods of time and the strategies they use to career-ladder is significantly under-examined. Filling this gap, the primary research goals of FMIP's interdisciplinary team are 1) to understand how refugees in the U.S. use their own skills, talents, and entrepreneurship to create better livelihoods; 2) to understand the role of the host community's private sector as well as refugee networks in the process of upward mobility; 3) to identify the enabling environments (equally on the side of refugees, service providers, and employers) that support livelihood innovation and advancement; and 4) to understand to what extent the current resettlement system and host refugee discourse either supports or detracts from those enabling processes.

While committed to scholarship at an academic level, FMIP's goals and projects do not exist merely for the purpose of research. They are a considered response to ongoing, relevant needs initiated from current community agendas. This gives us an unusually rich opportunity to apply our findings in ways that make a real difference in the populations we serve. Through working partnerships with refugee groups, NGOs, workforce development, policy makers, and employers, FMIP is helping develop and monitor new programs that help newcomers move into living wages and career-ladder earlier in the resettlement process.

The Forced Migration Innovation Project is located in the Department of Anthropology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX.

SMU is seeking to raise annual and endowment funding in support of the Forced Migration Innovation Project.

For more information about FMIP or giving opportunities, please contact:
Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences 214-768-2608

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Latest news

Refugee Stories

Vansak was resettled from Cambodia. While in asylum, the UN trained and used him in security for the refugee camp...

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Ahmed came to the US as a skilled engineer from Iraq but had trouble transferring that professional license...

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Congolese refugees suggest that if newcomers had a space for a farmer’s market/bazar , where they could use...

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Mac, an Ethiopian, was encouraged to go into the labor force immediately upon resettlement in the U.S. As a single man...

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Seng, a Laotian, was resettled to Forth Worth in 1978 from a refugee camp in Thailand. After eight years working in the...

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Paul, a Hmong, resettled from Laos thirty years ago. He wanted to be a cattle rancher like he was in Laos, but lacked the...

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Abebe, an Ethiopian refugee, worked in a small bakery during asylum in Sudan. He took a job in Dallas at a convenience...

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Paul was resettled to the US from Laos where he had worked as a licensed pilot and mechanic. He hoped to stay in...

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Current Projects

facilitating collaborative solutions

The Forced Migration Project is facilitating collaborative solutions between multiple stakeholders, including the refugees themselves. Here, FMIP facilitates a discussion with refugees, service providers, business owners, and job counselors on how the skills refugees are arriving with could be better utilized in the US workforce.

expanding entrepreneur mentorship programs

FMIP is working with the Small Business Administration to expand their entrepreneurship mentor programs to be more inclusive of refugees, both as mentors and as mentees. This partnership will open opportunities to thousands of refugees with entrepreneurial dreams in the US.

utilizing new technologies with Ideas Box

FMIP is interested in rethinking how to utilize new technologies to connect refugees with the vast amount of livelihood advancement information and training available online. We have partnered with Ideas Box, a portable multimedia center created by Libraries Without Borders, to deliver resources to refugees in overseas camps. Partnering with Ideas Box and innovative translation technologies, FMIP's goal is to launch a pilot "Livelihood Resource Box" in its first urban resettlement setting within a year.

studying the public perception of refugees

FMIP is currently engaged in a study of public perception of refugees and the relationship between those attitudes and employment outcomes. The outcomes of our study are informing a series of Public Service Announcement videos designed to get the public to Rethink Refugees. Another outcome will be to produce a set of recommendations for the press in how they talk about newcomer populations.

preparing refugees for today's workforce

FMIP is working with the private sector to understand how to prepare refugees to meet the needs of today's workforce. This includes a thorough vocational audit of the area to determine the quickest and most feasible paths to sustainable jobs. With this information, we will initiate collaborative partnerships with businesses, service providers, refugees, vocational instructors, ESL providers, and workforce development to create career-ladders for refugees that work for all stakeholders. The first set of collaborative roundtables is set to take place this Spring 2015!

building public awareness

FMIP, in partnership with DFW school districts, RoI, and The Linking Community is launching a series of public awareness lectures, videos, and discussion tools to help dispel myths and educate the public on lived experiences of refugees in America.

creating new specialized esl programs

It has long been known that refugees with limited English need to improve their language abilities and acquire the needed job skills to advance in the U.S. labor market. FMIP is working to create new specialized programs for refugees by adapting existing ESL programs to the needs of living wage occupations. By combining language services with workplace communication skills, job-specific language, skill training, certifications, soft skills, and job placement services, refugees can be competitive for sustainable careers.

working with refugee communities

An important part of helping refugees find self-sufficiency is understanding the livelihood strategies used by those who have been resettled in the U.S. for a long time. FMIP is working with refugee communities to capture the enabling environments they used to support their success. Through this bottom-up approach we are developing a database of innovative strategies to leverage them with existing programs in a way that accelerates a newcomer's path to meaningful and sustainable employment. We are also working to quantify the economic trajectories of those who have been here for 30 years in order to understand the factors that affect living wages.

Working with the City of Dallas

Our bottom-up strategy promotes refugees getting a seat at the table in the decisions that affect their lives. FMIP is working in partnership with the City of Dallas to focus group proposed city space improvements to the areas where refugees live.


What People Say

Introducing SMU-FMIP

Notable People

The Resettlement Process


The FMIP offers the following services:

Program Monitoring and Evaluation Services
Seminar or workshops services for:
    - Refugees and livelihoods: creative solutions
    - Working with refugees: bridging the cultural divide
    - World Cultures
Research Services
Program development

Please contact us for details on the services we offer.

Contact information

  • Physical Address

    Southern Methodist University
    Forced Migration Innovation Project
    3225 Daniel Avenue
    Heroy Hall, Room 307
    Dallas, TX 75205

  • Mailing Address

    Forced Migration Innovation Project
    Department of Anthropology
    Southern Methodist University
    P.O. Box 750336
    Dallas, TX 75275

  • Office Hours

    Mon - Fri: 8:00 - 5:00