The LIFE Project’s Next Chapter: Transitioning the Turkey Pilot Program and Sharing Lessons Learned

By Marie Principe, Program Officer and LIFE Project Lead, Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)

In 2017, the LIFE Project began with a simple proposition: that entrepreneurship and the shared language of food could be leveraged to build sustainable livelihoods and create lasting bonds between refugee and host communities. To test this theory, CIPE and a Consortium of partners launched a pilot program in Turkey - home to more refugees than any other country in the world, including 3.6 million Syrian refugees. 

This initial pilot has been an incredible success, with more than 300 graduates from the LIFE Project Entrepreneur Incubation Program, most of whom are starting and growing successful food businesses in Turkey. Now, it is time to begin a new chapter of this project.

Although the entrepreneurs graduated from the same program, every story has been unique. For some, like Zeinab and Shaker, success meant rebuilding a business in a new country. Others, like Mohammed, pivoted to food entrepreneurship when they came to Turkey due to high barriers to entry in other professions. Host community members also had inspiring business journeys. Whether translating existing passions into successful businesses, like Ahmet, or determining the next steps of a decades-long entrepreneurship journey like Emel’s, the LIFE Project helped Turkish entrepreneurs find success while also forging bonds with their refugee counterparts.

After three years of success stories like these, CIPE is proud to fully transition the LIFE Project’s pilot program in Turkey to our in-country implementing partner, IDEMA. Because of this, you may see some changes: for the time being, new content will not be posted on the LIFE Project English-language social media channels, including Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and this website. To stay up to date with the LIFE Project in Turkey, follow IDEMA and their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. You can also reach out to them directly if you would like to learn more about the project in Turkey moving forward.

It has been exciting to watch the LIFE Project transform from a novel idea to an initiative that supported the business journeys of over 300 refugee and host community entrepreneurs. And this work is far from over. Across the world, there are millions of refugees who are eager to build sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families while contributing to their host communities. Programs like the LIFE Project can connect them with the tools and resources they need to translate entrepreneurial ambitions into real opportunities, and also create social and economic ties with their host communities. At CIPE, we believe that growing the pie, rather than fighting over pieces of it, is key to economic and social success and integration.

The LIFE Project model, based on entrepreneurship and the unique ability of food to bridge cultural divides, was designed to be replicated in other contexts and could be particularly successful in countries hosting large populations of refugee or migrant communities. Over the last three years of LIFE Project implementation, CIPE has adapted and improved this approach based on lessons learned and feedback from our partners, member entrepreneurs, and their communities, as well as an extensive network of industry experts and advisors around the world. Now that we have successfully implemented this program in Turkey and fully transitioned it to a local organization, we are eager to apply what we’ve learned and replicate the LIFE Project model elsewhere. 

The LIFE Project team at CIPE offers expertise in entrepreneurship, business incubation, gastrodiplomacy, and refugee assistance, and is actively seeking new in-country partners to implement the LIFE Project in communities around the world. If you are interested in partnering with us to implement this unique model elsewhere, please reach out: 

Marie Principe, Program Officer and LIFE Project Lead, CIPE
[email protected]

The global refugee crisis, compounded by the further pressures created by the pandemic, demands innovative, durable livelihoods solutions that empower refugees and host communities to build a future for themselves and their families. We are excited to be a part of this change, and hope you will join us.