Winners of the 2024 Ockenden International Prizes

The four GBP25,000 winners of the 12th annual Ockenden International Prizes for refugee and/or displaced people projects are Connected Routes CIC (United Kingdom), DARE Network (Thailand), Free Yezidi Foundation (Iraq), and Unidos Social Innovation Center (Uganda).

The four cash awards, for projects proven to advance refugee self-reliance, recognise the agency, dignity and autonomy of refugees and forced migrants anywhere – the cornerstone of Ockenden International since its inception in 1951.

Entries from 56 countries were represented in 2024’s record 174 submissions with the four winning projects operational respectively in London, UK, Thailand, Iraq and Uganda.

The winners (in alphabetical order) and their projects:

Connected Routes CIC, UK for ‘The Routes Mentoring Programme’, which was praised for its successful one-to-one mentoring and focus on women. The judges noted the project’s long-term commitment to its one-on-one relationships and success at bringing mentees on board. It is focused on self-reliance and measures its impact. “It’s well-designed and thoughtful Community Interest Company (CIC) programme in London has clear goals with an impressive one-to-one metric that could be expanded into other areas of support.” The judges believe it an example of a ‘can do’ integration initiative. “Essentially an individual development and integration project” it generates positive collective effect through its Reverse Mentoring programme and an impact framework that values confidence building alongside exemplar achievement by individuals.  “If amplified, the judges said, “this model could be a blueprint elsewhere.”

DARE Network, Thailand’s ‘Phop Phra Centre Expansion’ drug rehabilitation project for its sympathetic support of drug-dependent refugees from Myanmar, where addiction is often a weapon of war. The judges singled out a contextual approach and its regenerative agriculture as key elements of its programme highlighting its “empathy and consequent capacity of management to share ideas, a high degree of refugee participation and openness to combining indigenous community-based knowledge and practices.” The judging panel also noted: “The recognition of organic and regenerative agricultural practices provides an interesting edge to the work that also benefits former beneficiaries. The relapse rate is impressively low, while the support of often exploited migrant workers is a strong point,” they added.

Free Yezidi Foundation, Iraq’s ‘Enterprise and Training Center’ impressed the judges for the “agency it offers women in a traumatised community whose need is huge, given the genocide experienced by them and the sexual violence they incurred in the 2014 campaign by the terrorist regime ISIS against northern Iraq’s Yezidi ethno-religious minority and the consequent stereotyping and shame. The judges liked the fact that the Center is refugee-led, self-sufficient – and effective, providing skills training such as business management with proven effectiveness demonstrated by the examples of its bakery and toy-making enterprises as well as literacy classes. “Its objectives are clear: it is participatory in nature – as evidenced by both users and staff – and it combines holistic support and an activities approach with imperative advocacy work. It is also operating in a very difficult context,” they said.

Unidos Social Innovation Center, Uganda has been awarded one of the annual Prizes for ‘Regenerate the soil (REGESOIL)’ an agriculture project in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement, one of the world’s largest refugee camps. The judges said it is an important agricultural initiative organised by refugees for refugees, providing ecological farming instruction and the worms, training and support necessary for permaculture, a farming model that exemplifies self-reliance and self-sufficiency by improving soil productivity, yielding life-saving nutrition for refugee families dependent on what was poor-quality land. “The project also has potential for replication,” they observed.

The 10 short-listed projects for 2024 were judged by Ockenden International’s independent eight-member Advisory Board:

Michael Buerk (Chair), broadcaster

Dr Dawn Chatty, Emerita Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration; former Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford and Emeritus Fellow, St Cross College.

Dr Georgia Cole, Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh in the School of Social and Political Sciences. Former Joyce Pearce Junior Research Fellow, Refugee Studies Centre/LMH, Oxford.

Mr Robert Hakiza, Agricultural Engineer. Co-Founder & Executive Director of YARID (Young African Refugees for Integral Development), the winner of the 2016 Ockenden International Prize, founding member of the refugee-led network, Refugee Advocator, a board member of the Global Refugee Led Network (GRN), Chairperson of Africa Refugee Led Network (ARN), an Aspen New Voices Fellow and TED Fellow.

Dr Avila Kilmurray, works with the Social Change Initiative (SCI) on peacebuilding and migration rights programmes. Avila is a Board member of the International Fund for Ireland, a Trustee of the St. Stephen’s Green Trust (Ireland) and Hon. Professor with the Mitchell Institute, Queens University Belfast.

Dr Alice Nah, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology,and Co-Director of the Human Rights and Social Justice Centre, University of Durham.

Dame Frances Lannon, former Principal and Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall (LMH), University of Oxford.

Mike Wooldridge, OBE, former BBC Foreign Correspondent.

The Other Six Finalists

Ockenden International also acknowledges the outstanding efforts of the other six finalists:

ActionAid Association India for its work to improve the living conditions of displaced people in a number of states in India. The Association’s project links extremely vulnerable groups to basic necessities and livelihood opportunities provided by the Government, helping them become self-reliant through access to education, health, other social entitlements and work by fostering harmonious coexistence and collective prosperity among all communities.

Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid is providing a refugee-led approach to legal aid on Lesvos, Greece, with a project called ‘Capacity bridging and Community Engagement for People seeking Refuge in Greece’.

Five One Labs, Colombia, supports Venezuelan migrant and Colombian communities through entrepreneurship with its ‘Colombia Incubator’ project, which provides financial seed funding, training, resources, and a tailored fellowship for female founders.

Give Something Back to Berlin (GSBTB) e.V., Germany is a migrant and refugee-led community organisation. Its initiative called ‘Community Hub – Sharing and Learning in Community’ connects migrants and refugees with locals in Berlin, promoting inclusivity and social cohesion.

GIVMED Share medicine Share life, Greece, has a project entitled ‘Covering needs in medicine and hygiene products of refugee and migrant communities in Greece’ deploying technology to coordinate the donation and distribution of unused medical supplies to refugees. 

Seenaryo Lebanon, whose ‘Theatre Leadership Training programme’ equips young people with the transferable life skills, teamwork and creativity they need to take on community leadership roles and access sustainable employment, is operational in Lebanon and Jordan. Graduates have gone on to lead independent ‘satellite’ theatre projects in the region and further afield.