How to foster refugees´ entrepreneurial resilience in the Arctic?

The Arctic region is experiencing a growing presence of refugee entrepreneurs. Typically, the Arctic's harsh weather conditions and geographical isolation make it less appealing for immigration, but due to the recent crises, including the Arab Spring and the conflict in Ukraine, the number of refugees has risen in this area, too, write Oulu Business School researchers Hanna Komulainen, Abdollah Mohammadparast Tabas and Satu Nätti referring to their latest research.
A man shuffeling snow

The Arctic region of Finland provides many opportunities for refugees seeking to establish businesses involving potentially high economic benefits but also unique challenges in an inherently high-risk environment.

For the refugee entrepreneurs, resilience becomes pivotal for adaptation, integration, and effectively mobilizing resources and it is influenced by a multifaceted combination of individual factors, community-level resources and social capital to rely on, likewise external aid and interventions. A holistic approach that considers the dynamic interplay between these components helps to understand how refugees’ entrepreneurial resilience emerges and can be fostered in the Arctic region.

The interplay of individual characteristics, network support, and socio-economic factors at institutional level

First of all, individual characteristics significantly impact entrepreneurial resilience, leading to positive outcomes. Despite the harsh conditions such as remote locations, regulatory complexities, limited access to skilled labor and many social, cultural and economic differences between home country and Arctic region, various things such as pursuit of autonomy, high motivation, ability to take risks and continuous learning drive refugees to launch new businesses and enhance their resilience.

However, at the community level, the importance of support networks and cultural norms becomes emphasized. The ability to establish and maintain personal and business networks is important in amplifying refugee entrepreneurs’ resilience and leveraging cultural strengths fosters entrepreneurial success. However, the challenge in the specific Arctic environment, where populations are often scant and far apart, is that different actors cannot always collaborate that efficiently. That is why refugee entrepreneurs need to pay special attention to networking skills and how to utilize their existing and potential relationships.

Finally, socio-economic support systems and conditions at institutional level exert significant influence over entrepreneurial resilience, both in positive and negative ways. These include for example financial resources from local government, impacts of language and legislation on refugee entrepreneurs’ business, access to government programs and union support. Collectively, these institutional factors shape the broader environment in which entrepreneurs operate, influencing their resilience and adaptability in the face of diverse challenges.

Comprehensive and tailored assistance programs are needed to manage with the complex bureaucracy in the Arctic to unlock the full potential of refugee entrepreneurs

Nevertheless, it seems that especially in the Arctic region institutional barriers can often also hinder progress when existing support initiatives fall short, especially during the critical transition phases of entrepreneurship. In the Arctic area bureaucracy and regulatory complexities can be very challenging for refugee entrepreneurs and taking full advantage of available subsidies can be difficult. This highlights the need for more comprehensive and tailored assistance programs to unlock their full potential.

So, what does all this mean in practice? Resilience, as a multifaceted phenomenon, requires a comprehensive approach that spans individual, community, and institutional levels. Given the intricate and dynamic nature of resilience, effective policy support should address all three dimensions.

For instance, fostering entrepreneurial experience, resilience to setbacks, and risk-taking abilities in individual refugees should be complemented by assistance in building and maintaining both personal and business networks. At the institutional level, robust unions, well-crafted legislation, and targeted support programs are essential for creating an enabling environment. Additionally, recognizing the uniqueness of each region influenced by social, economic, and geographical factors, tailoring policy support to the specific needs of each locale becomes imperative. By addressing these dimensions, we can empower refugees to thrive in this challenging environment.

Writers of this blog are Oulu Business School researchers Hanna Komulainen, Abdollah Mohammadparast Tabas and Satu Nätti.