Empowering newcomers to build a livelihood in Germany

Germany is the third largest refugee-hosting country in the world. More than 2.2 million refugees have arrived here since 2015. And since the outbreak of the war on the Ukraine, over 900.000 refugees from Ukraine have received temporary protection in the country.

Getting a job is one of the key pillars for the successful integration of these newcomers. It sets them on a path of empowerment: to build a livelihood, provide for their family and live a dignified life.

With conflicts and the climate crisis – the main causes of forced migration – on the rise, and an acute shortage of skilled workers, successful models for labour market integration are more important and urgent than ever. 

That is why The Human Safety Net supports newcomers on two complementary paths into the job market. The first is focused on employability. These programs help newcomers build their technical as well as soft skills and match them with traineeships or full-time jobs in sectors where there is an acute demand. The second is all about entrepreneurship. These programs support newcomers to set up new businesses in a wide range of sectors, ranging from retail to physiotherapy and from e-commerce to construction. 

Both approaches are in the service of a shared mission: to unlock the potential of newcomers to contribute to Germany’s society and economy and to change the narrative about migration more broadly.

The program

  • Launched in 2017 and has since expanded nationwide, with a presence in 12 cities and partnerships with 10 leading nonprofits and social enterprises in Germany
  • The program is targeted at newcomers, people with a refugee background as well as migrants coming from low-income countries.
  • Entrepreneurship: Incubation programs running from 4-12 months support refugees step-by-step on their journey to become successful entrepreneurs by offering training, coaching, mentorship and funding.
  • Employability: Training programs lasting from 4-6 months build vital skills for the job market (ranging from IT to language skills, from working culture to cover letters) and successfully place newcomers in companies. 

Partners involved

National Partners

Social Impact

Social Impact is a highly regarded expert organization on inclusive entrepreneurship in Germany, running programs that are tailored to different groups – such as migrants, long-term unemployed and disabled persons. Their Program RESTART for newcomers was created with the support of THSN in 2017 and is now running across Germany, but with a focus on Bavaria, Brandenburg and Berlin. It supports newcomers with a concrete business idea through 1-on-1 coaching to set up and consolidate their company. Social Impact is also part of the Perspektive Neustart consortium, a project funded by THSN through Scale Up Impact to integrate better support services and coaching for newcomers into Germany’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. 


JOBLINGE are the leading nonprofit tackling youth unemployment in Germany. Their Kompass program is tailored to young refugees and aims to open them a path into Germany’s system of vocational training. Over 4-6 months, the program offers tailored qualifications, mentorship, and hands-on voluntary and work experiences. More than 72% of the participants find a traineeship or job following the program. In 2023, JOBLINGE launched the Outcome-First Apprenticeship Fund, an innovative mechanism where regional JOBLINGE branches can apply for scholarships once they have successfully placed a refugee in work. The Fund is aimed to advance a culture of results-based finance in Germany.

Perspektive Neustart

Perspektive Neustart is a new association advocating for inclusive entrepreneurship across Germany. It is backed by a consortium of THSN partners – Social Impact, KIZ Sinnova and FITT – and funders – THSN, J.P. Morgan Foundation, VISA Foundation and Schöpflin Stiftung. The association is bundling efforts to scale up high-quality coaching and support services for newcomer entrepreneurs, in collaboration with job centres, chambers of commerce and the whole entrepreneurial ecosystem. By drawing on the experience of successful programs funded by THSN, it is offering qualification and certification to business coaches so that they can provide tailored support to newcomer entrepreneurs and the specific challenges they face in becoming self-employed.

Local Partners


FITT is an institute of the Saarland University of Applied Sciences (htw saar) supporting the commercialization of research as well as the local start-up and entrepreneurial ecosystem. They have a strong network with public institutions, researchers and SMEs across the Saarland. Highly active in promoting entrepreneurship, FITT has supported migrant founders since 2015. Since 2018, THSN has invested in FITT’s intensive 11-month program for supporting newcomers to set up their own businesses. Each year, the program supports a cohort of 10 participants from the Saarland with top-quality coaches and a successful annual pitch event. FITT is also part of the Perspektive Neustart consortium, a project funded by THSN through Scale Up Impact to integrate better support services and coaching for newcomers into Germany’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

SINGA Stuttgart

SINGA Stuttgart was founded in 2016 as a German branch of the international civil society association SINGA, a key global partner of THSN. The organization is active in Baden-Württemberg and the Ruhr area in North-West Germany and focuses on newcomer entrepreneurship and boosting newcomers’ social capital. THSN is supporting Singa Business Lab – SINGA’s online incubation program, as well as its bi-national incubator for Stuttgart-Strasbourg. 

ReDI School of Digital Integration

ReDI School of Digital Integration are an award-winning social enterprise founded in 2015 and running 7 schools of digital integration in Berlin, Munich, Ruhr, Hamburg, Malmö, Copenhagen and Aarhus. ReDI School is a coding school for disadvantaged populations (especially migrants and refugees), boosting their digital skills to help address the shortage of skilled labour in the IT sector, where Germany is currently unable to fill around 100,000 free positions each year. ReDI School started working in Munich since 2018 and opened a Munich campus with THSN support in 2020. At the campus, it runs two programs for refugees and migrants: Digital Careers (comprising of courses in software development, data analytics and cloud computing and Digital Women (courses in digital literacy aimed especially at refugee women). The courses, which are taught by volunteers from the IT field are complemented by Career Support and HR Summits.

Bürgerstiftung Lebensraum Aachen & RWTH Aachen University

This civic association from Aachen is cooperating with a leading university of applied sciences in offering a joined-up program called Inclusive Entrepreneurship. Over 10 months, newcomers are supported to develop a business plan and get their companies up and running. During this time, they benefit from workshops, coaching and co-working spaces at the university’s Collective Incubator, while also receiving one-to-one support and mentoring through the Bürgerstiftung. The program shows the great potential of intersectoral partnerships between higher education and civil society in helping newcomers integrate successfully into the labour market. 

leetHub St. Pauli

LeetHub St. Pauli was founded in 2015 with the mission of supporting refugee integration in Hamburg, Germany, running a community and co-working space for entrepreneurs and 12+ associations dealing with integration in the city. In 2017, they launched the MoveON program for newcomers in 2017, a 4-6 month incubation program combining workshops, intensive 1-on-1 mentoring, and networking with partners and experts. The organization also offers individual coaching for entrepreneurs with more advanced business ideas.