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The Facilitation Impact Awards (FIA) honours organisations that have used facilitation to achieve a measurable and positive impact as well as the facilitator(s) who worked with them. More about FIA
Silver award
Foundation for Refugee Students UAF

Job Support Event


The new approach for the Job Support event involved low threshold networking opportunities and this was unique for the UAF staff and participants. The atmosphere of the event was informal, accessible and the location fit for the occasion.

The objective of the event—that 80% of client participants would make one or more follow-up appointments—was achieved. The event served as a catalyst and accelerated the process for job seekers to find a work experience place or a job.

The event made more employers aware of the possibilities and advantages of hiring a refugee graduate. The event and the contacts gave a spark to ideas already existing and brought about new initiatives and collaboration.

The ultimate results are not about big numbers and quick wins. Relationships must be built for trust to be gained. Patience is needed and courage to continue efforts, within the interplay of employers, their organizations, refugee job seekers and UAF job support consultants. As one job support consultant put it after the seeds were planted during the Job Support Event, “It takes many cups of coffee”. The facilitated Job Support event in 2017 prepared the ground for these seeds.

Context and challenges

Since 1948 the Foundation for Refugee Students (UAF) has been supporting and counselling highly skilled refugees in the Netherlands and helping them with their study and finding suitable employment.

The UAF aims to provide the necessary material and moral assistance to higher educated refugees from all parts of the world, who, owing to a well-founded fear of persecution, have left their countries. Specifically, the UAF seeks to help these refugees to continue and successfully finish their studies in the Netherlands and find a place in the labour market that matches their education.

As well as giving information, the UAF:

  • supports refugees with grants and loans, so they can attend a course of higher education
  • advises refugees on their choice of study and guides them during their studies and when they apply for jobs
  • helps refugees while they learn the language and develop their learning skills
  • organizes training courses and networking meetings for refugees who are studying and those who have graduated
  • promotes the interests of asylum seekers and refugees with a higher education and aims to influence the policy of local and national government on matters that are important for this target group.

UAF is also involved in public dialogue and seeks properly targeted media exposure.

It is important for employers to get in contact with job seekers with a profile which matches the requirements. Job seekers don’t have a network in the Netherlands, a common way for Dutch people to find a lead for a new job. In addition, they are not familiar with Dutch culture, and although they speak Dutch by the time they start to look for jobs, there can be language problems and lack of experience of integrating in a working environment with colleagues.

The way of finding jobs and opportunities to get to know organisations are different in other cultures. The direct way of the Dutch can be experienced as too fast or even too blunt for people from another cultural background. Refugees are eager to find suitable jobs and find their place in Dutch society, but often they miss the right moment and opportunity to evaluate if an organisation really suits them and grasp an opportunity.

Every year the Director Job Support with his team organises a networking event where UAF clients—graduates and job seekers—and employers can meet. This yearly network event is hosted in-house by one of UAF’s partners. In the past years several formats were used but the success was disappointing. Some contacts were made but little follow-up appointments were made, or appointments were made and later cancelled. Employers were interested but didn’t find the qualities they were looking for; clients stayed somewhat reserved and were not pro-active enough (to Dutch standard).

In 2017 UAF was looking for a new format in which networking was made easy and more lasting, where barriers between employers and jobless refugees would be low.

Project objectives

UAF wanted to create more awareness of its organisation and purpose with employers in the Netherlands and bring employers and job seekers in contact with each other. For job seekers to find suitable employment and for employers to recruit highly skilled and motivated workers.

The project’s purpose was to provide a new format for the yearly networking event, offering plenty of low threshold opportunities for job seekers and employers to meet in an informal and playful way. The format needed to enable:

  • job seekers to show their qualities to employers
  • employers to share more about their organisations and career opportunities with job seekers
  • job seekers and employers to exchange ideas on successful integration in the Dutch job market.

The aim was for these encounters to lead to follow-up contacts and appointments and eventually to job contracts and work experience places.

  • For clients the objective for both the 2017 and 2018 event was that 80% of the participants would make one or more follow-up appointments with participating employers.
  • For employers the objective for the 2017 event was that at least 3 would offer a challenge, helped and facilitated by the LEF future centre.
  • For employers the objective for the 2018 event was that at least 3 challenges would be offered and facilitated by the employers and that an increasing number of employers would participate with less no shows (i.e. register and don’t show up at the event).


In 2017 Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) offered to host the event and invited UAF to hold their event in the LEF future center of Rijkswaterstaat. The request from UAF was to develop and test a new format. RWS offered the services of a highly skilled facilitator team to accomplish this task.

The main component of the project was a facilitated event with 16 employers, 60 jobseekers and their UAF job consultants, working together in a challenge/assignment. The challenges were vehicles to bring participants together. Three employers and UAF developed challenges to be used in the event. For example:

  • The host organisation Rijkswaterstaat brought in a case of Smart Mobility. To sustain mobility and preserve the quality of life in the Netherlands in the future, RWS endeavours to make the most of the possibilities offered by information and communication technology (ICT). The challenge was to think of smart mobility solutions to improve traffic safety for 2018.
  • Dutch Railways (NS) presented a challenge on how to create support with workers for the paperless office concept.
  • Pharos (Dutch centre of expertise on health disparities) presented a challenge on how to make refugees seek help for mental health problems in an earlier stage of their illness.
  • UAF brought in their search on how to find companies willing to sponsor UAF’s programs.

Previous network events with employers and job-seekers didn’t result in the follow-up contacts aimed for. By offering a challenge/assignment employers and job seekers worked together in small groups exchanging ideas and expertise, finding solutions for the issues presented. Job seekers showed their talents and employers gave insight in their organisations and job opportunities. This approach brought both groups to a next level of interaction and results.