MRI was selected from a shortlist of 30 and a total of 1,095 applicants from 36 countries as a finalist in the European Social Innovation Competition.
The 2016 theme Integrated Futures sought ideas with the potential to address the reception and integration of refugees and migrants in Europe, enabling them to contribute to the social, economic, cultural and political life of their host countries.
Every year in the UK, MRI provides a lifeline to hundreds of LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers who come from one of the 75 countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal. Research shows that LGBTI refugees lack safe housing, often living in shared accommodation with other refugees who can be hostile and homophobic and consequently suffer abuse and violence.
It also shows that they face additional challenges integrating into wider society which are not faced by the general refugee population; for example, they are shunned by their own families and ethnic and religious communities in the UK. This makes LGBTI refugees extremely isolated and in turn more vulnerable to poverty and destitution as they have no one to turn to.
MRI’s solution to the abuse that LGBTI refugees face in housing is to operate a hostel exclusively for LGBTI refugees and to provide them with safe temporary accommodation. The surplus from the hostel will allow MRI to fund social inclusion activities, such as peer support groups, life skills workshops, art sessions and employability workshops. In addition MRI will assist its service users to find employment by facilitating training and coaching and by offering support to set up small businesses. Please see here for more information on the hostel.
The hostel will be financed by social investment. On 23 August 2016 HMRC provided MRI with an advanced assurance that social investments in MRI to raise funding for its housing project for LGBTI refugees should qualify for the Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) scheme.
The SITR scheme allows qualifying individuals not only to invest in, and receive returns on, a qualifying high impact social project, but also provides that certain tax relief may be claimed by those individuals on or in respect of their investment (such as deduction of 30% of qualifying investment costs from that investor’s income tax liability or deferring a capital gains tax liability on a gain re-invested into a SITR qualifying investment.
As part of the EU Social Innovation Competition process, MRI’s CEO and Project Manager attended a mentoring academy in Berlin in July 2016 where they worked with experts in social innovation to refine their ideas, develop their business plan and, amongst other things, understand how to be more effective in securing media coverage and increasing the profile of the project.
Being shortlisted for the Competition out of 1095 entries gave us the confidence that our idea did not just sound good to us, but that it was also valued by experts in social entrepreneurship. The competition provided us not only with free coaching, information and advice but also with the encouragement of peer social innovators who wanted us to succeed.
We are very excited to be one of the finalist and we recommend other social enterprises to consider entering the competition. You will spend time with many other social entrepreneurs, which for us is a rare event, and you will experience being in an environment where innovation and big dreams are celebrated and encouraged in order to achieve social change.