Touchpoints is a non-profit organisation created in 2016 to support the social and labour market integration of refugees through business creation. The organisation supports self-employment (and employment) of immigrants and refugees with training, coaching and networking opportunities within the local community.
Work plays a central part in integration, and entrepreneurship is a viable option, but the entrepreneurship landscape may be difficult to navigate for newcomers. Touchpoints aim to address this by providing guidance to immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs. The organisation also aims to promote cultural diversity more broadly in the population and foster exchange between natives and immigrants to prevent disconnect.
The organisation hosts monthly events called Business Meetups where aspiring entrepreneurs have the chance to meet and learn from established entrepreneurs and experts from local industries. These Meetups provide prospective entrepreneurs with inspiration and concrete information they can use for their own entrepreneurial projects, as well as an opportunity to grow their network.
Touchpoints also offers a basic entrepreneurship training course called Sleeves Up. The Sleeves Up programme is composed of five training workshops that cover business plan development, business idea analysis and feasibility study, finance and budget, tax, and administrative procedures, business pitch, marketing, and business/vocational terminology. The programme also offers mentoring and individualised follow-ups to help participants develop their ideas, overcome obstacles to implementation, and access relevant support. Participants can also access dedicated networking events to meet other entrepreneurs. The programme also offers extensive resources on its website and hosts information sessions for aspiring participants in French, English and Arabic. The Sleeves Up programme is open to any adult regardless of gender or nationality, but its main target audience is refugees. As such, the programme is designed to take into account the specific needs of this population. The Sleeves Up programme is supported by the government and collaborates with other entrepreneurship ecosystem actors such as the House of Entrepreneurship.
How did the programme adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic? Touchpoints adapted its activities by hosting workshops and information sessions online via Zoom. Once restrictions on face-to-face interactions were eased, Touchpoints hosted its Meetups in person following social distancing rules. Touchpoints also extended its mandate to help previously established businesses respond to the pandemic. In normal times, these entrepreneurs would no longer be eligible for support as Sleeves Up focuses on early stage business creation.
As of 2020, Touchpoints had supported 500 immigrants and refugees in entrepreneurship, among which 100 graduated from training workshops and 60 created businesses. 80% of the businesses supported under the Sleeves Up programme since its inception were still active in 2020. In 2020, Touchpoints served 150 new participants, 46 people graduated from the training programme, and 90 participants attended an information session. The organisation was awarded third place in the 2019 ING Solidarity Awards in the "Integration" category.
- SleevesUp (2021), Sleeves Up website, www.sleevesup.lu/.
- Touchpoints (2021), Touchpoints asbl Rapport d’Activités, www.touchpoints.lu/single-post/rapport-annuel-de-touchpoints-asbl-2020.
- Touchpoints (2021), Touchpoints website, www.touchpoints.lu.