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Identifying Impact Lessons on a Locally Driven Crisis Response. A Post from our Summer Intern, Gita Goolsarran

The Syrian war has presented one of the most acute humanitarian crises of the 21st Century, with neighbouring states hosting 5.6 million registered refugees since 2011.[1]In that time, regular migration flows in Turkey have more than tripled,[2]with over 3.5 million refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).[3]

Strikingly, though Syrian civil society organisations (CSOs), and to a lesser extent small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), are relied upon for the delivery of humanitarian and development assistance, and the creation of employment and livelihoods, these entities receive only a small fraction of international aid. Of Syrian-run organisations, it is estimated that 75% deliver aid inside Syria but only receive 0.9% of funding.

From 2016 to 2018, Building Markets has worked with local partners within this space in Turkey to showcase Syrian contributions to humanitarian, development and reconstruction efforts, and to provide tools to scale their competitiveness and increase access to opportunities. In addition to already delivering the majority of aid inside Syria, businesses and organisations are building long-term stability by creating employment and development.

SMEs provide a startling 79% of jobs in Turkey,[4]effecting stability and sustainability through employment in a country with a population of 76.9 million and an unemployment rate of 10.8%.[5]In the past six months alone, the Syrian SMEs in Building Markets’ network have increased their number of employees by 28%, with 5,802 employed as of May 2018 and an average of 11.5employees per business.

But Syrian refugees and leaders don’t just create employment. They create diverse employment.

According to findings from Building Markets’ One Year Later assessment and Enabling a Localized Aid Response in Syria report:

Gender.Forty-nine of the CSOs are led by women or have women in senior management. Of SMEs in Building Markets’ network, 170 employ 495 female full-time permanent staff, 16 have female owners and 47 have female managers.

Location.CSOs based in Syria employ a median of 10 full-time staff, and those in Turkey employ a median of 19. Syrian businesses in Turkey have hired an average 1.4 new employees, with Istanbul in the lead for job creation.

Moreover, their humanitarian impact cuts across sectors and demographics.

Beneficiaries.Of CSOs, 54% benefit internally displaced persons, while 49% benefit refugees. Women benefit from 65% of CSOs, and children from 71%.

Sectors.In Turkey, 30% of CSOs operate in Education and 16% in Food Security and Livelihoods. In Syria, these numbers are 34% and 38% respectively. Their top performing sectors of operation are Shelter, WASH services, and Nutrition.

Organizational Capacity Assessment (OCA) scores across sectors of operation.

Women are also employing other women. And Syrians are employing other Syrians and refugees. They invigorate and provide opportunities within the host country. They integrate into local markets and buy through Turkish and Syrian supply chains, partnering with Turkish entities to drive employment, growth and development.

Local aid and development are the foundations of a sustainable recovery in any crisis response. Syrians are generating jobs and delivering assistance, seeking to grow and deliver for a sustainable recovery.


The Stories

“Before attending the Proposal Development training from Building Markets, I didn’t realize how weak my proposal writing skills were. After completing the training and receiving mentorship, our organization was awarded a grant for one of our projects in Syria.”

-Firas, Member of Syrian civil society

“Budding Syrian entrepreneurs need to understand how to run a business in Turkey and should never be afraid to ask for advice. Connecting the Syrian and Turkish business communities will help create partnerships to ensure the longevity of our businesses.”

-Obaida, owner of Al Bashaer Company


[1]UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Refugee Situations: Syria. Last modified 4 September 2018. Retrieved from

[2]International Organization for Migration (IOM) Turkey, Migration in Turkey. Accessed August 2018. Retrieved from

[3]UNHCR, Refugee Situations: Syria.

[4]World Bank. 2011. Turkey – Improving Conditions for SME Growth Finance and Innovation. Washington, DC. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.

[5]OECD Data, Turkey. Accessed August 2018. Retrieved from

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