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Q&A with MADE51

MADE51 provides refugee artisans with a means to market their crafts worldwide. By collaborating with a global network of social enterprises, not only does MADE51 provide refugees around the world with a sustainable livelihood, but it also helps keep traditional craftsmanship alive. We caught up with Heidi Christ, MADE51’s Global Manager, to gain greater insight into the inner workings of the organization.

“Refugees are people just like you and me who have found themselves in a challenging situation. They don’t want to sit idle – they want to actively engage.”

In what ways does being a MADE51 artisan benefit refugees?

Refugees are stuck in indefinite limbo and have often lost their sense of freedom to work, play and live. MADE51 gives refugees an opportunity to earn an income through meaningful work. We strive to create sustainable business opportunities for refugees by involving them in the global supply chain.

When refugee participate in the global artisan value chain they can express their artistic traditions, preserve their cultural heritage, learn transferable business and vocational skills and restore their sense of dignity and self-determination. They also earn an income which reduces their dependency on aid and improves their self-reliance.


How does MADE51 identify local social enterprises to collaborate with? Are there any specific requirements that these social enterprises must meet?

Approximately 14 (and counting) local social enterprises have so far agreed to add a refugee product line to their operations. MADE51 supports these efforts through marketing and branding opportunities that help the social enterprises expand sales for their refugee product lines. Selecting a strong local social enterprise with export experience, ethical values and good design aesthetic is key to MADE51. We vet the enterprises and then work hard to ensure they have the capacity and quality standards to deliver refugee-made products to buyers according to order specifications.

The World Fair Trade Organization is our partner in ensuring that Fair Trade principles are being met by the social enterprises. While there are many areas that are assessed, we must ensure that refugees are paid a fair wage, have good working conditions, do not face protection risks and there is no child labour. We use a customised Ethical Compliance Assessment to make sure social enterprises can work with refugee artisans through a safe and fair value chain.

What does MADE51 hope to achieve in next five years?

Our first goal is to increase scale so we can sustainably engage as many refugees as possible. Artisan work helps refugees not only earn income; it is dignifying work that allows them to actively apply their talents and share their heritage, despite their refugee status. Secondly, we hope to help grow the local social enterprises that form MADE51. These enterprises have made a commitment to include refugees in their operations. Through MADE51, we can help them gain more exposure to new markets, which will help their entire business to grow and lead to increased orders for all their producers.

We also aim to change public perceptions of refugees. When the general public sees the MADE51 collection supported by vivid storytelling, they gain a new understanding of refugees. They are people just like you and me who have found themselves in a challenging situation. Refugees don’t want to sit idle – they want to actively engage. With a bit of support, they can make great contributions to the economy and to society.

**Donation from “MADE51” will be used to support UNHCR’s works to protect people forced to flee, find solutions to resolve refugee issues and ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum.​



The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.