Utrecht Refugee Launchpad November 2016 - October 2019


The Utrecht Refugee Launchpad is an initiative which aims to enable an inclusive approach to facilitate the integration of asylum-seekers from day one. Recognising that cities play an important role in the reception and integration of asylum seekers, Utrecht city council in collaboration with a range of local partners has opened a new centre, based on a shared living concept which brings local young people and asylum seekers to live together. This innovative reception facility will seek the establishment and development of social networks with neighbours, encouraging newcomers to participate and build relationships with those from the locality to generate solutions to improve living in the centre, neighbourhood and city. Participants, both asylum-seekers and local young people will be offered training courses in English language, entrepreneurship and international business. Through the support of expert coaching and opportunities to connect locally and space and time given for the incubation of new business ideas, participants will be supported as they develop future-proof skills that will be of benefit to them whether in the Netherlands or elsewhere, thereby encouraging the repair of broken narratives and/or halting the negative spiral created by the usual approach to reception.

The evaluation and research strand is being conducted by two UK-based universities, Oxford and Roehampton, to offer an independent evaluation of the outcomes of this experiment. The Global Exchange in Migration and Diversity, at COMPAS, provides oversight of the evaluation, managing an international advisory board and manages the learning exchange and dissemination of lessons learned from the process. Roehampton leads in the research and evaluation activities with a researcher based in Utrecht, principal investigator, Dr Caroline Oliver.

Principal Investigator

Dr Caroline Oliver (PI Roehampton University Research)
Dr Sarah Spencer (PI Oxford University Knowledge Exchange/Advisory Board)


European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative


City of Utrecht
Socius Living (SME)
School of Economics (USE) and Centre for Entrepreneurship (UtrechtCE), University of Utrecht
People’s University of Utrecht (English language division)
Social Impact Factory (NGO)
Dutch Council for Refugees (NGO)
Roehampton University
University of Oxford

Advisory group

Professor Ash Amin, Professor and Head of Geography, University of Cambridge

Ash Amin CBE FBA is Professor and Head of Geography at the University of Cambridge. He is also Foreign Secretary and Vice President at the British Academy. He writes about race, belonging, cities and political renewal. His latest books are Land of Strangers (Polity, 2012), Arts of the Political (Duke, 2013, with Nigel Thrift) Seeing Like a City (Polity, 2017, with Nigel Thrift), and European Union and Disunion: Reflections on European Identity (British Academy, 2017, co-edited with Philip Lewis). He is currently working on a project on mental health and the metropolis, led by Nick Manning at King’s College London).

Professor Alice Bloch, Professor of Sociology, University of Manchester

Alice Bloch’s research focuses on understanding the lived experiences of forced migrants focussing on refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants. Key themes include: marginalisation and exclusion, rights and agency, engagement in transnational relations, social and community networks, economic strategies and labour market experiences and the ways in which experiences intersect with class, gender, ethnicity and power. She is also interested in methodology, especially innovative methodologies in relation to sensitive research with vulnerable groups and in developing capacity building strategies for longer term non-academic impact and engagement. She has carried out a number of research projects for different funders including government departments and the ESRC.

Professor David Parsons, Visiting Professor, Leeds Beckett University (Carnegie Faculty)

An economic geographer, David is a specialist in public programme evaluation and an established Visiting Professor at Leeds Beckett University (Carnegie Faculty) since 1999. Following an early academic career (University of Nottingham; Sussex; Cranfield Management School), David was an Economic Advisor to the UKs National Economic Development Council, and later Director of Research at CIPD and Advisor to the European Commission (Employment and Social Affairs). He combines roles as an independent policy researcher and evaluator at LBU, and consultant and advisor to public and voluntary sector bodies, directing and co-directing a number of high profile studies for public bodies including, in the UK, BIS, DfE, Defra, DFID, DWP, ESRC, QIA/LSIS, HEFCE and HEFCW, LSC/SFA, HEA, Home Office, NAW, TDA and devolved administrations, and in Europe for the European Commission, CEDFOP, the UNs International Labour Office and others. His appointment include Specialist Associate to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, and Lead Assessor to the Career and Enterprise Company. David is a widely recognised authority on proportionate evaluation methods, principally for public bodies, leading or contributing to 38 national/home-country or cross-national programme evaluations in the last decade on social policy and other issues. He is course leader on the UK’s Social Research Association’s ‘Evaluation’ programme, and has advised a number of government departments and other agencies on strategies and methods for proportionate impact evaluation. His most recent publication is Demystifying Evaluation (Policy Press, 2017).

Dr Peter Scholten, Associate Professor Public Policy & Politics; Director of IMISCOE; Coordinator of Master Governance of Migration & Diversity; Editor-in-chief of Comparative Migration Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Peter Scholten is associate professor public policy & politics at Erasmus University Rotterdam and director of IMISCOE, Europe’s largest network of academic research institutes on migration, integration and social cohesion in Europe. Also, he is editor in chief of Comparative Migration Studies and member of the editorial board of the journal of Comparative Policy Analysis. Peter has published in various international journals and recently published, together with Andrew Geddes, a book on the Politics of Migration and Immigration in Europe.


the Netherlands


Asylum and RefugeesCitiesIntegrationNeighbourhoods




The project evaluation applies a Theory of Change approach to the evaluation, recognising the importance of context and the contributions of multiple actors for understanding the interaction of the programme and its effects. The evaluation facilitates stakeholders to identify their own understanding of the steps taken to reach their goal, identifying the specific outcomes needed and then testing them through the research.


The exact methods adopted for the evaluation are currently being developed in response to the programme theory; however it is expected that the research will use mixed methods, including a neighbourhood survey and interviews with participants to garner insight into changes in participants and local inhabitants’ social capital, skills and self-efficacy.


The full evaluation report will be available in 2019.


URLP Evaluation framework report by Caroline Oliver | October 2017

Utrecht Refugee Launchpad & Social Impact Factory newsletter | July 2017

URLP interim report by Caroline Oliver, Rianne Dekker & Karin Geuijen | July 2018

Further updates on milestones and publications will be given here when available.


The project aims to create a more inclusive approach to asylum-seeker reception that benefits locals as much as asylum-seekers and generates future-proof skills and capabilities. Many cities across Europe will be interested to see how the initiative works, and learn from the city’s experiment. The evaluation will provide a key resource for cities to understand how this programme has worked in this setting, and understand the mechanisms and processes that might be needed if it were to be replicated elsewhere.