In 2021, the City of Barranquilla, Colombia, was selected as a grantee of the Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees (GCF), the MMC’s instrument to channel international funding directly to cities to implement inclusive projects of their own design.
With support from the GCF, Barranquilla expanded the city’s existing Opportunities Center to Venezuelan and other migrant populations, connecting more than 100 migrants and refugees to formal jobs.
Using this as a proof of concept, the city unlocked an additional US$ 2 million from international philanthropic donors to expand the city’s services and meet the needs of the thousands of migrants identified in the pilot phase.
Colombia is home to over two million Venezuelan refugees and eight million internally displaced people. Barranquilla hosts nearly 100,000 foreign-born residents, approximately eight percent of its total population. Venezuelan refugees in Barranquilla face several barriers to finding employment and achieving self-reliance, including a lack of documentation, unfamiliarity with their new job market, and a lack of social networks. These barriers were compounded by Covid-19 when infection prevention measures halted the informal economy and further isolated Venezuelans and other newcomers to Barranquilla.
Barranquilla used the GCF grant to help refugees, migrants, IDPs, and other vulnerable Colombians overcome barriers to accessing the labor market and strengthening their ability to earn an income.
The project Todos Somos Barranquilla expanded the city’s existing Opportunities Center to provide more than 100 migrants and refugees with specialized vocational training coupled with psychosocial support, legal documentation support, and direct access to Barranquilla’s employers.
The Center received and evaluated more than 6,000 applications to an open call and selected 100 recipients, prioritizing people who have fewer opportunities to find formal employment, such as people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQI+ community, or people serving prison sentences.
These people received specialized training courses in high-demand sectors, such as logistics, customer service, food handling, and health care, as well as wrap-around services, including transportation subsidies, food vouchers, and mobile phone data packages.
The project team also conducted visits to clients’ homes to assess their specific needs and refer them to the relevant local government departments for additional assistance.
To ensure training recipients had jobs waiting for them upon graduation from the project, the city contacted nearly 200 potential employers to identify job vacancies and required skills sets to inform the type of training provided.
Jaime Pumarejo, Mayor of Barranquilla
With this project, we have moved from an assistance model to an empowerment model. Project participants will increase control over their destiny because we are all one; we are all Barranquilla.
As a result of the Todos Somos Barranquilla pilot project, 35 percent of training recipients, all of them Venezuelan, signed formal employment contracts or went on to receive additional training and all reported improved access to formal job opportunities. Thanks to its success, the City of Barranquilla received the Premio Nacional de Alta Gerencia 2021 (National Top Management Award) by Colombian President Iván Duque and was also identified as a best practice case study by the international cities network URBELAC.
Using this project as a proof of concept, Barranquilla unlocked an additional US$ 2 million from international philanthropic donors to expand the city’s services and meet the needs of the thousands of migrants identified in the pilot phase.
With these and new resources, Barranquilla aims to further expand the Opportunities Center’s work by developing a digital platform to better match employers’ requirements to prospective candidates, recruit in-house professional trainers to lower implementation costs, and establish a coordination mechanism to rationalize social service provision from different governmental agencies.
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