A successful educational programme for young refugees has become an e-book for everyone with interest in preparing the ground for entrepreneurship.

Sayed Hashimi came to Denmark from Afghanistan seven years ago.

Today he is the owner of a bicycle shop in Copenhagen.

His shop is one result of the educational programme, CO:LAB - a project initiated and run by Danish Refugee Council and co-created by Roskilde Festival who has also supported the project with DKK 3.000.000.

CO:LAB is a programme where the participants take part in workshops where they learn about the basics of running a business in Denmark. They are also encouraged to develop their own business ideas.

A volunteer mentor, business owner Mads Sørensen, has been assigned to Sayed Hashimi. Mads Sørensen has helped with knowledge about creating a webpage, dealing with the authorities and how to get help from trade unions etc. In other words, helping with basic laws and knowledge that even native Danes can get lost in.

“Im very grateful for Mads’ help,” says Sayed Hashimi, who, among other things, can boast about changing a tube and a tire on a bicycle in less than 10 minutes.


Visit Sayed Hashimis bike shop in Copenhagen

The bicycle mechanic is one of 36 refugees, who has completed the CO:LAB-programme.

Many Middle Eastern refugees have a history of entrepreneurship. In fact, in the Middle East, having your own business is often the way you provide for yourself and your family.



Workshop 1

Introduction to starting your own business – what does it take and how do you go from idea to reality?

Workshop 2

From initial idea to product. Introduction to idea generation, analysis of target audience and market.

Workshop 3

Communication, sales and marketing. Introduction to social media, logo, market potential and competition.  

Workshop 4

Pitch and finances.

An opportunity to make a living

The purpose of CO:LAB is to draw from this culture of entrepreneurship and give young refugees an opportunity to make a living and become a part of a community – whether that community is in Denmark, in or near his or her homeland or any place, really.

The target audience for the activities in CO:LAB are young refugees (18-30 years) from the Middle East or Africa, in need of support for establishing their own small businesses.

The success criteria, however, have not just been about getting the individual on the right track to success. The main purpose is the development of a method to be used all over the world and in all types of organisations. The final project is an e-book which is available free of charge.

The CO:LAB principles are widely applicable and are useful for e.g. welfare recipients, students, expats and others interested in starting out on their own.

The creation of these principles has taken a lot of hard work. Three types of workshops were developed and rejected before finally settling on a fourth model which is the one that made it through to the e-book.

Senior advisor Kathrine Kanneworf from Danish Refugee Council explains that Roskilde Festival has been an important co-creator on the project.

“Roskilde Festival has definitely challenged us to think differently. The inclusion of the UN sustainable development world goals in the project is an example of that. Also, our way of doing things was different in this project. For the first time we have been working across the departments. As a result of Roskilde Festival’s insisting on international scope and volunteering our integration department, volunteer department, communication department, youth department, DFUNK, and international department have all been involved.”

An important piece of the project puzzle has been local volunteers. The principles of CO:LAB have been tested in Denmark of course but also in Turkey.

“There is, however, a lot of difference from country to country as to what volunteering is,” says Kathrine Kanneworf.

“This has been an important finding and something we will take into consideration,” she says.

Free download

A total of 100 refugees were recruited for the project. Out of these, 36 completed the project and got to pitch their ideas to a panel of experts. Out of these 36, 23 have managed to create their own businesses. In fact, 95 per cent of those who completed were either working full time (most of them in their own business) or were enrolled in higher education.

In order to share their principles, Danish Refugee Council has published an e-book which can be downloaded free of charge here.

The project tools have already come to good use. They are been applied in Danish Refugee Council’s own projects, but also Danish Red Cross have taken an interest in the e-book and is now looking at how to use the principles.