Mobilising capital and solutions for a sustainable and equitable world

Impact Stories - Morten Högnesen
Global Advisor for Innovative Financing at the Danish Refugee Council (DRC)

Morten is an advisor with the Danish Refugee Council. He has worked for more than 12 years in humanitarian assistance and development, with NGOs and the UN. For the past several years he has focused on innovation in the NGO sector, including new business models and innovative financing partnerships for social impact.


As an organization we are focused on refugees and IDPs (Internally Displaced People). Those are some of the most marginalized people in the world. Our job is really to try to help improve their lives in every aspect possible. We look both at short term humanitarian assistance and saving lives in acute crises situations, and we also look at those that have been displaced for a longer period of time and need more durable solutions. There are two measures of success: the degree to which we succeed in providing timely and effective humanitarian assistance and protection, and the degree to which we find and support more durable solutions for the ones displaced for longer periods of time. On both measures, unfortunately we often fall short.


Being a refugee or IDP is one of the most exposed situations anybody can be in. Imagine how it feels to being uprooted from your home because of conflicts or war or natural disasters even. I have worked with refugees for last 12 years and it has become really important for me to identify ways to reduce suffering and help improve opportunities for these more marginalized communities. This is important to me, to the DRC and luckily to many more in the world including our funders and other partners. And it is one of the biggest humanitarian challenges. Unfortunately, we see more and more people being forcible displaced, so it is an area of growing concern.


My little corner within the ‘DRC world’ is what we called Innovative Finance. Basically it is about trying to mobilize new sources of funding for refugees and other displacement affected communities. We rely mostly on grants and donations for our work and we hope these will continue, and grow, but there is need for much more capital in the contexts we work in. We need more investments, financial capital, and we would like to make such financing work better for the benefit of refugees and IDPs building more sustainable solutions for those displaced for longer periods of time. We can only do so much as an NGO, and the more we can mobilize other players into the space from private sector to investment capital, the better we are able to support solutions and assistance that will continue in the longer term.


We are working in some of the most difficult contexts as a refugee organization. We are in 40 countries around the world and many of those are countries with ongoing conflicts, that have severe humanitarian and development challenges and working in those contexts is even difficult for us as a leading NGO that has been there for many years. It’s even harder for new partners that are not used to working in these places. So, when we speak about mobilizing more private sector money into these areas it’s a long and winding road. We are mindful of the challenges of bringing in new solutions and partners and that can take some time. I do see however, and that encourages me, even with these challenges there is a lot of interest and desire both from the finance world and the private sector to contribute to positive change for displaced persons.


Beyond the obvious that ending or even significantly reducing displacement is something that requires political will across the board, it’s fair to say we need more resources and durable solutions. Refugees and IDPs are not only a humanitarian problem. It’s something that affects us all and it requires many different actors to help address thesituation. We need finance to move into hard places and be patient. We should be encouraged by the impact we can achieve together if we are patient and courageous. We also need a private sector that looks at refugees as an opportunity and not only as a challenge. Even if it is moving slowly, we see lots of new coalitions moving into this space, trying to address humanitarian challenges with a longer term perspective.