May 4, 2021

Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award Grants Over $24 Million to Create Long-Term Transformational Change for Refugees

The Resourcing Refugee Leadership Initiative is selected as the $10M award recipient by sponsors Chris Larsen and Lyna Lam, while DREAMS for Refugees is selected as the $2M award recipient by the Sea Grape Foundation

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Today, Lever for Change and ICONIQ Impact announced that the Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award (“Award”), a competition to secure a brighter, more durable future for refugees globally, has successfully raised $24.25 million in funding to distribute to five finalist organizations dedicated to improving the lives of refugees around the world. The award sponsors, philanthropists Chris Larsen and Lyna Lam, have selected the Resourcing Refugee Leadership Initiative (“the Initiative”), a six-organization strong global coalition effort, as the recipient of their $10 million award. The Sea Grape Foundation, a family foundation and initial Award sponsor, has selected DREAMS for Refugees, a project led by Village Enterprise in partnership with Mercy Corps and IDinsight, as the recipient of its $2 million award.

The Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award was facilitated by Lever for Change’s partnership with ICONIQ Impact, ICONIQ Capital’s platform for collaborative philanthropy. Through peer-to-peer fundraising efforts over the past three months, ICONIQ Impact and the Award’s sponsors have mobilized an additional $12.25 million in funding from several generous donors in the ICONIQ network, bringing the total funds raised to $24.25 million—more than double the initial award of $12 million. These funds will be distributed across the Award’s five finalist teams. In addition to the $10 million awarded to the Initiative and the $2 million granted to DREAMS for Refugees:

  • DREAMS for Refugees is being awarded an additional $8 million by an anonymous donor in the ICONIQ network.
  • Three other finalist organizations—Southern New Hampshire University’s Global Education Movement, an initiative which offers refugees in six countries access to a university degree program and academic and career counseling and resources; New American Cities, a Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service project; and Unlocking Skilled Migration Solutions for Refugees, a project connecting refugees with international employers, led by Talent Beyond Boundaries—will each receive a $1 million grant from an anonymous donor in the ICONIQ network.
  • Additionally, David Karp, founder and former CEO of Tumblr, and Samantha McManus have awarded $1.25 million to be shared equally by all five finalist organizations.

The Resourcing Refugee Leadership Initiative, the recipient of the Larsen Lam family’s $10 million award, is a global coalition driven by the importance of transferring ownership and resources to refugee-led organizations (RLOs). The coalition, convened by Asylum Access, brings together five RLOs including Basmeh & Zeitooneh in Lebanon, RefugiadosUnidos in Colombia, Refugees & Asylum seekers Information Centre (RAIC) in Indonesia, St. Andrew’s Refugee Services (StARS) in Egypt, and Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID) in Uganda. The $10 million award will help the Initiative establish a first-of-its-kind RLO-to-RLO fund, allowing donors to pool capital and fund RLOs around the world, and is expected to help catalyze $40 million in funding over the next five years for at least 45 global RLOs to support over one million refugees.

Mohamed Ahmed, Programs Director of StARS, said, “The $10 million donation will help put philanthropic ownership in the hands of refugees and offer donors a way to overcome the structural complexities of funding RLOs directly. With this grant, the coalition will have the capacity to fund long-lasting community solutions, rather than short-term projects that often miss the mark.”

“We are honored to receive the $10 million grant sponsored by Chris Larsen and Lyna Lam,” said Diana Essex-Lettieri, Vice President and COO of Asylum Access. “RLOs are leading change as the architects of strategic solutions and holistic services that secure rights and well-being for refugees in their communities, and Asylum Access is proud to convene this coalition of some of the most established and impactful RLOs in the world. This funding is a game-changer for the refugee rights movement as it will help scale outstanding RLOs around the world and increase the representation and inclusion of refugees in the design of refugee solutions at national, regional, and global levels, transforming the lives of millions more refugees in the years to come.”

“We were so impressed by the Initiative’s unique commitment to positioning local refugee leadership at the forefront of the pursuit to broaden access to durable solutions for refugees,” said philanthropists and Award sponsors Chris Larsen and Lyna Lam. “The coalition is challenging the status quo by introducing a groundbreaking approach for placing donor’s funding directly into the hands of RLOs to empower and enable the refugee leaders who drive community solutions forward. We couldn’t be more thrilled to support this outstanding coalition of partners and are incredibly proud to join hands with the additional donors who have stepped up to help fund the four other outstanding solutions selected as finalists in this competition.”

DREAMS for Refugees will use the collective funds awarded to it by the Sea Grape Foundation and the anonymous ICONIQ network donor to help equip refugees in Uganda and Ethiopia—the two African countries hosting the continent’s largest refugee population—with the skills, support, resources, and connections they need to become successful entrepreneurs of thriving businesses.

“This is an incredible milestone for the five well-deserving recipients of these awards, and we cannot wait to follow along with their respective journeys and see how the funds help accelerate their efforts to support refugees globally,” said Michael Anders, founding partner of ICONIQ Capital. “Two years ago, we launched ICONIQ Impact with the vision of bringing our network together to fund innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing social problems. We are incredibly humbled by the engagement we have seen from the ICONIQ community. The fact that we were able to more than double the Award’s initial pledge of $12 million to over $24 million is a testament to what we can achieve when we bring people and their passions together for social good, and we’re just getting started.”

The Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award was managed by Lever for Change, a nonprofit affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that helps donors find and fund solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, including racial and gender equity, economic development, and climate change.

“The recipients of the funds raised through the Award will transform the lives of refugees and host communities,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change. “In this moment of global reckoning and social upheaval, it is critical for philanthropy to be bold and daring. By investing in these inspiring ideas, donors have an opportunity to improve the lives of displaced people for generations to come. We urge more visionary philanthropists to join our efforts to fully fund all of these outstanding finalist teams.”

The Initiative and all of the Award finalists will also receive customized operational support from Rippleworks, a non-profit foundation that Chris Larsen co-founded with Rippleworks CEO Doug Galen. Rippleworks supports more than 150 global and fast-growth social ventures running short-term, high-impact projects where ventures partner with leading industry executives to tackle top operational priorities.

“Big problems like our global refugee crisis require big solutions led by bold, inspiring teams, and we are so grateful that so many exist,” Galen said. “We know the path to realizing their ambitious visions brings no shortage of operational and technology challenges, and we are beyond inspired to partner with these incredible teams through their continued growth.”

ICONIQ Impact and Lever for Change are calling on additional philanthropists to join their efforts to fully fund all five of the finalists that were identified during this competition. Interested donors may contact Matti Navellou, Vice President of ICONIQ Impact, at

Learn more about the Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award and the recipients:

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