What is PartecipAzione?  

PartecipAzione is a networking, capacity-building and empowerment programme realized by INTERSOS and UNHCR aimed at supporting refugee-led organisations that promote the participation of refugees in the social, economic and cultural life in Italy. 

Since its first edition in 2018, PartecipAzione is supporting the development of a network of 40 associations in 12 Italian regions, offering them specific training modules, coaching in the implementation of projects, and paths to consolidation, sustainability and growth. 

The idea behind PartecipAzione is that by strengthening the capacities of refugee-led associations it is possible to achieve both the creation and consolidation of protection networks to safeguard and support the refugee population, and the enhancement of the work that, on each territory, each association carries out along with migrants and Italians, building concrete examples of solidarity and inclusion every day. 

PartecipAzione is a community-based protection programme that adopts the UNHCR policy on Age, Gender and Diversity. 

Objectives of the programme

Refugees have incredible resources to bring to the countries they live in, but these are often limited by the many factors involved in living in a new country, with a different language and culture from their country of origin, which can make their active participation in civil society a new challenge.

PartecipAzione aims to expand access and active participation of refugees in the Italian social and civil life, facilitate the acquisition of new competences and promote the engagement with associative and institutional networks.

PartecipAzione works with associations formed by refugees (RLOs), mixed associations in which refugees play a key decision or implementing role and associations that adopt a participatory approach in their work. Associationism is indeed a central part of the concept of active participation and an important tool to enhance and promote the voice of refugees.

The programme is based on four main pillars:

  • Collaboration in the realisation of projects: The association are awarded with micro-grants to support the realization of their project proposals. In addition, the associations receive individualized technical support to implement their projects.
  • Consolidation paths: The associations are supported in the search for funding opportunities and in writing projects for participating in public and European calls for proposals.
  • Networking: The associations are involved in national and local events, in person and virtual, to facilitate coordination with local stakeholders and collaborations between associations.
  • Training courses: Delivered both through the dedicated online platform PartecipAzioneLab, created in 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and in presence, an advanced training focuses on topics identified by RLOs as strategic as project management, fundraising, communication and refugee protection.

By providing associations with dedicated staff for individual mentoring and coaching, advanced tools and skills to better pursue their associative objectives, increase their activity in the media, access new sources of funding and engage with institutions, PartecipAzione has formed and continues to strengthen and consolidate a national network of associations, with enormous potential to become recognized stakeholders at a local and national level.


The impact of PartecipAzione is measured regularly throughout the achievements of the associations that take part to the programme. All associations which participated in the past editions of the PartecipAzione stated that six months after the end of the funding and training period, they had expanded their activities and competences in a number of areas.

These results, measured through qualitative and quantitative questionnaires adapted to the specific path of the associations, shows how the programme has been able to achieve a substantial impact on the development of each association, by supporting its growth and consolidation.

Moreover, all associations reported that six months after the conclusion of project activities, their visibility and ability to make the voice of refugee members heard had increased.

At the end of its 2020 edition, 76% of the associations claimed to have consolidated their financial sustainability and independence by presenting new projects and accessing new sources of funding. The ability to consolidate networks was also confirmed, with 80% of associations reportedly developing new partnerships with other actors. In addition, 66% of them reported having strengthened their institutional work and participation in decision-making fora through the new relationships.

the organizations

Currently at its fourth edition, PartecipAzione has financed 40 refugee-led and community-based organizations selected out of more than 300 applications, evaluated by a selection committee composed by INTERSOS, UNHCR, refugees members of the PartecipAzione’s network and private foundations.

This response has been supported by a constant mapping operation of associationism in Italy which has been carried out since its first edition. Mapping is in fact a central part of PartecipAzione and aims to reflect the enormous development of associationism promoted by refugees in Italy. So far, the mapping operation has reached and identified over 550 associations working closely with refugees and asylum seekers, led by refugees or where refugees have a strong participatory component.

The mapping has been put together through field activities, presentation events, visits and individual meetings aimed at informing refugee communities and associations about the programme, at creating opportunties for meeting with local entities and institutional stakeholders and at consolidating the relations with local stakeholders. Thanks to this exercise, the programme was able to build relationships with hundreds of institutional and non-institutional stakeholders and, in some cases, allowed some informal refugee networks to form an association and seize the opportunity to participate in the programme.

In addition, in 2021 PartecipAzione has developed “PartecipAzione in Rete – Partecipazione in the network”, an additional component dedicated to the organisations that have took part in the past editions of the programme. This initiative aims at supporting the organisations in strengthening their operational capabilities and in building and consolidating collaborations through participatory project development and implementation. The scope of “PartecipAzione in Rete” covers four main working areas: access to education, information guidance, countering social exclusion and poverty, and the support for refugee-led business activities.


PartecipAzione considers the communication of its activities and achievements as a key component for the success of the programme.  

In order to ensure its visibility at the local, national and international the programme uses multiple tools which include a Facebook community with over 800 members to exchange information on the realities affecting refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, a Twitter account, a dedicated website, and a monthly newsletter received by over a thousand contacts and that covers the updates concerning the programme and the associations part of its network. The programme visibility is also ensured by multiple events organised every year and by the production of visibility material. 

In addition, PartecipAzione maintains a constant dialogue with national and international newspapers and agencies. 


Established in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated to lead and coordinate globally all actions to provide international protection and material assistance to refugees and other persons within its mandate, and to work towards durable solutions that help refugee persons rebuild their lives in safety and dignity, through voluntary return to their countries of origin, integration in the country of asylum or resettlement in a third country. With a staff of over 17,000 people working in 135 countries, UNHCR is one of the world’s leading humanitarian agencies. In its 70 years of operation, the UNHCR has helped more than 80 million people rebuild their lives. For this it has been awarded two Nobel Peace Prizes, in 1954 and 1981.  

INTERSOS is the Italian humanitarian organisation at the forefront of emergencies, bringing help to people involved in wars, violence, natural disasters and situations of extreme exclusion. Founded in 1992, the organisation is currently present in 19 countries with projects for medical care, access to water and hygiene, distribution of basic necessities, education and protection of the most vulnerable. Since 2011 INTERSOS has also been running projects in Italy. Other projects have also started in the last three years in Sicily, Calabria and Puglia with teams of doctors and mobile units carrying out proximity medicine for people living in rural and urban informal settlements.