Starting guide: What is a diaspora organisation?

Diaspora communities are increasingly recognised as central partners in supporting development activities in their home countries. From the 2005 Communication “Migration and Development: Some concrete orientations”, the EU’s first comprehensive approach to migration and development appreciating diaspora groups as agents of development, to the most recent Samoa Agreement, more and more policies are consolidating principles of diaspora for development.

Given their increasingly important role in enhancing dialogue with diasporas, migrant groups and strengthening cooperation with countries of origin, it would be useful to better understand diaspora organisations (DOs) and their work. Enhancing knowledge of diaspora organisations in the EU will help policymakers and practitioners to:

✔ Understand the diversity of diaspora organisations and their rich potential,
✔ Increase synergies among development partners including more marginal players,
✔ A
mplify the role played by diaspora organisations in sustainable development…

and many more!

This page is based on the “What is a diaspora organisation?” starting guide, in which we draw from EUDiF’s research, dialogue and capacity development activities to help practitioners define diaspora organisations and provide a better understanding of their activities.

Read on for a précis, or download the publication for the complete reflection.

The diaspora organisation landscape is dynamic and constantly evolving in response to a myriad of internal and external factors. All those active in supporting diaspora engagement must strive to observe, support and celebrate these changes so as to engage diaspora organisations as equal partners and maximise the potential of partnerships for sustainable development.
Dr. Fanny Tittel-Mosser
Knowledge Management & Research Officer, EUDiF
Working definition

EUDiF defines diaspora organisations as organisations managed by diaspora members and/or having a majority of diaspora membership. Diaspora organisations should be based outside the country of origin and their activities can be implemented in regions, countries or communities of origin and/or host countries. Diaspora organisations can carry out a wide range of activities, depending on their purpose, including with a strong focus on integration activities, development activities or both simultaneously.

The key factor distinguishing DOs from other CSOs is their diasporic experience. Representative of their transnational nature, DOs provide a platform for constructive engagement and cross-cultural dialogue between countries of settlement and countries of origin.

Evolution of diaspora organisations
There is no one path for a diaspora organisation to take.

This hyper-diversity means no assumptions should be made about the past, present or future of any diaspora organisation. Nevertheless, looking at factors such as history, government-activity, region, mission and membership, patterns emerge.

Diaspora organisations are spaces to get together and stay involved.

Diaspora organisations are entities that connect all main stakeholders of the diaspora engagement ecosystem, the diaspora itself, countries of origin and destination and secondary actors depending on the focus of a particular organisation.

Diaspora organisations are very fluid.

Diaspora organisations tend to first focus on integration issues before shifting towards development issues, but this is not always the case. We also often see DOs that focus on integration issues over a longer period of time tend to support communities from countries with long lasting crises, or those with continuous migration flows.

DOs start with a specific focus before diversifying once established.

This is evident in membership expanding from a single diaspora community to cover those from multiple countries or a region. It is also true of subject focus and activities, which often diversify over time.

We witness more and more diversity in the type of diaspora organisations.

We observe expansion beyond traditional hometown associations, as well as evolution from individual diaspora organisations towards diaspora networks. This process usually takes time as an organisation needs to grow and create the necessary partnerships to develop a network.

Did you know?
Regional trends in diaspora engagement have influenced the development of DOs. Those linked to Africa and Asia are usually the oldest organisations as these regions were the first to engage their diaspora, while those from Eastern Europe have mainly been created in the second half of the 2000s after independence from the former Soviet Union.
Main characteristics



Legal status

DOs may be legally registered or not. The exact status depends on the legal options available in the country of residence.


DOs can be exclusively volunteer-led or led by paid staff with or without additional voluntary support.


Many DOs are exclusive to the members of the same diaspora community, though some are open to everyone wishing to be active in the organisation.

Geographical scope of action

DOs can operate at regional, national, and local level in country of origin, destination or both.

Main sources of funding

DO work may be funded through project-based interventions dependent on diaspora/member contributions, interventions supported by institutional donors, a combination of both etc.


Depending on the activities, beneficiaries may be exclusive to the same diaspora community, diaspora from a specific region, residents in a specific country/region, or a mixed audience of diaspora and non-diaspora.

Modus operandi

DO typically operate through a multifaceted modus operandi, leveraging networks, cultural ties, technology (allowing for online presence), and partnerships among other

Primary functions
Advocacy, lobbying and dialogue
Culture, identity preservation & education
Human capital
Humanitarian aid
Social services & community support
Socioeconomic development & philanthrophy

To affect change in host and home communities alike and to trigger positive actions by influencing policymakers


Awareness campaigns on identity related issues (e.g. racism, gender)
✔ Political campaigns (e.g. on democracy, regional conflicts)
✔ Information campaigns
✔ Organisation of thematic events


To promote and preserve cultural roots, ultimately to strengthen cultural identity and attachment to the country of origin


✔ Heritage language courses
✔ Traditional dance classes
✔ Cooking classes
✔ Celebration of cultural festivities and performing arts


To capitalise on the diaspora’s knowledge, skills and education as well as on their soft skills, such as talents, creativity, capacity to innovate and digital literacy to support the development of the country of origin


✔ Nurturing of talents (e.g. skill development for younger generations)
✔ Deployment of talent (e.g. short-term diaspora skills transfers)
✔ Attraction of talent (e.g brain gain/return)


To support countries of origin in times of political, economic or environmental crisis


✔ Rebuilding of infrastructure
✔ Collection and distribution of essential items
✔ Fundraising


To provide a space to connect the diaspora and the country of origin


✔ Provision of visibility and representation to diaspora groups
✔ Gathering and coordination of diaspora organisations
✔ Organisation of events to maintain links between the country of origin and the diaspora (often targeting youth)
✔ Provision of professionalisation services to diaspora organisations
✔ Identification of skilled or key people in the community to connect with leaders or other interested parties


To facilitate the integration of the diaspora community within the host society, as well as foster social cohesion


✔ Language courses (of the residence country)
✔ Psychological counselling services
✔ Legal consultations
✔ Support to integrate in the labour market
✔ Activities for children (e.g. reading courses, sports)


To contribute to the socio-economic development of countries of heritage through entrepreneurship, capacity development of local actors and creation of job opportunities, often with a focus on vulnerable groups (e.g. women and youth)


✔ Fundraising activities
✔ Mentoring
✔ Capacity development for individuals and organisations
✔ Implementation of projects
✔ Support to businesses
✔ Volunteering programmes

Main types