By Joe Gebbia, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Airbnb
Consider two words: refuge and refugee. Words that share the same origin, but seem to have taken on very different meanings in today’s world.
Refuge is a fundamental human need that most people can relate to and accept. We see refuge as something that everyone needs and deserves from time to time, and particularly in times of change and crisis. Yet a “refugee” can be too far from our reality to understand, and too outside our ability to welcome. Too often, we hear the word refugee used in the media or political rhetoric in a context that aims to evoke feelings of misunderstanding, fear, or even resentment.
As part of our Open Homes initiative and efforts to help Airbnb hosts welcome newcomers in communities around the world, we are committed to helping combat changing common misconceptions about refugees and asylum seekers — and the refuge they so desperately need, seek, and deserve.
Today’s reality is that we live in a world where more than 65 million people have been displaced by conflict.
Since 2015, Airbnb has partnered with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) (Link) to provide short-term housing to refugees. We further expanded our efforts in 2017 when Airbnb pledged $4M to the IRC over the next four years in both cash and housing support.
Thanks to partnerships with organizations like the IRC, our hosts not only provide short-term housing to those in need, but also help refugees forge new connections. They are creating new levels of understanding between people from every walk of life.
This week, we hosted David Miliband, CEO and President of the International Rescue Committee at Airbnb HQ in San Francisco, California. David reminded us that the biggest challenge we face when it comes to the global refugee crisis is our own fear that we can’t do something individually or collectively to help.
Each of us can make a difference. No problem is unsolvable. Just as David reminded us, we can use our voices, our skills, our ideas, and our resources to not only change perceptions, but also to take life-saving actions for refugees.
We have a way to help at Airbnb, and we have the responsibility to do so.
When Brian, Nate and I first founded Airbnb, even some of our investors and friends laughed at the notion of people welcoming strangers into their homes. But in the years since, hosts have opened more than 4.5 million homes to guests worldwide — and we’ve seen more than 300 million Airbnb guest arrivals.
It’s our responsibility to take what we’re incredibly good at — hospitality, facilitating trust between strangers, building scalable software — and help the world and leading organizations like the IRC solve the most difficult challenges of our time.
To learn more about the IRC and donate to their amazing initiatives, see here.