Settlement professionals and refugee sponsors are natural allies with a common goal: providing the best possible support for a newly arrived refugee. But these allies often struggle with communication and clarity, making collaboration a challenge.
Allies in Refugee Integration (ARI) is an IRCC-funded project that aims to increase and strengthen collaboration between settlement service providers and refugee sponsorship groups in Ontario, and ultimately improve settlement outcomes of privately sponsored refugees.
Settlement services are proven to have a positive effect on refugee integration. They provide accurate information and advice, increase newcomers’ support networks and help the newcomer navigate a new community. Private sponsors are volunteers who commit to providing financial and practical support to refugees for a year, and for some, that automatically entails collaboration with settlement professionals. But for many, the lack of clear protocols, tools and a shared understanding leaves both private sponsors and settlement service providers struggling to collaborate effectively. Close teamwork is not happening consistently, and confusion around roles and responsibilities hampers efforts to meet the needs of refugees in a coordinated manner. This is the gap the ARI project aims to address.
Why does it matter? Based on the Government’s 2018-2020 immigration levels plan, settlement service providers will see a significant increase in the number of privately Sponsored refugees (PSR) and blended visa office referred (BVOR) clients. Given this forecast, the need for private sponsors and settlement service providers to work more closely will be magnified.
The focus of ARI is to drive innovation at the intersection of the settlement sector and the private refugee sponsorship community, through identifying, developing and testing new tools and approaches for collaboration and teamwork. The project began in July, 2018 and will end with final recommendations made to IRCC on March 31, 2021. It will move through 3 phases:
- Research - conducting an environmental scan to establish a picture of the current situation, including existing promising practices around collaboration, through focus groups, interviews and surveys.
- Design - generating innovative ideas and solutions through collaborative design workshops with multiple stakeholders.
- Evaluation - Pilot-testing and evaluating selected ideas for effectiveness, feasibility and impact on refugee settlement.
Led by OCASI in close partnership with Refugee 613, ARI engages service providers, sponsors, formerly sponsored refugees and other stakeholders to ensure their voices shape the problem definition and design of solutions.
IRCC launched a dedicated funding stream for service delivery improvements to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Settlement Program, informed by user-centred design principles and approaches. This stream of funding is intended to increase understanding of newcomer needs and develop evidence-based methods for improving service delivery.
Project advisory group
The ARI Project Advisory Group is a dynamic and diverse group of people with expertise in sponsorship, settlement and integration of newcomers. Members are located throughout Ontario and include representatives from Local Immigration Partnerships, the SAH council, settlement, refugee sponsorship groups, former refugees and the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program.