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 sometimes struggle with communication and clarity, making collaboration a challenge. This was the gap Allies for Refugee Integration (ARI) was designed to address.
Led by project partners OCASI and Refugee 613 from 2018-2021, ARI aimed to increase and strengthen collaboration between settlement service providers and refugee sponsorship groups in Ontario. Funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) through Service Delivery Improvement, ARI aimed to innovate and test different models to ultimately improve settlement outcomes of privately sponsored refugees.
ARI went through three phases. The research phase produced an environmental scan for an evidence-based approach to understanding the main gaps and opportunities for improvement for the support available for sponsored refugees. This was followed by a collaborative design phase that brought together stakeholders to design pilot prototypes. Finally, we selected the top 2 ideas and entered a pilot-testing phase in 2020 with pilot partners across Ontario working to implement and test the impact of the two practices.
The first idea was an Intentional Connection practice. Through formalizing SPO-SAH partnerships, we connected sponsors and refugees with a settlement worker both pre- and post-arrival, to discuss roles and align efforts. And we also tested a Knowledge Exchange practice. These virtual community events brought together sponsors, settlement agencies, and refugees for discussions and information-sharing on settlement topics.
Based on the success of the pilots, ARI has four recommendations to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC):
- Create a policy of Intentional Connection practice for pre/post arrival coordination to ensure refugees have the support they need.
- Support SPOs and SAHs to create formal partnerships.
- Encourage SPOs to include sponsors & SAHs as full partners in information exchange opportunities.
- Further define and test the Intentional Connection practice in order to scale up.
For more, read our final report, “Intentional Connections for Welcoming Communities” and check out the project tools and resources on the sidebar.