Cultural Orientation throughout the Resettlement Journey
Submitted by: Kate Steger, CORE Director
Email: [email protected]
The CORE Resettlement Navigator Website: A mobile-friendly website where refugees and resettlement staff can access free fact sheets, podcasts, and videos in multiple languages about resettlement to the United States and cultural orientation.
Introduction to the project
The Refugee Communications Project is currently implemented through the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and spans across multiple countries. More specifically, it involves seven Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs): Africa, Asia, Austria, Eurasia, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Turkey and Middle East (TuME). It also is being applied with resettlement organizations across the United States (resettlement organizations are associated with the nine Resettlement Agencies (RA) operating in the United States). For more details about RSCs and RAs, see “Who We Serve” section located on this web page.
The Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE) is a technical assistance program managed by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), an international non-profit responding to the world’s worst humanitarian crises. CORE receives funding through United States government, specifically, the United States Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
The Refugee Communications Project has two goals: (1) Increase touch-points with refugees going through the USRAP application process; (2) Ensure those touch-points provide consistent and harmonized messaging.
Through this project, CORE developed hundreds of physical and digital assets, available across multiple digital platforms:
- CORE Resettlement Navigator: Mobile-friendly website with fact sheets, podcasts, and videos, available in Arabic, Burmese, Dari, English, Farsi, Kinyarwanda, Russian, Swahili, and Somali. Covers topics related to USRAP application process and cultural orientation (housing, employment, health, education, transportation, community services, role of resettlement agencies, digital awareness, etc.)
- Settle In: Mobile and desktop app with interactive videos and quizzes that is available in Arabic, Burmese, Dari, English, Kinyarwanda, Swahili, and Russian
- TextCOREnav: Bulk SMS messaging dashboard that can be used to send messages about USRAP and cultural orientation in multiple languages.
These resources apply a user-centered approach to serving refugees, accommodating the range of needs and contexts in terms of literacy, language, and differences in digital access (i.e. videos for illiterate and low-literate populations; translation into multiple languages; offline and online capabilities).
Another key component includes technical assistance to RSCs and RAs on integrating these resources (i.e. creating toolkits, conducting trainings virtually and in-person). CORE technical assistance promotes a whole-office approach, which engages staff at different points in the resettlement process to understand their role in delivering consistent and accurate cultural orientation information.
The catalyst for this project was the surge of Syrian refugees processed through RSC TuME and RSC MENA in 2015. The high volume, as well as this population’s exposure to other resettlement options, led to more questions about resettlement to the United States and increased cases of misinformation and fraud. These issues were compounded by the length of the resettlement process, which can span years.
Main activities of the Good Practice
This project focuses in 3 of the GCR objectives.
- Objective 1 - Ease the pressures on host countries: The Refugee Communications Project allows staff operating in host countries to provide consistent and harmonized messaging as refugees go through the resettlement process, thus reducing misinformation and fraud. When all refugees, regardless of their processing locations, receive consistent information and have realistic expectations, the resettlement process is streamlined upon arrival. By connecting RSC and RA staff who conduct cultural orientation, CORE is able to facilitate knowledge exchange of best practices and build trust across the continuum.
- Objective 2 - Enhance refugee self-reliance: Refugees are able to independently access information about USRAP and other important information relevant to their cultural orientation to the United States, including topics such as employment, health, education, and money management. The iterative nature of the messaging across the resettlement continuum helps reinforce key messages to achieve self-sufficiency. The information is available in a range of formats to accommodate all literacy levels, multiple languages, and differences in digital access.
- Objective 3 - Expand access to third-country solutions: This project begins with RSCs and continues as refugees are processed for resettlement to the United States. It has required collaboration with multiple countries, organizations, and both staff and refugees.
- United States Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
- Resettlement Support Centers (see above list): These are run by either International Organization of Migration (IOM) or one of the following non-government organizations: International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), HIAS, IRC, Church World Service (CWS)
- Resettlement Agencies in the United States (non-profits)
Challenges and how they were overcome
- The environments where refugees are processed and resettled vary widely and thus the project has to be nimble and adaptable. For example, the bulk SMS portion of the project has required CORE to navigate the telecommunication landscapes in Jordan, Turkey, Rwanda, Kenya, and Ukraine, all of which have different policies and laws.
- Another challenge has been building capacity of staff, partially because of the changing existing systems in place, paired with using new technology, but also because of changes to resettlement in the United States.
How they were overcome:
- It has been critical for CORE to work closely with our stakeholders, using iterative processes to collect routine feedback, implement changes regularly, and push innovation within the project. Through on-site technical assistance, CORE engages various resettlement staff in how they play a role in cultural orientation and strengthen team collaboration to improve message consistency throughout the office.
Results of the Good Practice
- Harmonized and consistent messaging available to staff that work with refugees at each step of their resettlement process (overseas and upon arrival in the United States).
- Increased availability of reliable, credible, relevant, and linguistically appropriate information on the USRAP and cultural orientation in the digital space to assist refugees.
- Ability to combat misinformation about USRAP and cultural orientation and protect against fraud within refugee communities.
- More resources and materials for staff to use when delivering cultural orientation for refugees before departing to the United States and upon arrival.
CORE will continue to implement this project; building on existing digital resources, as well as continue to provide capacity-building assistance.
Useful related resources:
Videos on CORE Resettlement Navigator that illustrate a few of the free resources available to refugees:
Refugee Communications Toolkit available for staff working to resettle refugees to the United States and used in connection with technical assistance delivered to RSCs and RAs.