The key to achieving self-reliance for refugees is that they can independently navigate their lives in the country of refuge. Their ability to access resources within the community they live – both refugee and local – will be key to building independence and sustainability. This section focuses on how working in a network can contribute to increased information provision and awareness of available services by working to promote this independence.
Many countries with large refugee populations have scarce resources and a tension between the need for assistance and the availability of funds and services. In other places where refugees are newly arriving, social and public services may be unaware or unwilling to extend their services. They may also just not know how to serve refugees.
By building and informing networks of organizations and agencies, refugees can make the best of the available resources. Furthermore, the provision of services through networks encourages the development of social capital to positively impact the lives of refugees in protracted or urban refugee situations.
Knowing your network partners furthermore can have an empowering effect since it will benefit your refugee client’s ability to navigate through the host country. For example, by providing information about the available services, rather than making an abstract referral you provide refugees with a choice whether they want to use these services and advocate for themselves to claim the services they are entitled to based on their specific characteristics or needs.
Some of the most commonly cited benefits for network members are increased or newly acquired:
- Access to information;
- Expertise and financial resources;
- Reach and impact;
- Solidarity and support;
- Visibility of issues, best practices, and underrepresented groups.
Mapping local resources for CLE
At first glance, the local context may seem void of resources for refugee community. Refugees often complain that they are turned away from social or public services and that private agencies are too expensive. It is important to dig deeper, scope out the landscape and create a plan to contact, inform and strategically connect already existing services with refugees.
Players to include in mapping:
- Community clinics;
- Credit unions and other community financial institutions;
- Local government offices;
- Clinics and professors and PhD students
Similar to mapping done in building referrals for Legal Services, by taking inventory of the players offering services in the community you can begin to identify resource possibilities for refugees as well as to relevant partners for your community legal empowerment programs. It is important to look beyond refugee-oriented services, and investigate local services aimed at citizens e.g. homeless charities, food banks, faith groups.
Outreach after mapping
As you begin to contact all your mapped organizations and service providers, research the organization and its leaders as much as possible to learn about their mission and goals, funding sources and limitations. This will help you identify ways to connect their values and objectives with serving refugee community members and convince them that serving refugees matches their mandates and values.
Before contacting them, prepare to introduce yourself and your organization and provide an introduction based on these shared principles. Consider bringing refugee leaders with you to meet with these organizational leaders in the first or second meeting.
Prepare and provide information about the situation of refugees in your area if they are unfamiliar. This is an opportunity to dispel myths about the refugees and build allegiances.