Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Changing How We Measure Success in Resettlement

Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Changing How We Measure Success in Resettlement

Article excerpt

While it is evident why resettlement countries are interested in the self-reliance of refugees, these are not necessarily the same benchmarks of success against which refugees measure themselves. By investing in understanding more about how refugees define their own success, we can improve our capacity to evaluate and adapt programmes intended to support refugees in their transition into permanent resettlement. Furthermore, by reframing our definition of what makes an outcome successful, we have the opportunity to build on the strengths of the refugees themselves, and to improve our capacity to demonstrate not just a reduction in the perceived burden on receiving communities but also the value that resettled refugees can add.

Nearly all of the 15 permanently resettled refugees interviewed on the subject of how individuals define their own success reported that they measure success not by their individual economic self-sufficiency but by their ability to 'give back' to their communities and to maintain a connectedness to their culture of origin. Though this finding does not necessarily reflect the sentiments of all refugees, it does offer insight into important gaps between how receiving countries measure success (through employment statistics) versus how those receiving services in these countries measure success.

Supporting resilience

Resilience is often cited as the main determining characteristic for successful integration into a new community and, in that context, is often seen as a characteristic required of the individual alone. However, if resilience is "...the capacity of individuals to access resources that enhance their wellbeing and the capacity of their physical and social ecologies to make those resources available in meaningful ways...",1 it also requires a resettlement country to share the responsibility for the level of success that a refugee community achieves by ensuring that opportunities and resources exist which support long-term success.

For example, the United States (US), the world's largest resettlement country, evaluates programmes almost entirely based on a single outcome - rapid early employment. This can be effective in demonstrating financial self-sufficiency and elimination of public dependency; however, this alone does not guarantee that the foundation is set for resilience and longterm success. Imagine asking not just "what is the minimum qualification for success?" but instead, "how do refugees define their own success, and what impact does this have on our community?" Asking these questions might, for example, highlight instances in which stepping stones provided by receiving communities to achieve shortterm success serve as stumbling blocks for longer-term positive results. For example, finding employment within the first three to four months in a new place might achieve immediate self-sufficiency but upon further investigation we might find that it limits refugees' access to language training - training that might have far more added benefit in the long term for potential upward mobility in the job market.

Strengths-based perspective

Resettlement countries that are able to recognise the inherent assets and capabilities that refugees have developed through their own personal experience and who use this information to design programmes that bolster rather than restrict these talents will benefit most. …

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