Refugee-led organizations (RLOs) tend to be highly connected and available to the communities they work with, promoting responsive programming as well as respect, trust and safety through their activities. This was one of the impact trends identified across the external impact evaluations of the RRLI Coalition Members, which were analyzed in a key piece of evidence on the impact of RLOs: Understanding RLO Impact: A Metasynthesis of Five External Impact Evaluations Covering Programs Run by Refugee-Led Organizations.
A look at community responsiveness in Lebanon
The external impact evaluation of Basmeh & Zeitooneh (B&Z) in Lebanon found that the organization had strong connections with the community through the Shabake project, an initiative designed to respond to the needs of businesses and communities, with an emphasis on women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. According to the evaluation, the presence of B&Z in the community and staff dedication created an overall sense of “credibility and honesty” and a feeling of being respected amongst participants of the project. Some examples of the high level of availability and responsiveness demonstrated by B&Z staff include holding training throughout the day (as early as 7 a.m. and as late as 7 p.m.) to accommodate participants’ schedules and ensure accessibility and wider participation, using private transportation for those who could not afford public transportation, and delivering crucial equipment during the holidays to ensure business owners would be prepared for high-season.
B&Z has also demonstrated a high level of adaptability to community needs, specifically regarding women’s participation. Some members of the community expressed concern about their ongoing participation in the project due to childcare responsibilities, safety concerns, and odd working hours (as a result of government restrictions on use of electricity during the day). B&Z swiftly responded to these concerns and challenges by integrating child care to the program (to ensure women with young children may bring them onsite), adding protection services (to promote safety when onsite or in transport), and even incorporating solar panels (to overcome restrictions on day-time energy use). The evaluators also noted that the Shabake project itself is responsive to community and cultural needs: since women carry the burden of food security for their families and community, by identifying an entrepreneurial endeavor tied to food security (dairy production), B&Z developed a program that was considered a natural fit by community members, which was confirmed through focus groups with program participants.
Further examples of availability and connectedness across RLOs worldwide
B&Z is not the only RLO demonstrating community connectedness, availability and responsiveness. The evaluation of the COVID-19 Quick Impact Project showed that Saint Andrew’s Refugee Services (StARS) in Egypt overcame accessibility challenges of other actors to reach 2,985 families (10,808 individuals) with 2,004 multipurpose cash grants for food and rent and 1,785 food and hygiene boxes. These efforts were critical because at the outset of the pandemic, UNHCR closed its offices for six months, resulting in a backlog of tens of thousands of unregistered people and 60,000 individuals with expired UN-issued documentation. This resulted in tens of thousands of individuals without access to key services as they did not have the proper documentation. Since StARS does not require UN documentation to receive services, these individuals were able to access essential basic needs during a disruptive time at the beginning of the pandemic. Community members expressed that StARS felt “like home” and the services they received from the RLO made one feel “less like a victim.” One StARS staff member expressed their connectedness to the community by stating, “We are refugees. We feel what they feel. We are from the community. We are the community.” The evaluation also noted that program user satisfaction was extremely high (94%) as StARS staff ensured timeliness and responsiveness by following up, keeping individuals updated through calls and texts, and providing direct assistance in a timely manner.
We are refugees. We feel what they feel. We are from the community. We are the community.
Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID) in Uganda has also demonstrated strong connection to the community through its Bridge to Schools program. Staff members do more than teach as they visit home learners to personally promote attendance, as well as identify any physical illnesses and mental health struggles during the visit, which are then reported to relevant YARID protection team colleagues so the appropriate care can be provided. Importantly, YARID staff members try to maximize their availability to the community as they do not require appointments and their doors are always open — contrary to larger international organizations who are harder to reach.
The evaluation for Refugees and Asylum Seekers Information Centre (RAIC) in Indonesia noted that staff members were embedded within the community as they are also members of the refugee community. They provide culturally tailored services, such as by building food and hygiene packages that are customized according to family, culture and gender. Finally, the evaluation highlighted that Refugiados Unidos noted that 100% of those who participated in their community programming and 83% who participated in the legal assistance programming expressed high satisfaction, underlining how RLOs tend to provide services according to community needs as members of these organizations are also from the community.
To learn more about the impact of RLOs and their high levels of community connectedness, responsiveness, availability and cultural awareness, be sure to check out the full metasynthesis report.