LunchUP: Odessa Gonzalez Benson, "Refugee-run organizations: Responsive assistance beyond the constraints of policy"
Odessa Gonzalez Benson
Assistance Professor – UM School of Social Work/Detroit School of Urban Studies
Multiscalar governance that conjoins the welfare state with the private sector are increasingly challenged by heightened migration, advanced urbanism. Scholars point to the “dark side” to public-private partnerships, the “shadow of hierarchy” and the “partnership crisis,” and call into question the promise of NGO- and community-inclusion envisioned in multiscalar governance. The US refugee resettlement policy domain too has been examined, as scholars problematize these modes of governance that constrain service provision with refugees. What remains unexamined is how refugee-run organizations at the most peripheral levels fit within multiscalar, public-private governance.
Refugee Community Organizations (RCOs) emerge as grassroots groups formed and run by refugees themselves and operate along the sidelines of state-contracted, federally-funded organizations that implement policy. Framed by literature on refugee policy implementation, this study examines the scope of activities by state-detached RCOs, drawing on four focus groups and 40 interviews with RCO leaders of Bhutanese communities in 30 US cities. Finding illustrate that the scope of RCO’s activities are wide in terms of “who, when, where, and how,” in relation to social services as stipulated in policy. Who and when: Findings show that RCOs target those neglected by work-oriented policies and provide assistance well beyond the time limits of policy. Where and how: Whereas literature posits that mainstream organizations have difficulty reaching marginalized communities, findings show that grassroots RCOs are closer to refugee communities in terms of both geographical and socio-cultural proximity. This study yields insights on participatory, responsive forms of social services and urban governance with resettled refugees.
These sessions are a response to requests from faculty and students to learn more about what’s going on in the field in an informal environment. We hope this can inspire emergent thoughts and connections that will inform our scholarship.
Lunch is included, please bring a drink.