ECDC is taking steps to increase the participation of local community members in welcoming and integrating newly arriving refugee families by starting up co-sponsorship programs in several locations across its affiliate network. As it embarks upon this process, ECDC is working to ensure that diverse community groups, including communities of color and those with immigrant backgrounds, are intentionally invited to play a role. With support from the Open Society Foundations, ECDC is implementing a pilot project called Wider Welcome and has developed a training guide and toolkit to help resettlement agency staff critically think through how issues of race, privilege, and bias play out in community sponsorship for refugee resettlement and put strategies in place for overcoming barriers that might exist for diverse and immigrant groups to get involved.
For three days in early October, 11 staff from ECDC’s affiliates in Denver, DC Metro, Houston, Greensboro, Omaha, Chicago, Kansas City, and Brattleboro received this training which was facilitated by ECDC’s national Community Engagement department. As part of the training, all participants developed action plans for how they will begin building relationships with and learning from diverse groups in their community as they work to create inclusive community sponsorship programs. The Wider Welcome pilot team will track their efforts, document insights gained, and share experiences regularly with one another.
After the pilot period, the training guide and toolkit will be updated and then made available to other resettlement agencies looking to increase the diversity of their community sponsors.