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Case Studies

Ottawa Refugee Sponsorship Groups – A Facebook forum for private sponsors of refugees in Ottawa (case study)

A Facebook group by and for Ottawa residents who are private sponsors of refugees, as well as organizations that facilitate refugee sponsorship.

This case study comes from the Refugee 613 Using Digital Messaging to Support Newcomer Communities – A Toolkit for Individuals and Organizations.

This Facebook group was established by a member of a sponsorship group (individual volunteer).

What it is

  • A Facebook group by and for Ottawa residents who are private sponsors of refugees, as well as organizations that facilitate refugee sponsorship
  • A forum to support working together & sharing resources
  • The group is lightly moderated by volunteers and local settlement professionals post service information and answer questions informally.
  • Administrators underscore the importance of posting accurate information since they are volunteers without capacity to continuously monitor activity.

Why it started

Being a refugee sponsor has many stages, from applying to be a sponsor, to raising funds, setting up for and meeting the refugees when they arrive, and supporting the refugees once they are here. While each sponsorship group communicates internally among their members and with their co-sponsoring agency, it’s also useful to have an easy way for sponsors to share experiences and resources, and trade information and even goods and services. It also allows for experienced sponsors to mentor newer sponsors, and for refugee-serving organizations with important information to get it quickly to sponsors who support them.

Why Facebook

  • Facebook was an established tool that many sponsors were aware of or were already using.
  • The volunteer who set up the group was comfortable using Facebook.
  • Facebook allows for the creation of private groups – i.e., if you want to join you have to request access, which the administrator/s must agree to before you can see what’s posted. This provides enough gatekeeping to provide a safer space without requiring extensive infrastructure.
  • Moderation is possible but not required all the time.
  • Content can be deleted by the administrator/s if it is inappropriate.
  • There is no cost to use, join or create a private group, although there are some features that may have a fee.
  • Rules can be set up for the group, and can easily be updated.

Key Lessons Learned

The group doesn’t replace the systemic mechanisms for support to sponsors. It is a space for handling immediate or less “formal” day-to-day needs, so it saves sponsors time and effort getting practical information and things they need to support the refugees they sponsor. It also creates a sense of community among sponsorship groups, and allows the organizations that are there to support sponsors focus on the “big things” while sponsors help each other with smaller, day-to-day challenges.

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