In 2017, countries offered only 75,000 resettlement spaces to UNHCR for the 1.2 million refugees in dire need of a safe home, and this number represented a 54 percent drop from the previous year.
The situation for vulnerable refugees is worsening: countries are walling off their borders, reducing or eliminating their already minimal resettlement programs, and fear mongering and xenophobia are on the rise.
To address this enormous gap between need and supply, it is imperative we respond and innovate.
The Refugee Hub, since its inception in 2012, has combined deep, substantive, refugee-related expertise, nimble and responsive engagement, and the ability to bring together leadership from multiple sectors to help solve the crisis of refugee protection and rights.
In 2018, these elements crystallized with the formation of the Refugee Hub’s Innovation Lab.
The Hub Innovation Lab (HIL) aims to achieve nothing less than a transformation of the refugee and migration landscape by incubating and growing initiatives and ideas that leverage not only the Refugee Hub’s networks, experience, and expertise, but also tap into Canada’s unique position as policy leaders in this space.
One of the groundbreaking initiatives the HIL is currently incubating is a pilot Global Community of Sponsors.
Thanks to the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (GRSI), a partnership of the Government of Canada, UNHCR, Open Society Foundations, the Giustra Foundation, and the University of Ottawa Refugee Hub, community sponsorship has taken root in countries such as the United Kingdom, Argentina, and New Zealand.
Community-based sponsorship programs allow individuals to directly engage in refugee resettlement efforts, starting before individuals arrive in their new country. Sponsors are ordinary citizens that commit to providing financial, emotional, and resettlement support to help newly arrived refugees integrate into life in a new country.
Eager and dedicated new sponsors are looking for advice and counsel from Canadians, as they do for the first time what Canadians have spent the past 40 years doing: taking on the rewarding and challenging task of supporting a refugee family through their first year of life in a new home.
The Global Community of Sponsors will be a virtual one-stop-shop for community sponsors—set to launch in mid-2019—to connect with the mentorship, peer-to-peer support, education, and training they need as they navigate their refugee sponsorship journey.
The Community of Sponsors platform is just one of what HIL anticipates will be a stream of innovations that unlock not only capacity and opportunities for national and international institutions to meet protection needs, but also—and perhaps most importantly—the compassion and engagement of global citizens to welcome refugees and migrants into their homes and hearts.
Image from the GSRI video, How Communities Sponsor Refugees.
As part of Future of Good’s series on fostering innovation in Canada’s humanitarian aid and development sector, we profile organizations like the new Innovation Lab and their groundbreaking work.