Community-based approaches to monitoring and evaluation (M&E) can help stakeholders conduct meaningful evaluations for the people directly involved in the programmes, including sponsors and refugees. However, as Janzen adds, in community-based approaches, evaluation is not the final goal, as it is also about mobilizing, engaging people and building relationships.
“In other words, how you do the evaluation is mirroring the change that you wish to see.”
Rich Janzen, co-director of the Canadian Centre for Community Based Research.
The importance of sponsor and refugee’s active engagement in community sponsorship programmes design, implementation and monitoring was a key highlight of the June 2021 monitoring workshop hosted by Caritas International and the SHARE Network. In this workshop, best practices in the monitoring of community sponsorship programmes, and especially refugee and sponsor engagement within that framework, were presented by speakers from Canada, Belgium, France and Italy.
Since 2016, a number of community sponsorship schemes have developed across Europe. Monitoring and evaluation is key for sustained and high-quality growth of these sponsorship programmes and to ensure the safeguarding, protection and effective integration of refugees. “It is a tool for social innovation and change”, said Rich Janzen, speaker at the workshop, “and is a fundamental component of successful community sponsorship programmes - especially when engaging multiple stakeholders - to gain insight into outcomes, challenges, and opportunities”.
The event thus provided the right setting to start a collective reflection on participatory monitoring practices, building upon Caritas International experiences with monitoring and evaluation, and drawing from the examples presented by several actors involved in community sponsorship programmes across different countries.
“Monitoring and Evaluation help us improve the way we work but also to report the state of play within our organisation and with partners” - Bo Coenen, Caritas International Belgium.
Caritas International, for instance, showcased their work supporting sponsor groups and refugees in Belgium as well as their practice of involving intercultural mediators in the monitoring process. The intercultural mediators are refugees themselves who are trained in mediation and cultural awareness in order to support both the work of the sponsor groups and Caritas International, as well as to facilitate the integration of the sponsored refugees. Their work has a specific focus on expectation management, information sharing and intercultural awareness, which was a key challenge raised during the SHARE QSN Monitoring and Evaluation Roundtable of Community Sponsorship in March 2021. The role of intercultural mediators also proved to increase the bonds of trust between refugees and sponsorship group members, which subsequently made participants in the programme more comfortable in providing feedback. For instance, Myriam and Linda, the representatives from the sponsor group based in Beloeil, Belgium who participated in the workshop, expressed their intention to create a booklet with information about the challenges they faced and the solutions they developed in order to guide future sponsor groups in their endeavours. For the sponsor group affirmed that “volunteers learn and receive a lot more of what they give to the programme, and get to experience solidarity on a daily basis”.
Khadija (left) and Safaa 4 years old (middle) are from the sponsored family and Myriam (right) is member of the sponsor group in Beloeil, Belgium.
The workshop also featured a presentation on the M&E of the Italian humanitarian corridors programme from Ilaria Schnyder of the University of Notre Dame, as well as from French QSN partner Federation de l'Entraide Protestante (FEP), who described its national and regional monitoring platforms and the engagement of refugees in the monitoring process in the French humanitarian corridors. In particular, FEP emphasized how they prioritise and facilitate the sharing of information between regional platforms, hosted persons and citizen committees (sponsor groups) to ensure effective communication and coordination between all stakeholders within the programme but also within their monitoring practices. Micheline, a sponsored refugee supported by FEP and now a volunteer within the organisation, completed the picture by providing some reflections on such practices, namely the ongoing efforts to try to involve refugees themselves in the monitoring process via the creation of a refugee representative body. She also stressed the importance of balancing online and in-person feedback throughout the monitoring process as well as the need to reassure groups that monitoring does not impact their independence in any way.
Community-based participatory research methods are a growing area of interest and, as demonstrated in the workshop, are an extremally useful tool, especially in community-based projects such as refugee sponsorship. However, this approach is not without challenges, including language barriers, managing expectations of different stakeholders and the ethical issues arising when working with vulnerable populations, as highlighted by FEP and Caritas International.
These challenges, however, should be seen as an opportunity for mutual learning and the development of innovative solutions facilitated by multi-stakeholder platforms such as the SHARE Network.
The Monitoring Workshop was an opportunity for participants to learn about community-based participatory engagement in community sponsorship programmes. Participatory engagement has been a core theme of the SHARE Network, kickstarted by the 2020 SHARE Network webinar on 'Participation & co-creation for refugee & migrant integration in the EU'. For more information on how refugees and migrants can participate in the co-creation of projects, including the creation of actions, policy and advocacy, please follow this link.
The SHARE Network’s QSN programme is also currently conducting a research project to evaluate the different community sponsorship programmes across the QSN partner countries. This research will also incorporate participatory research methods, and links well with the issues discussed at the Monitoring Workshop.
- For more information on the Centre for Community-based Research see the following LINK
- Read the Caritas Workshop presentation to learn more about the design and facilitation of intercultural mediators and their integral work to both the program and the monitoring practices. LINK
- Read the FEP Workshop presentation to learn more about their national and regional monitoring platforms and refugee participation in monitoring practices. LINK