Held in Lisbon, Portugal from 7 to 9 November, the 2023 Global Gathering for Sponsorship was hosted by the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (GRSI) and Amnesty International. The event brought together 130 experts from 4 continents and 23 different countries to explore key developments in sponsorship over the past year, share learnings, and discuss future opportunities in community-led welcome.
Reset was invited to facilitate two workshops. The first of the workshops focused on practical steps in building a monitoring and evaluation framework, drawing on Reset’s experience of understanding what successful sponsorship is, integration outcomes for welcomed refugees, and consideration of the challenges involved in gathering this data. We co-delivered this workshop with The Open Community, who support Community Sponsorship in Ireland. Our second Reset workshop focused on trauma informed care, in which we explored trauma and its impacts on the body, brain, memory and behaviour, and the importance of volunteers and practitioners being trauma informed in their community engagement with refugees.
The gathering offered multiple opportunities to hear from our international partners on the different forms of sponsorship they deliver. This included discussions on named sponsorship, which is when the sponsor or group of volunteers can name the refugee family or friend they would like to sponsor. We discussed how this can be a driver of both scale and diversity in sponsorship and how it is more widely becoming a feature of sponsorship initiatives in other countries (though not yet in the UK). For example, in Canada, naming is the largest refugee resettlement pathway through which people are welcomed, allowing citizens to support specific refugee individuals or families to resettle into their community. We heard stories of volunteer groups welcoming refugees with similar interests to them such as cycling, medicine and football.
A further area of discussion was the narrative of Community Sponsorship. Sponsorship has the potential to counter negative and toxic narratives about refugees that can be prevalent in our communities and in the media, but only if we harness and amplify the positivity that we see at the local and community level. Stories of sponsorship need to be dominant in narrative and less reactive, becoming more proactive, and they must recognise the deeply held beliefs of communities and acknowledge their concerns. Campaigns must include a mapping exercise to gauge interest, followed by targeted campaigns and information sessions. What was emphasised was the need for communities to see someone like them doing Community Sponsorship.
It was brilliant to hear from the people most affected by sponsorship – those with lived experience of being welcomed through sponsorship programmes. People who had been welcomed through various welcome pathways shared the need to include refugees as partners in sponsorship programmes, for their voices to be centred in campaigns and communications, and for more referral pathways to be available with a less restrictive eligibility criteria.
The opportunity to participate in the 2023 Global Gathering for Sponsorship was immensely valuable for Reset, enabling us to share our expertise on trauma informed care and programme monitoring and evaluation, as well as the chance to learn from sponsorship programmes in other nations. We look forward to next year’s gathering.