Abstract: Self-Reliance Among Refugee Households: Developing a Holistic and Multi-Context Index (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Self-Reliance Among Refugee Households: Developing a Holistic and Multi-Context Index

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Kellie Leeson, Initiative Lead, Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative, NY
Background/Purpose: Adopted in 2018, the Global Compact on Refugees includes “enhancing refugee self-reliance” as one of its four goals. While many in the humanitarian community support this aspiration, it is widely recognized that there are few tools to measure and track this outcome of refugee success. When tools are developed, they often utilize a top-down development approach, typically failing to take into consideration the priorities and concerns of refugees themselves. Further, measures of self-reliance employed by humanitarian organizations often focus on monetary aspects of self-reliance (e.g., employment, income, and financial safety nets), excluding other dimensions of self-reliance and well-being. Recognizing these gaps, this presentation shares the development of the Self-Reliance Index (SRI), a tool that captures multiple dimensions of self-reliance, while still generating an overall score of self-reliance that organizations can use to track refugee households’ progress over time.

Methods: An initial draft of potential indicators for inclusion in the SRI was created in 2017, with inputs provided by various stakeholders. An assessment of the appropriateness of these domains was conducted through pre-testing, interviews and focus groups with practitioners from RefugePoint in Kenya, Mercy Corps in Jordan, and with refugees in both locations. During the pilot phase, a tool development team adjusted the SRI for improved understanding through an iterative learning process with Asylum Access, the Danish Refugee Council and Mercy Corps, and RefugePoint in Mexico, Jordan, and Kenya respectively. Select staff members from each organization participated in a 2-3-day training on how to use the tool. Staff were then tasked with administering the tool to clients with two objectives in mind: (1) to provide general feedback on the tool and its ease-of-use, and (2) to conduct various reliability tests (test-retest, inter-rater, and intrahousehold reliability) as assigned. Through this process each organization shared reactions to the tool and their experience administering the SRI. Finally, soft launch data collected from 183 households in Mexico and Kenya were used to assess internal consistency and validity, and finalize scoring protocols for the tool.

Results: The final SRI comprises 12 domains: housing, food, education, healthcare, health status, safety, employment, financial resources, assistance, debt, savings, and social capital. Internal consistency of the index was assessed using data collected during the soft launch phase (n=183); Cronbach’s alpha was found to be 0.66 in Kenya and 0.64 in Mexico. The scoring process was also iterated using the soft launch data; allowing data to inform the scoring process ensures that the SRI will be valid and useful to partners across multiple country contexts. When designing the final scoring rubric, priority was given to optimizing the tool’s validity – such that the final score would signal useful information about a household’s overall level of self-reliance – while also keeping the process as straightforward for users as possible.

Conclusions: The presentation will share process-oriented insights from the tool development stage. Challenges associated with conducting research in humanitarian settings – as well as lessons learned – will also be presented to help practitioners and researchers working in these contexts.