Methods: Purposive sampling was used to recruit immigrant and refugees who served as leaders of CBEOs (N=7) in a midwestern U.S. city that has seen a large influx of immigrant and refugee resettlement in the last 10 years. The CBEO leaders participated in 60-to-90-minute in-depth virtual interviews that explored participant perceptions of leadership as an immigrant/refugee leader, the role of CBEOs within the larger human services landscape, and the impact of COVID-19 on CBEOs. Study participants represented diverse nationalities (Bhutan, Mexico, India, Russia, Somalia, Rwanda, and Ethiopia), gender (Men= 3, Women= 4), leadership and displacement experiences. Grounded theory approaches of theoretical sampling and coding— open, axial and selective— were used to analyze the data using Atlas.ti and NVivo software.
Results: Four major themes highlighting the barriers and facilitators of CBEOs and their role and position in the context of the larger human services environment emerged from our study: (1) perceived role of CBEOs in immigrant/refugee services; (2) CBEO challenges in the human services environment; (3) inclusion versus exclusion in the HSO network; and (4) CBEO position: a way forward for human services. Findings reiterated precarious funding provision, non-renewability of grants, restrictive immigration policies, and a competitive atmosphere within the human services landscape that limit the capacity of CBEOS to best serve their communities.
Conclusion: The human services environment is constantly interacting with the social, cultural, economic, and political environment—crucial conditions under which CBEOs operate. Our study highlights that the position of immigrant and refugee-led CBEOs within the larger HSO network reflects the ongoing exclusion and marginalization of immigrant and refugee experience in the United States and around the world. Findings reaffirm the abilities of CBEOs to work across populations, issues, and geographic locales. Recognition of the meaningful role of CBEOs will not only help strengthen human services, but also foster an inclusive and equitable human services sector.