Social engagement patterns of refugees resettled within a settlement house

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Holly C. Sienkiewicz (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Tracy Nichols

Abstract: Successful integration entails that refugees engage in both intra-ethnic social bonding and inter-ethnic social bridging. The settlement house model as an intervention has potential to increase social bonding and bridging amongst newly resettled refugees; however, little is known about the social interactions that occur within this model. This focused ethnography examined the social engagement patterns of refugees residing within a local settlement house. Nearly 100 hours of observation were conducted and 36 refugee residents, settlement house staff and volunteers, and apartment management formally interviewed. Eligible participants spoke English, French, Vietnamese, Burmese, Chin or Karen and were at least eighteen years old. Thorough descriptions of the research environment were recorded. Themes were extracted from the data using a priori and emergent codes and constant comparison analysis was then conducted. Etic interpretations were applied to the data through memo writing and co-author feedback. Results represent a co-construction of events informed by both emic and etic perspectives. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the settlement house unexpectedly closed halfway through the study. We found three primary types of social engagement occurring within a local settlement house--functional, communal, and exploratory engagement; the combination of all three is necessary for successful integration. The settlement house fostered inter-ethnic social bridging through functional and exploratory engagement and intra-ethnic social bonding through communal engagement. When the settlement house closed, refugee residents lost access to all onsite exploratory engagement opportunities and many functional engagement services. Communal engagement persisted amongst refugee residents despite the closing. The loss of exploratory and functional engagement opportunities affected refugee residents differently due to contextual and cultural distinctions. Factors contributing to the decline of the settlement including communications challenges, low rapport, passive management styles, and ill-defined role delineations will also be discussed.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Focused Ethnography, Refugees, Resettlement, Settlement House, Social Engagement
Social settlements $x Research
Refugees $x Social conditions $x Research

Email this document to