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A Wider Welcome

We work with ECBOs to initiate and implement collaborative, long-term community development efforts in transit and host communities.

Photo of Jessica Chapman

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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Refugees in countries of transit and refugees resettled to the United States play an important role within their communities through refugee-led community based organizations (CBOs) or Ethnic Community Based Organizations (ECBOs). ECBOs are run by the refugee community for the refugee community. Through ECBOs refugees provide services to their community members such as education, livelihood training, health, women and youth empowerment among other programs. ECBOs are well situated to, and research has found, support longer-term integration. In countries hosting refugees, such as Malaysia, ECBOs may be informal and recognized only by the UNHCR and/or other aid organizations. In countries where refugees have been resettled, such as in the United States, ECBOs are often formal, registered non-profit organizations. The work done by ECBOs highlight the skills, expertise, and value added by refugees within communities. The success of ECBOs to provide services and find solutions for their community members, with limited resources, provides a counter narrative to a common perception that refugees are recipients, helpless, and/or invisible. ECBOs allow refugees to be seen as individuals with skills, dreams, and expertise. They also provide the opportunity for refugees to become active members in the new communities they become a part of. Often, however, ECBOs are stuck in a cycle of having to react to situations. They have to respond to the immediate needs and challenges of their community members to ensure basic needs are met. Local community members from transit and host communities often help them to respond to these needs by volunteering their time or giving their resources. ECBOs are excellent community organizers. A Wider Welcome will provide them with the tools they need to move from reactive to proactive; creating long-term solutions, to issues that matter most to them, in collaboration with local community members in the areas where they operate.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

A Wider Welcome will be a network for ECBOs operating in countries that host (transit countries) and resettle refugees. A Wider Welcome will be designed and developed by ECBOs in the United States and in Malaysia. These countries have been selected based on the applicants network of ECBOs and partners in these countries. Further, developing the tools with ECBOs in the U.S. and Malaysia will ensure that different perspectives and contexts are considered as part of the design process.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

The Wider Welcome will build a bridge between refugees and local community members by providing existing ECBOs with the skills, tools, resources and network to lead the way in creating a space for and introducing collaborative models (community sponsorship and co-created community action/integration plans). Through their participation in a Wider Welcome ECBOs will bring together refugees already in their network with community members from the communities where they operate.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

People want to be seen for who they are. They want to be seen for their skills, interests, achievements, and dreams. The label of “refugee,” often takes this away from a person. A Wider Welcome will support ECBOs to take a leading role within the transit or host communities that they operate in. A Wider Welcome will give refugees the chance to share who they are, their skills and ideas as they use them to lead community development and planning efforts across the community. People are compassionate. Most often, people want to help one another. A Wider Welcome provides the opportunity for individuals to engage in conversations and the development of community action plans that can lead to long-term change within communities; making them better for everyone, refugees and transit and host community members alike.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

We will work with 24 ECBOs across the United States and Malaysia. In the communities that these ECBOs operate, we plan to see: new collaborative dialogues and community projects between the ECBO and local community members (community sponsorship and/or community action/integration plans); improved coordination and collaboration between different stakeholders, through regional and national convenings; and increased civic engagement and support from host and transit community members. We will track the positive change over the period of the project by designing a monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) plan to understand the starting point of each of the ECBOs, including: their current engagements and interactions with local community members; barriers, challenges and opportunities that they expect in widening their work to proactively engage with local community members; and their plan for approaches that they would like to take; and learnings that they have along the way.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

We are inspired by the hard work of ECBO staff and volunteers around the world. ECBOs are present in their communities for the long-term. Research shows that ECBOs effectively promote diversity, inclusion, and civic engagement in their communities. In addition, they highlight the skills, experiences, and capacities of individuals from multicultural backgrounds within the communities that they are a part of, showing how they contribute to the community. They are staffed by skilled professionals who bring their lived experiences to the table, making them well-equipped to identify and meet the needs of their clients. They are also embedded in communities, serving as effective and trusted service providers, that can successfully reach community members, including the most vulnerable. This idea is important to ECBOs and the communities where they operate as it will allow them to move beyond charity to longer-term development work.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

The example stakeholder maps depict the dynamics within communities where ECBOs operate. For ECBOs in the United States, they greatly operate under the umbrella of the federal refugee resettlement program. Funding is channeled from the State Department through refugee Resettlement Agencies, including ECDC, and State Refugee Coordinators to the ECBOs. In Malaysia, ECBOs greatly exist under the umbrella of UNHCR. While UNHCR provides some grants, they do not have a large grants program, like the US federal refugee resettlement program. ECBOs in Malaysia also have additional actors, like community leaders, and far fewer and less formal social and public services that they are connected to. The umbrella that both UNHCR and the U.S. State Department provide, create a top-down approach to the way in which ECBOs operate and think about their work. In both maps, transit or host community members are not clearly marked or present.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

A Wider Welcome leverages and empowers community strengths and assets to create an environment for success by building on ECBOs current work. It does this by providing ECBOs with training, technical assistance, networking and resources to support them to successfully introduce and implement approaches to introduce and lead wider community development efforts with local populations from the communities they have become a part of. ECDC has a strong network of 14 ECBOs that it has worked with for over a decade to successfully resettle over 56,000 refugees to the U.S. through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. The success and experience of ECDC and its ECBO network is an advantage that will be built on to support other ECBOs around the world. Because ECBOs will lead the design of the content and approaches used in the Wider Welcome network; the risk of creating something that will further burden, not be applicable or not meet the exact needs of ECBOs greatly eliminated.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

In the United States, we will work with our existing network of 14 ECBOs. In Malaysia, we will partner with, a Malaysian non-profit organization that is an implementation partner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Fugee provides training and technical assistance to 10 ECBOs in the country with funding from UNHCR. Additional stakeholders that we plan to engage, mainly through a Wider Welcome regional/or national convenings, include: organizations that a part of the U.S.RRP program, which ECDC already has established working relationships with. These include, for example, RCUSA, IRC, U.S. Committee for refugees, HIAS, Church World Services and more. In Malaysia, stakeholders will include, UNHCR Malaysia and other local and international non-profit organizations that currently work in collaboration with Fugee and UNHCR.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Systems design: Solutions that target changing larger system

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Blueprint: We are exploring the idea and gathering the inspiration and information we need to test it with real users.

Group or Organization Name

Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

For the past 28 years, ECDC has worked at the local and national level in the U.S. to promote integration of newcomers into inclusive, welcoming communities through ECBOs. We define integration as a dynamic, two-way process in which immigrants and the receiving community work together to build secure, vibrant, and cohesive communities. Driven by core values of diversity, inclusion and minority leadership, ECDC works in collaboration with ECBOs to help communities achieve successful integration and ensure that all efforts to support refugees are done following the principle of “nothing about us without us.” ECDC was established in 1983 as an ECBO to meet the needs of a growing Ethiopian community in the United States. In 1990, the organization expanded its work to meet the needs of refugees from across Africa. Later, to serve the needs of all refugees, ECDC led its ECBO network to successfully resettle over 56,000 refugees from around the world to the United States.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United States

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Arlington, VA


Join the conversation:

Photo of Muzabel Welongo

Hi Jessica,

This is a great project. Refugee-run CBOs (like mine in Kenya - are crucial to the integration of refugees and their ability to actively contribute to their host economy. Very little is being done to help these initiatives, and I think your idea is really needed.

I spoke about refugee engaged when I was invited for the "A Deeper Look" podcast this July. The podcast is run by Patrick Fine , CEO of FHI360. I discussed how many humanitarian organizations need to step and recognize the voices and abilities of refugees, because at the end of the day, life for a refugee is beyond the basic needs assistance.

Feel free to also look at my project post at



Photo of Jessica Chapman

Hi Muzabel,

Thank you for reaching out. At ECDC we totally agree! ECBOs are already doing great work and with the right resources, partnerships, and networks can certainly contribute to meaningful, long-term community-development and integration. It does require a change in the mindset and approach of current humanitarian efforts but we believe they can take a leading role in making that change happen. I look forward to listening to your podcast and sharing it with my team here! If you come across ECBOs that you think may be interested in joining A Wider Welcome network, please let me know. We do not currently have partnerships in Kenya.

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