By Joel Spangenberg, Advisor to Global Co Lab Network

On Tuesday, August 29, a group of ten gathered to hold a Global Co Lab follow-up salon focused on creating interest among youth (broadly defined as 0-33 years of age) in helping Syrian refugees in Turkey. Millennials through Baby Boomers participated, a number of whom had volunteer experience with refugee issues and an interest in connecting with youth through programming at local churches and non-profits. As a key enabler for these efforts, the salon also included a representative from the Capitol Hill Village, which helps support a community of older people living independently on Capitol Hill. It is possible that through their life experiences, time, and other contributions, that these older residents can help build a “wisdom bridge” and support layer that can accelerate youth-led efforts to help refugees.

This salon was planned as a followed up to the initial salon, held on July 10, which united a few non-profit and faith groups for the first time; helped provide a broad overview of the refugee crisis, particularly relating to the Syrian refugee crises; gave an overview of existing efforts being undertaken by Home Do, NOVA Friends of Refugees, and the Capitol Hill Good Neighbor Program; and outlined potential ways to build broader awareness of refugee challenges. The group developed an initial vision of uniting a number of local groups and leaders around a common goal of engaging youth to help refugees (Syrian and more) by leveraging its networks to share activities and creating change agents.

The August salon built on the July discussion and focused on generating action. The group identified at least four broad areas of action that are aimed at supporting youth leadership in refugee issues. The first one is Home Do, where youth participants are already actively engaged in supporting Master Dong’s overseas efforts and may be open to taking on some new initiatives. The second one is following up with teens in the greater D.C. area, to build on the leadership of Friends of Refugees. This will likely lead to high school-focused salons to inspire youth action, backed by the power of a network of interested groups. The third area focused on engaging teens from the religious community, particularly on Capitol Hill. One idea of interest is a church “lock-in” event focused on church youth groups, who would have the opportunity to learn more about refugee issues during the event. Fourth, the group will explore having a refugee-focused documentary shown at a prominent location on Capitol Hill to bring youth and many others together around a shared goal of educating people about the challenges facing refugees and highlighting actions where people can contribute.

A number of other potential actions, which youth could take the lead on, also were discussed. These actions include: “fireside chat” events, where refugees share their perspectives; participation in the Crop Walk; salon discussions at local colleges; and happy hours for adults that are focused on supporting refugee initiatives.

The group also highlighted big events coming up in 2018 that will celebrate the community’s embrace of refugees. In January, the Capitol Hill Good Neighbors are planning an event to highlight their refugee resettlement efforts. A large event in June at the National Cathedral will bring people together across the region to show their support of refugees.

Additionally, the group identified key principles that would help align it. Whenever possible, a “network of networks” approach would be used to share efforts and inspire others rather than building a new organization. To enable this, Global Co Lab may help identify ways of hosting links to group websites to accelerate information sharing and, more generally, create a hub to support the networked approach. Additionally, the group favored the following principles for action: the empowerment of youth; the identification of refugee needs, when possible, before jumping into helpful action; the concept of “micro-volunteering” that helps to get people involved through very small contributions and actions; and helping people “unfreeze” from their uncertainty about how to make contributions during an uncertain time.