Research Article: Transformative impacts of a civic leadership program created by and for refugees and immigrants

Posted by Journal of Community Psychology on May 9, 2023

Research led by a University of Cincinnati doctoral student shows that immigrants and refugees who participated in a civic leadership program felt more empowered after learning about their rights, civic entitlements and the social, cultural, and political context of Cincinnati.

Immigrants and refugees are severely underrepresented at all levels of political decision-making in the United States. These groups face significant barriers to civic and political participation and leadership, despite a frequent commitment to community care and engagement. There is an urgent need to address immigrant integration and underrepresentation through transformative means that go beyond voting to create a more inclusive and socially just society. We investigated outcomes associated with participation in an immigrant integration program designed to increase immigrants’ access to civic engagement through a community-based participatory research and action process that centered the voices, experiences, and wisdom of refugees and immigrants. Thirty immigrants and refugees representing at least eight different communities participated in semi-structured interviews. Results illustrate how the program assisted in transforming participants’ consciousness, skills, and relationships related to meaningful civic engagement and realizing their voice, power, and rights. These results emphasize the impact and potential of community based participatory research to transform individual and collective efficacy, consciousness, and capabilities—a vital first step in transformative justice.

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