Boler College faculty have joined several governments and leading NGOs, a major research firm along with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency to support post-primary education for refugees and host communities. The consortium has launched Voices of Refugee Youth,an education and research project focused on Rwanda and Pakistan.

“This work trains refugee researchers to advocate on behalf of their communities,” says Dr. Tina Facca-Miess, Associate Professor of Marketing. “Refugee children and their education are the subjects of this particular study, but our engagement is centered around providing a credential for learning how to conduct social innovation research and analysis.”

Each phase of this study is accompanied by a course that trains the students in research design, data collection and analysis, report writing and dissemination, and research for advocacy. On April 26, 2021, courses went live in both Pakistan and Rwanda, engaging the first cohort of 40 students.

Integrative justice and research at the margins

The course incorporates Jesuit principles, Ignatian pedagogy, and a curriculum created by Jigsaw Consult (a social enterprise working in the international development and humanitarian sectors), Refugee Education UK (REUK), and Boler faculty. Dr. Facca-Miess has been the force behind John Carroll University’s involvement. She has long researched and written about how marginalized people can leverage community-level research methods and social innovation to improve their lives./p>

“Jigsaw and REUK wanted these young people to earn an accreditation for the social research that they’re doing,” Dr. Facca-Miess says. Using research to solve big problems and drive transformation is at the heart of the Social Innovation, Research and Analysis course offered by Dr. Facca-Miess.

social innovation research project for refugee education in Pakistan and Rwanda

“We are committed to improving research on refugee youth education programming and theory by positioning young refugees at the center of the research process,” said Catherine Gladwell, Chief Executive at REUK and a director at Jigsaw. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to partner with the Boler College of Business and Centreity to enable young refugee researchers to earn an academic qualification as they work on this project.”

The project approach was developed by Jigsaw and REUK in close collaboration with UNHCR and refugee youth in Pakistan and Rwanda. Young researchers who are from the communities in which data is being collected can, with training, improve the monitoring, evaluation, and learning within refugee youth education programming.

“Offering young researchers rigorous academic training to conduct the research is key to the approach,” said Dr. Facca-Miess. “My own research has spanned several years co-investigating the Integrative Justice Model (IJM), an ethical framework through which researchers can amplify the voices of consumers in marginalized contexts and provide data-driven recommendations to create transformation in quality of life (TQL.”

<“Boler is leading the way as a part of mission-aligned international research,” states Cindy Bonfini-Hotlosz, CEO of Centreity and past Executive Director of JesuitNET Global. “Building the online component of the program using the Ignatian Pedagogical Framework links a 500-year model of transformative learning to a novel approach in strengthening and building capacity for marginalized communities.”

Building capacity for the future

A group of approximately 600 high school and college seniors in each country will be tracked for three years, participating in surveys at four points across this period. The program will continue to track the students as they transition out of education and, potentially, into employment or further studies.

“Our team designed the online courses using interactive elements that would build upon what students learned in short video lectures from the Jigsaw and REUK team as well as live virtual sessions with their course facilitators in which they practice their research skills,” states Dr. Tara Ross, Chief Learning Officer for Centreity. “The idea was to create content that would be useful, engaging, and accessible despite the context in which it may be used in the future, enabling facilitators to adapt as needed.”

The project partnership reflects a growing trend in higher education of collaboration among institutions and agencies to provide education that is scalable and can be used in a variety of contexts as well as education that is adaptable to meet local needs. Connected learning creates a more robust foundation for education. Partnering allows institutions like the Boler College of Business at JCU to extend its mission and global reach.  Collaboration, co-creation, and scale creates opportunities for young people, no matter where they are, to learn how to architect and advocate for transformative change in their communities.

“The Boler College of Business recognizes that transcending one’s cultural perspective and learning how every aspect of business — and life — is done in different contexts is more essential today than ever before,” said Dr. Walter Simmons, Associate Dean, International and Graduate Programs at Boler. “In today’s borderless economy, it’s important to see, think and act with a global mindset and to live out our mission to be men/women for and with others. As part of a Jesuit institution, Boler responds to a world view that requires it to ‘inspire individuals to excel in learning, leadership, and service in the region and in the world.’”

For more information or to support future cohorts of this program, contact Dr. Tina Facca-Miess, Associate Professor of Business, Boler College of Business, John Carroll University, or 216 397-1718.



Sidebar: Why education for refugee youth matters?

The benefits of education for refugee youth are well documented – whether they remain in protracted displacement, return to their country of origin, or resettle to a third country. Research shows that  education offers three key benefits to refugee youth in both short and long-term displacement:

  1. Protection: Education equips children with life-saving knowledge; enhanced psychosocial wellbeing; and, in certain contexts, a safeguard from potential recruitment into armed groups.
  1. Resilience: Education helps children to build resilience at the individual and group level, supporting community transformation.
  1. Opportunity: Education creates opportunity for the future, in the form of work, steady post-resettlement educational progression, and leadership recruitment and development for post-conflict societies.

The critical importance of post-primary education in emergencies is increasingly acknowledged within the global community. According to UNICEF, school-age children are dramatically over-represented among the world’s refugees. Children make up less than one-third of the global population, but they were 50 percent of the world’s refugees in 2019. Today, nearly 1 in 3 children living outside their countries of birth are child refugees.

Significant progress in access to primary education for refugee children has been made in recent years, but a huge gap remains in secondary education with only 24% of refugee adolescents enrolled compared to 84% of their peers globally and only 3% of refugees accessing tertiary education, compared to 37% of youth globally (UNHCR 2020).

The Voices of Refugee Youth research will contribute to building the evidence base for the importance of post-primary education for refugee youth.