Refugee Quarterly Consultations: Innovative Models for Empowering Community Connections

The Refugee Act established quarterly consultations (QCs) as a required and simple communication channel between state refugee coordinators and local resettlement agencies as part of the foundation for the refugee resettlement program. Over time, these consultations have evolved into dynamic gatherings that shape resettlement strategiesfostering collaboration and problem-solving, and envisioning a brighter future for refugees and host communities. However, many QCs have yet to reach their full potential as strategic planning forums, necessitating a commitment to intentional planning and coordination among stakeholders. This blog post highlights innovative practices identified by resettlement experts from six states to inspire providers to adapt their engagement strategies for more effective quarterly consultations and optimal community coordination. 

Refugee Quarterly Consultations: Innovative Models for Empowering Community Connections

In a global context where the experiences and challenges of refugees demand unwavering attention and action, the role of quarterly consultations (QCs) has never been more vital. These gatherings serve as essential platforms for service providers, immigration advocates, and community stakeholders to collaborate, strategize, and address the multifaceted issues faced by refugees and host communities alike. As the landscape of refugee resettlement evolves, so too must the approach to QCs. To maximize their potential, we can reimagine QCs as dynamic forums for strategic planning, problem-solving, and community empowerment.  

To support this needed shift, Switchboard met with resettlement experts from six states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Missouri, North Carolina, and Washington) to identify innovative practices currently being implemented to promote effective QCs. By highlighting some of their work in this blog post, we hope that resettlement providers involved in planning QCs feel encouraged to modify their own engagement strategies for optimal community coordination and connection. 

Ongoing Supplemental Task Forces and Sub-Committees with Diverse Stakeholders

Forming task forces and sub-committees that work separately from the usual QC meetings is a helpful approach to the consultation process. These specialized groups can bring together key stakeholders with the expertise and authority to address particular pressing issues in refugee resettlement. By operating outside the regular QC meetings, task forces and sub-committees can explore complex challenges more thoroughly, more collaboratively, and with greater nuance.   


While resettlement providers may be hesitant to schedule more meetings given the high demands on their time, states that implement task force and sub-committee models, like Washington and North Carolina, report having greater efficiency in formal QC meetings as well as more effective communication and coordination. 


For example, the East Bay Refugee and Immigrant Forum (EBRIF) in California formerly combined their regular meetings with resettlement agencies holding QCs. However, EBRIF re-separated their meetings after some time, realizing that holding separate meetings allowed for greater depth and breadth of topics covered and newcomer populations addressed. Tailoring additional discussions throughout the year to participants’ areas of expertise and forming topic-based sub-committees, as seen in Arizona and North Carolina, foster deeper collaboration and facilitate more targeted outcomes and action plans. This model ensures that stakeholders can engage in meaningful conversations directly relevant to their roles and the specific needs of the refugees and communities they serve. 

Using Data-Driven Insights

To make sure QCs work well, it’s important to collect, analyze, and share data in an organized way that creates shared understanding of the local resettlement landscape for all stakeholders. Using data to inform partners and make decisions is key to having meaningful QC discussions and figuring out which actions to prioritize. When QC conveners share data and use helpful visuals, all attendees can easily see up-to-date information about refugees, the services they use, and the outcomes. States like Colorado have shown that this approach helps build community awareness of areas that need attention and creates space during consultations for participants to collectively consider shared strategies or approaches. 


Recent arrival numbers often provide insight into resettlement, but they do not encompass all demands on local systems. Consultations can greatly benefit from involving diverse stakeholders who enhance access to illuminating community-level data, aiding understanding and response to refugee resettlement needs. For example, school systems and educators rely on demographic profiles of newcomer students to understand language needs, emphasizing the need for engagement with education agencies. In workforce development, insights into language proficiency are vital, often gleaned from assessments conducted by adult education providers in collaboration with workforce agencies. Collaboration with health care providers is also essential, as it allows for understanding capacity (such as available appointments, beds, or services) and utilization (such as patient demographics, appointment frequency, or service uptake) through the data they share.  


Implementing structured monitoring practices that specifically check on QCs is another innovative way to use data-driven insights to evaluate consultation effectiveness and progress on the issues discussed. Establishing frequent touchpoints, clear performance metrics, and supportive accountability mechanisms allows for tracking progress over time and identifying areas for refinement. Successfully implemented in North Carolina, this iterative process of evaluation and adaptation ensures that QCs remain responsive to the evolving needs of refugees and host communities, enabling stakeholders to make informed decisions based on accurate and up-to-date information. 

State-Level Partnership with Newcomer-Serving Community Organizations

Expanding stakeholder involvement beyond traditional resettlement actors is essential for fostering a culture of collaboration and inclusivity within QCs. “Non-resettlement organizations,” such as community-based nonprofits and advocacy groups, offer unique perspectives and resources that complement the efforts of traditional stakeholders. These organizations may not provide initial resettlement services themselves, but many of them—such as ethnic community-based organizations—have close and effective ties to the very newcomer communities that QCs discuss. By forging partnerships with a broader range of organizations, QCs can tap into additional expertise and leverage community connections to enhance their impact.  


States like Missouri and Washington prioritize funding more varied newcomer-serving community partners to increase the effectiveness of their resettlement efforts. However, involving new community partners can also introduce challenges because they may not be as familiar with refugee resettlement as the more traditional stakeholders. To address this knowledge disparity, Arizona periodically holds “Refugee 101” sessions to create more equal opportunity for engagement. These efforts to engage untapped newcomer-serving community partners importantly signal a commitment to inclusivity and collaboration.  


Fostering partnerships with a broader network of community supporters can help bridge gaps in service delivery and expand access to essential support services. By leveraging the expertise and community connections of these organizations, QC organizers can enhance their impact and promote more holistic approaches to refugee resettlement. Collaboration breeds abundance, and by working together, stakeholders can create more inclusive and resilient spaces for refugees and host communities alike. 

Moving Forward: Maximizing QC Potential

Quarterly consultations play a vital role in facilitating collaboration and problem-solving in refugee resettlement when their full potential is realized. QCs can harness the collective expertise and resources needed to address the complex challenges facing refugees and host communities, but there are still many potential improvements and unanswered questions to be considered. Moving forward, continued evaluation and adaptation will be crucial to ensuring that QCs remain responsive to stakeholders’ evolving needs. By fostering a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration, QCs can continue to serve as dynamic platforms for innovation and positive change in refugee resettlement. 


If you or others in your community engagement work have your own best practices for QC planning and facilitation, Switchboard would love to hear from you! Please consider reaching out with your innovative QC practices to 

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