Refugee community organisations: a social capital analysis
University of Southampton, Social Statistics,
This thesis considers how refugee-led community organisations generate social capital for their service users. The concept of social capital has become popular in policy debates in recent years, and previous research has attributed social capital creation for their service users to refugee community organisations (RCOs). This research aimed to analyse the process by which social capital is created by refugee community organisations, and what this means for the members of these organisations in terms of resources.
The potential of the current political and economic climate to affect individual asylum-seekers and refugees, and refugee community organisations is considered, with particular emphasis on the funding situation for RCOs.
Data was collected via an eight-month case study with an RCO for ethnic-Albanians in London. Interviews and focus groups with staff, volunteers and service users were held. To further understand the broader context in which RCOs are operating, interviews were also held with professionals that work with refugee community organisations, either as representatives of funding bodies, or as capacity-builders. A questionnaire survey of refugee community organisations with income over a certain threshold in London was also carried out in order to further contextualise the findings from the case study. Data from the researcher’s observation journal, the interviews and focus groups was analysed using software Nvivo 8 software.
Woolcock’s work on social capital was used in combination with Rex’s typology of immigrant association functions. It was found that in the case study there was strong evidence of bonding and linking social capital. These social capital connections enabled service users to access a wide range of resources. There was less clear evidence of bridging social capital creation.
Data from interviews with professionals and the survey revealed that other RCOs work, or at least, aspire to work, in the same way as the case study RCO to create social capital for their service users. The case study also revealed that working in partnership with specialist agencies was key to the success of the RCO, a finding that was also supported by the other data. Finally, the research found that funding uncertainty is an ongoing difficulty for many RCOs.
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