IRC Peer Adventure Crew
Adventure By Design: Improving the Resettlement Experience for Emerging Adult Refugees
Created as a result of the the events of World War II, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a global humanitarian aid, relief, and development NGO with a primary focus on refugee emergency aid and long-term assistance. Each year thousands of people fleeing violence and persecution are assisted by the IRC in seeking safety and successfully resettling in new countries. Their Dallas office opened in 1975 and is now one of the largest in the United States and resettles more refugees than nearly all others.
Approximately 10% of refugees resettling in Dallas arrive as young adults (ages 18-28). This age can complicate the resettlement experience significantly as the refugees often fall through the cracks between public education and workforce readiness. To further complicate the problem, almost all programming for refugees is targeted toward children and parents. Many in this age range wish to pursue higher education similar to their American peers. This process is complicated by credit transfer guidelines and the specific English capabilities of each refugee. Refugees are also unable to receive federal student aid until they receive their green card, which requires at least one year of residency in the United States.
With ample free time and lack of structure, some in this age range have found themselves involved in criminal activity. This can greatly delay their chance at receiving a green card. Others may face large amounts of isolation and loneliness. These issues can lead to depression and can exacerbate mental health issues many refugees already possess after escaping harm in their home country.
Over the course of fifteen weeks in early 2017, we conducted a Human-Centered Design project for the IRC office in Dallas. The goal was to improve the experience of their early adult population of refugees who arrive between ages 18-28 and often fall through the gaps in existing programming. After building an understanding of these refugees’ experiences and testing multiple iterations of potential solutions, we ultimately created a new program called the Peer Adventure Crew. This program will introduce refugees aged 18-28 to new people and new places in Dallas, Texas in order to address the isolation and loneliness often faced by this group upon arriving in America. Seeing the value of this program and believing in its mission alignment, the IRC expressed interest in implementing the program in the summer of 2017.
This project fulfills the requirements of a capstone-level Studio course in SMU's Master of Arts in Design and Innovation (MADI) program. Each Studio embodies skills taught in the core MADI classes taken beforehand, focuses on a real, local, and complex challenge, and is executed through practical application of human-centered design process and skills.