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What Can You Expect from Switchboard in the New Year? Findings from our External Evaluation and Needs Assessment

As a Switchboard team, we’re always interested in learning more about how we’re doing, how we can improve, and which topics are on refugee service providers’ minds. This is why we worked with an external evaluator to look back at our work from the previous year to reflect on our project and identify how we could improve. We also conducted a needs assessment to hear from you and inform our priorities for the coming year. Thank you to all who participated! We would like to share some of the main findings with you. 

External Evaluation

Switchboard worked with Vital Research, a Los Angeles-based evaluation firm, to conduct an external evaluation of our programming. The team interviewed Switchboard’s subject matter experts as well as individuals who had received extensive technical assistance from Switchboard. They also solicited feedback through a survey which went out to the Switchboard listserv and received 466 eligible responses.

Finding #1: Respondents were generally satisfied with Switchboard’s technical assistance

Across all types of learning opportunities provided by Switchboard (such as customized technical assistance, webinars, resources, certificate courses, etc.), participants were satisfied with the quality of the technical assistance they received. Online resources were considered high quality and useful by almost all survey respondents. Additionally, of the 46 survey respondents who had participated in customized TA, 83% reported they were able to implement what they learned “to a great extent” or “to some extent”.

Finding #2: Respondents particularly appreciated materials related to COVID-19

The evaluation found that Switchboard’s response to the pandemic was a highlight of this most recent year. People felt that materials related to COVID-19 were high quality, relevant, and timely.

Finding #3: Recommendations for improvement

The evaluators also had some recommendations to improve our programming. These include website improvements to improve the download process, improve search functionality, and enhance overall navigation. You may already have noticed some of these taking effect! The evaluators also suggested increasing representation of experts who identify as former refugees in Switchboard’s subject matter expert roster; developing more advanced resources tailored to experienced service providers; and systematizing follow-up for intensive learning opportunities such as the certificate course. Switchboard is currently working on making these improvements.

Needs Assessment

Switchboard wanted to know what topic areas resettlement service providers were most interested in, and how they felt about some key cross-cutting themes we try to incorporate into all of our work. In order to answer these questions, we sent out a needs assessment survey to the Switchboard listserv. In total, we received 234 responses from a cross-section of resettlement agencies, state agencies, ethnic community-based organizations (ECBOs) and ORR staff. Below are some of the key findings.

Finding #1: A majority of respondents are very interested in receiving more information about Switchboard’s cross-cutting themes

Culturally aware, evidence-based, trauma-informed, strengths-based, and gender-sensitive services all emerged as desired topic areas. Switchboard will continue to address all of these cross-cutting themes in training content across program areas, including through its evidence database.

Respondents were also asked what Switchboard’s role should be in addressing racism and discrimination. Many respondents answered that they wanted Switchboard to develop trainings and resources, act as a convener to highlight organizations who are already engaged in anti-racism work, and elevate refugee and immigrant voices in addressing racism within resettlement programming.

Finding #2: The most desired training topics included mental health services, digital literacy and access, community engagement

As was the case in previous years, respondents identified mental health services as a priority. Respondents were particularly interested in resources to better provide basic mental health and psychosocial support, and to build cultural competency among healthcare providers. Switchboard will continue its focus on mental health services this upcoming year.

Digital literacy and access is an emerging need this year. Respondents were particularly interested in promoting digital literacy for clients with low literacy and providing the network with tools to support digital skill development. Switchboard plans to develop trainings and resources to meet this need, and will also explore relevant research and evidence in this area.

Community engagement emerged as another key priority. Respondents most frequently cited their interest in building relationships with key community stakeholders and soliciting and incorporating community feedback.

Finally, COVID-19 also remained a priority. Switchboard has recently developed and shared many resources to address emerging needs related to COVID-19, including blog posts, webinars, guides, and tools. Switchboard will continue to share timely information and develop resources to address COVID-19 needs.

Thank you for sharing your feedback and input with us! Do you have additional feedback or ideas? You can always reach out to us at Switchboard@Rescue.org.

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