When the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach in September 2015, it sent the world into uproar about the tragic plight of Syrian refugees. Shortly afterwards, Canadians – and their newly elected government – responded by opening up their communities to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees. This presented both an opportunity for Canadians to lend support and a challenge for authorities in settling thousands of large and vulnerable families, many of whom didn’t speak English or French.
In Ottawa, Louisa Taylor recognized both need and opportunity. Within three short weeks(!) she went from conception to launch, creating a new organization, Refugee 613 (in partnership with Carl Nicholson, Leslie Emory and Jack McCarthy), to inform and connect the many disparate agencies, service providers, and interested members of the public. But not without many growing pains, as shared in a conversation of highlights and learnings with podcast host Tina Barton about how to build an organization to respond to crisis, what’s needed, and what to expect.
In this episode, Louisa Taylor, Director of Refugee 613, discusses:
- How to build a team or organization in real time to respond to a critical need
- Essential communications infrastructure to put in place
- How to recruit and manage volunteers successfully
- Strategies for maximizing public awareness and engagement
- The question of an exit strategy; how do you know when your work is done?
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