Accelerating refugee resettlement with modern case management
November 07, 2022
November 07, 2022
Beginning in 2021, the United States faced the difficult task of resettling up to 95,000 Afghan evacuees, 100,000 Ukrainians under the humanitarian parole program, and 125,000 refugees of other nationalities.* It was the country’s largest resettlement effort in 40 years, and the endeavor stretched the capacity of the federal, state, and local agencies and nonprofits traditionally dedicated to the job.
Refugee resettlement is complex. It requires the collection and management of complex data from individuals and families, as well as the involvement of many stakeholders, stringent security and medical checks, and multi-step processes, making it an especially complicated form of case management. The system faces a core challenge: multiple sectors and layers of government, including federal, state, and local entities, as well as private sector and non-profit partners, must be able to collaborate across a shared dataset. This challenge is also common in many federal human service and social service benefit programs, such as child welfare and disaster response.
Critical collaboration can be difficult when each stakeholder uses its own technologies and data formats, though, making interoperability nearly impossible. For example, organizations have historically relied on storing and sharing sensitive information in spreadsheets and secure email attachments, potentially putting sensitive data at risk, and offering only limited tracking or audit trails.
The federal government requires a modern case management approach to meet today’s needs – one that provides all stakeholders with greater security, flexibility, and interoperability. Specifically, they need one that offers:
• A smart, agile process that can adapt with needs. Humanitarian efforts are synonymous with rapidly changing environments, and stakeholders all need to be able to shift gears together to remain in lockstep as they address urgent matters.
• Reduced administrative burdens from improved service times and quality. Case managers and program officers often face the challenge of limited resources and capacity, all while supporting sensitive populations in emergency situations that involve complex logistics. They need technology with an intuitive user interface to enable quick, tangible outcomes. Modern case management uses technology to support pre-defined workflows, and automation to check process and data accuracy, ultimately streamlining overall operations.
• Improved data security. Government protections of data usage must not end with federal systems. Instead, with modern case management systems, protections can extend beyond traditional federal data boundaries to enable safe, external usage of centrally owned and secured data.
In October 2021, the White House announced an innovative program, the Sponsor Circle Program, that established a new way for everyday Americans to directly support Afghans that were evacuated to the United States as part of Operation Allies Welcome. Through the Sponsor Circle Program, groups of five or more individuals living in the U.S. can join together to create a “Sponsor Circle” to support the resettlement of refugees in their local communities. The Circle helps refugees find housing, employment, and become thriving members of their new communities. This program is implemented through a growing coalition of partners led by the Community Sponsorship Hub (CSH) and was developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of State. The model of enabling groups of individuals to welcome arriving refugees is already in use in other countries, including Canada, and can help address the overwhelming demand for refugee resettlement in the United States.
A combined team from Accenture and Accenture Federal Services came together to support this groundbreaking program and enable a modern case management approach.
We worked with CSH to build a cloud-based, centralized case management system that can securely store and track cases across stakeholders and process stages, enabling a level of interoperability and visibility essential to the success of this program. Furthermore, it streamlines the process for the most important end-user – the refugee.
Prospective welcomers forming a Sponsor Circle can fill out an application online and upload required documents. Sponsor Circle Program coordination staff have password-protected access to the backend case management system, where they can view new and existing applications, assign Sponsor Circles to coalition partners, and link newcomer and sponsor cases within the system. At the same time, coalition partners can access cases assigned to them for certification, case processing, and case management support.
In just 10 weeks, we built the solution on Salesforce by using Accenture’s Emergency Human Services Accelerator. The pre-built Accelerator provided CSH with a robust foundation and powerful components to build upon and facilitate the rapid go-live; it even enabled a last-minute pivot to include Ukrainian sponsorship support within the system.
To date, the system has supported more than 2,000 Americans in the formation of 200+ Sponsor Circles welcoming more than 700 Afghan and Ukrainian newcomers. President Biden’s September “Report to Congress on Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2023” thanks Americans across 33 states who have participated in the Sponsor Circle Program, a testament to its success.
Transitioning from traditional to modern case management models can feel like a hurdle. To succeed in this effort, agencies should keep these principles in mind:
• Identify needs first – Survey the entire stakeholder, system, and process landscape and understand needs before looking for a solution.
Approach the problems methodically by defining them, identifying what tools already exist to address them, and determining what’s still needed. Then start looking at what platform can best support – objectively assessing requirements to find the best match.
• Build in the cloud – The cloud lets multiple users access data simultaneously from wherever they are and on whatever device they have.
What’s more, the system leaves an audit trail that just isn’t possible with paper that can be thrown out and emails that can be deleted.
• Build scalable, reusable solutions – One way to do this is to prioritize composability.
Composability means using a system whose components can be rearranged in various combinations based on each case’s specific needs, rather than each case requiring its own process for its entire life cycle.
The right partner can help case management leaders incorporate these principles and modernize their systems. For example, Accenture Federal Services’ Platform Elevation Lab is experienced in supporting agencies across these steps, developing accelerators, prototypes and proofs-of-concept to fuel innovation and accelerate time to value while engaging our ecosystems.
Unfortunately, the burden on governments, non-profits, and other stakeholders may increase in light of growing geopolitical tensions, climate change, natural disasters and other crises. Taking a modern approach to case management can ensure that all stakeholders at all organizations can collaborate securely in real time – to get people in need what they need efficiently and effectively.