The Digital Messaging for Settlement and Integration (DMSI) project is all about connecting newcomers with the information they need to successfully settle in Canada, when and where they need it. As a communications and mobilization organization, the team at Refugee 613 knew that traditional means of communicating information (websites, brochures) often don’t reach those most in need, which pushed us to explore new and better ways of sharing information. The DMSI project was a three year exploration of new ways to connect with newcomers using inexpensive, popular digital messaging platforms. The core principle of this project was to ‘go where the audience is’ to reach community members in places where they are already communicating and sharing information.
It started on WhatsApp with the Refugee 613 Welcomes You to Ottawa project.
According to Refugee 613, they have "run a successful digital messaging group called Refugee 613 Welcomes You to Ottawa since 2017. Originally on WhatsApp and now on Telegram, this group now serves more than 300 people in Ottawa. It provides trusted information and referrals about settlement services and support information in Arabic, Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm. Refugee 613 built on the success of that group in 2018, and with financial investment from the Department of Immi-graiton, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, launched a national project to explore other ways of using digital messaging to build more welcoming communities. The DMSI (Digital Messaging for Settlement and Integration) project included research about how digital messaging is already being used in Canada to support newcomers, an evaluation of our WhatsApp group, and four new pilots so we could understand and share with others the full power of digital messaging for different purposes in newcomer settlement and integration."
Refugee 613 Welcomes You to Ottawa: WhatsApp Group for Arabic-Speaking Newcomers and Refugee
The project has since moved over to Telegram, which more robust group admin functionality, as well as capacity for larger groups (WhatsApp limits groups to 256 members). Refugee613 received funding to evaluate their approach, work with other settlement organizations to pilot innovative approaches to using digital messaging in service delivery, and to share their learning. The Digital Messaging for Settlement and Integration (DMSI) project recently hosted a national conference to share and continue the learning.
As part of that conference, they released a toolkit: Using Digital Messaging to Support Newcomer Communities - A Toolkit for Individuals and Organizations.
This toolkit provides information about how to use digital messaging to help newcomers settle a new country. The work has taken in place in Canada, but many of these lessons learned are applicable anywhere that immigrants are arriving.
Useful information in the toolkit includes:
The toolkit also provides sample checklists, policies, guidelines and tools that can help you set up and run your service with confidence.