June 28, 2021

Team builds platform for refugees and immigrants to connect with knowledge, policy-makers, service providers

Newcomer Research Network knowledge hub is 1 of 5 UCalgary projects supported by SSHRC Partnership Development Grants this year
Mary O’Brien and Tanvir Turin Chowdhury
Mary O’Brien and Tanvir Turin Chowdhury

What do immigrants and refugees, policy-makers, community organizations and resettlement agencies have in common? The committed interdisciplinary team at the Newcomer Research Network (NRN), with Dr. Tanvir Turin Chowdhury, PhD, Dr. Mary O’Brien, PhD, and Dr. Christine Walsh, PhD, at the helm.

The NRN team has been awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Development Grant to build a platform connecting stakeholders involved in newcomer and refugee resettlement and health care. The project, entitled Enhancing Newcomer Resettlement Through a Community Engaged Knowledge Mobilization Hub, is one of five successful UCalgary projects receiving SSHRC Partnership Development Grants this year.

This research “supergroup” is made up of researchers from the Faculties of Nursing, Arts, Social Work, Werklund School of Education and Cumming School of Medicine, coming together to build research partnerships to address challenges facing newcomer communities.

“Research is an important avenue to creating socially just and equitable societies. Canada is known globally as a multicultural society, one that welcomes newcomers,” explains Walsh, professor in the Faculty of Social Work. “Through our newcomer research, we can gather the types of knowledge to realize these goals.”

Focusing on issues related to resettlement and integration, education, health and social care, and the social determinants of health, the NRN works with settlement agencies, grassroots community partners, health-care providers and education policy-[makers. Funding from the grant will enable the NRN to connect with more partners, broaden their reach and ultimately make a larger impact

    Mary O'Brien

    Mary O'Brien

    “Our communities know best what their most important issues are, who can help find the answers to the central questions, and the kinds of solutions that work best,” says O’Brien, professor in the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Culture, Faculty of Arts. “Doing meaningful research with the community necessarily involves partnership from the outset. This means that we work together — not just in consultation, but truly collaboratively — to identify the problem, determine how to best investigate it, and to develop solutions.”

    “The Newcomer Research Network is an exceptional example of the capacity of partnerships to have a positive, lasting impact on our communities,” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research). “The recipients of the SSHRC Partnership Grants are forming meaningful connections through research, and working with external groups in creative and engaging new ways. We look forward to all that they will accomplish.”

    Range of impacts

      Tanvir Turin Chowdhury

      Tanvir Turin Chowdhury

      “The research matters because we’re empowering a substantial portion of the Canadian population with equitable access to health care, resources and resettlement integration,” explains Chowdhury, assistant professor in the Cumming School of Medicine. “As Canada is a mosaic country, we’re expecting to welcome more than 1.2 million immigrants in the next few years and need to make sure these communities have fewer challenges when they arrive.”

      The NRN’s impacts extend beyond initial resettlement and delve into the lived experiences of newcomers in a variety of contexts.

      “[My team and I] hope to develop and test a set of materials designed to combat linguistic bias (i.e., potentially unfair treatment of individuals based on how they speak) in a variety of HR settings,” says O’Brien.

      “My focus specifically is on housing insecurity and homelessness among immigrant adults as well as social isolation, social exclusion and elder abuse among older immigrant adults,” adds Walsh.

      Trust and relationship-building a critical component

      Lack of trust by newcomers has proved to be the biggest challenge along the way. How did the NRN team overcome that? By being present, in the community, again and again.

      “We didn’t parachute in or out,” adds Chowdhury. “We took the time to work on relationship-building and just being around these communities as well as the community organizations. That presents an opportunity to have a conversation — how can we work together? The solution was so simple — just be there.”

      Looking ahead, Chowdhury plans to challenge the status quo of traditionally siloed research methods involving newcomer groups. The NRN team’s knowledge hub is a catalyst in igniting a larger culture change in research through their efforts in actively engaging communities throughout the process.

      The NRN team is also hosting the Mobilizing Knowledge on Newcomers Symposium on Oct. 15 to highlight community-engaged research and innovative service delivery with newcomers. Learn more about the symposium.

      2020-2021 Partnership Development Grants to University of Calgary researchers

      • Dr. Adam Bell, PhD (Faculty of Arts) : Canadian Accessible Musical Instruments Network
      • Dr. Sheri Madigan, PhD (Faculty of Arts): Screen Use Among Children: Research, Evaluation, and Educational Network Supports (The SCREENS Partnership Project)  
      • Dr. Thomas O’Neill, PhD ( Faculty of Arts): Time for Flexible Remote Work? Developing the Capabilities of Leaders and Individual Contributors
      • Dr. Jessica Shaw, PhD (Faculty of Social Work): Developing an Indigenous Model of Mental Health
      • Dr. Tanvir Chowdhury, PhD, (Cumming School of Medicine): Enhancing Newcomer Resettlement Through a Community Engaged Knowledge Mobilization Hub

      The pressures of our rapidly growing global population are driving unprecedented changes in our social, political, cultural and natural systems. The University of Calgary’s Human Dynamics in a Changing World research strategy is addressing our need to understand how we adapt to rapid change, to ensure our security and quality of life.

      Tanvir Turin Chowdhury is a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the Cumming School of Medicine.

      This prestigious group represents the breadth and depth of the research and expertise at the University of Calgary, representing a number of the institutes within the Cumming School of Medicine, including the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI), the Owerko Centre at the ACHRI, the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), The Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education at the HBI, the Libin Cardiovascular Institute and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health.