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Research methods

The study investigates the integration of 500 refugees who resettled via the Humanitarian Corridors project in 45 dioceses in Italy. The longitudinal study spans a five-year period and documents not only the immediate reception of refugees but also the process of their transition and integration.

The research employs a mixed-method approach with an emphasis on qualitative social research, making use of interviews and focus group discussions with refugees, their integration companions in host communities, and key informants (Caritas directors, bishops, parish priests, social workers, employers, school teachers, and city council representatives). We keep track of the refugees’ status in a standardized manner and by means of regular field work. Up to now, the field research has involved three trips to Ethiopia and visits of one to three days in each of the 45 host communities. For ongoing qualitative monitoring, the research assistant has called and will continue to call the diocesan social workers or lead volunteers for each of the dioceses. During the first year of research (April 2018 to June 2019), more than 350 semistructured interviews and 50 semistructured group discussions were conducted. Interviews were conducted three to four months after the refugees’ arrival in Italy in accordance with the guidelines of the University of Notre Dame’s ethical review board. Though interviews and group discussions were also conducted with members of the Sant’Egidio community, this study focuses solely on the staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries involved in the Caritas-facilitated projects. Ongoing communication was maintained with approximately 30 refugees via WhatsApp and Facebook social networking groups. 

Quantitative data collection captures data about both refugees who decided to stay in Italy and those who decided to depart from the country. For the refugees who decided to stay, the study collects information about various dimensions of integration, including types of employment and education, housing situations, and progress toward social integration.

The Humanitarian Corridors research project uses SenseMaker® software, which is able to use fragmented micronarratives to make sense of complex realities. SenseMaker® is a narrative reporting resource that allows the collection and interpretation of brief stories. Respondents first share their short narratives and then they are requested to interpret them by answering a number of questions. These responses add meaning to the pieces of these stories and provide quantitative data that can be linked back to the original material. In this way, SenseMaker® transfers the power of interpretation from an expert to the respondent, the real protagonist of the study. After the questionnaire has been completed, the data is analyzed to detect visual patterns and clusters among the micronarratives. This analysis allows the researchers to not only identify underlying attitudes and patterns of behavior across this self-reported data, but also allows a participaroty element and creates additional research and monitoring capability.