How digital matching platforms can transform refugee resettlement

Posted by Angus Barry | 26-May-2017 17:53:02

Note: This is guest post, by Angus Barry, Digital Service Manager, Refugees’ Say

Decisions about where refugees are resettled are often little better than random; refugees are unable to express their preferences over where they initially settle and local governments have no real way to convey which refugees will thrive in their communities.

Refugees’ Say is a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving refugee resettlement through demonstrating how a well‑designed matching system could alleviate these problems, and working with governments to implement one.

Matching systems shape the world we live in. Matching arises in any scenario where two sides need to agree in order for something to happen. Some matching systems, such as labour markets, organ donation and adoption, are shaped by formalised rules, whereas others, such as marriage, renting a flat and international alliances are more informal.  But whatever their idiosyncrasies, effective matching systems share certain common features: participants are motivated to express their true preferences; participants are able to assess their options without being overwhelmed by choice; and participants are incentivised to follow the rules rather than seek ways around them.

Refugee resettlement is complicated.  For example, some refugees apply for asylum individually while others come with family members; there is a trade-off between optimising the matching process with a larger pool of applicants and minimising waiting periods; and local authorities may have varying capacity constraints around housing, mental health services and school places.  However these complications should not detract from the fundamental importance of making the best resettlement decisions possible.  There is a growing body of evidence that the first place refugees live after being granted asylum has a large effect on their happiness, health and economic productivity.  Through optimising resettlement decisions, Refugees’ Say aims to give greater agency to refugees, generate dramatic improvements in the welfare and economic outcomes of refugees, and increase the willingness of local populations to integrate refugees by reducing the arbitrariness of the current system.

Three refugees training to be developers with Code Your Future have recently completed a prototype app to inform refugees about the areas of the UK best suited to them.  After answering a series of questions about their requirements and preferences (access to language tuition, places of worship and job opportunities, for instance), users are shown information about corresponding local authorities alongside a resident describing their experience living there.  From this foundation we aim to build a complete resettlement platform, integrating local authority capacity, the matching algorithm and insights from user research conducted in a range of refugee contexts.

We are looking for a partner organisation to work with us to achieve this, progressing the prototype for presentation to government and NGO stakeholders, and at IGNITE September 2017.  If your organisation would be interested in discussing a potential collaboration, please contact us at


Topics: Guest Blogs, Thought Leadership

Written by Angus Barry

Digital Service Manager, Refugees’ Say

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