Photo: New Hampshire Immigration Event

Welcoming Immigrant Communities in New Hampshire

Over the past 25 years, New Hampshire has seen an influx of immigrants and refugees, new communities seeking to integrate alongside long-established immigrant populations. Cities like Manchester experienced especially notable demographic shifts and struggled to navigate their evolving identities.

Welcoming America, a national organization with a branch in New Hampshire works to inspire people to build communities that embrace immigrants and foster opportunities for all. Amidst the increasingly heated debate around immigration policy, Welcoming America joined a coalition of nonprofits and agencies to support the new refugees. At the same time, The New Hampshire Endowment for Health’s immigrant integration initiative sought to improve healthcare delivery for its immigrant populations.

Galvanizing a complex coalition of organizations and community leaders proved demanding, however, as cultural differences, group dynamics, and diverging priorities made alignment and coordinated action a challenge.

A Shared Vision

Essential Partners practitioners Dave Joseph and Raye Rawls trained over 50 coalition members and members of the immigrant communities in dialogue and consulted around collaborative problem-solving, in order to address their differences more constructively, and create a shared vision for Manchester.

The first training brought community members from ten different countries, including Nepal, Vietnam, Bhutan, India, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. The second training included coaching and facilitation for coalition members, focusing on building the relationships that would foster a more aligned and resilient initiative.

Through the dialogue training process, they identified internal issues and dissatisfactions with the coalition. The top two concerns revolved around financial transparency and limited human capacity.

Said one participant during the training, “We’ve accomplished more in the past hour than we have in the previous year.”

Building Capacity to Meet Local Needs

Essential Partners’ training enabled Welcoming America to serve the needs of the Immigrant Integration Initiative. The trained facilitators convened conversations between longstanding members of the community and recently-arrived immigrants, aiming to build more integrated communities.

“There’s a real difference to people who are coming to meetings. They say, wow this is so different from 2014…” Cook noted. “All of a sudden, there was this interpersonal trust. People didn’t hold their issues against anyone. Even though this group had some problems, they were totally committed.”

EP's dialogue training helped change not only the relationships but the structure of the project as well. Rather than convene a single steering committee of 40 members, the initiative built four task forces, all reporting to a single leadership team. The new shape of the organization clarified roles and purposes and drove the initiative to new heights.