“Learning as we go”: street-level bureaucrats and policy learning during the Syrian refugee resettlement process in Saskatoon
Marshall, Aasa 1980-
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In late 2015 and early 2016, the Canadian government resettled 25,000 Syrian refugees within roughly a three-month period. This initiative brought a much higher number of refugees to Canada than are usually accepted in that timeframe, and put pressure on the resettlement system. This thesis focuses on the organizations that do the work of resettling refugees at the community level, and how their employees — otherwise known as street-level bureaucrats — dealt with the pressure created by this situation. The findings indicate that the Syrian initiative exposed weaknesses in the existing system and created new obstacles with which street-level bureaucrats had to contend. Presented with an overwhelming strain on their system, street-level bureaucrats at Saskatoon SPOs performed a real-time evaluation of the system in which they work, and devised solutions to issues as they arose. The challenges that emerged in Saskatoon during this process had three main sources: the over-arching pressure brought on by the scale of the initiative; the resources available to complete the task; and co-ordination issues that emerged under the circumstances. Using a theoretical framework first presented by Hugh Heclo, this thesis argues that situations of great pressure can force street-level bureaucrats through a process of evaluation and problem-solving that results in incremental policy learning at the ground level. During early stages of the Syrian refugee resettlement initiative, workers who provide initial services to refugees used community connections, sector partners, and innovation to deal with the time and resource constraints of the process. The result of this undertaking was a process of policy learning that ultimately resulted in a stronger system than had existed prior to the initiative. This strengthening process was made possible in two ways: by the community response to the need for resources and assistance, and the solutions devised by sector actors. The lessons learned through this process should be incorporated into ongoing practice to continue to make the system more effective.
DegreeMaster of Public Policy (M.P.P.)
DepartmentJohnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy
CommitteeFairbairn, Brett; Deonandan, Kalowatie; Dupeyron, Bruno; Walker, Ryan
Copyright DateSeptember 2017