A key objective of the Democracy & Trust program is to investigate the meaning and significance of conferences, events, and other forms of convening as means for producing trust and advancing meaningful social change. It was under this intention that The American Assembly awarded a grant to ASPIRE (Advancing Solutions in Policy, Implementation, Research and Engagement for Refugees), an initiative that takes a multidisciplinary approach to responding to the Syrian refugee crisis, for a 10-day “dissemination event” centered around its recently completed Women ASPIRE study.

The Women ASPIRE study examined the health and mental health concerns of 507 Syrian refugee women in non-camp settings in Jordan. The purpose of this conference was to bring together scholars, health care professionals, policymakers, and other stakeholders in order to:

  • interpret findings from the Women ASPIRE study

  • create informed policy and programmatic recommendations for health agencies in Jordan regarding the most effective means of meeting the health needs of Syrian refugee women living outside of camps

  • build a network of researchers, clinicians, NGO staff, and multilateral agencies in Jordan that is dedicated to interdisciplinary dialogue and advocacy to support Syrian refugee women in Jordan

Over the course of ten days, November 11-21, 2019, the researchers presented the study’s top-line findings individually to NGOs and organizations in Jordan. As a result of the feedback, new analyses revealed that there were several co-occurring factors that contributed to unmet need, especially in the area of mental health services, including stigma associated with refugee status challenges with coordination of care. The individual meetings culminated with a large gathering where on-the-ground actors surfaced concerns that neither the qualitative nor quantitative data captured.

The various organizations had long histories of in-fighting. However, through the iterative convening approach pioneered here, researchers were able to find consensus among the groups. In the context of our challenged and polarized times, this outcome is especially encouraging and we expect to continue exploring similar strategies for building trust, cooperation, collaboration and consensus among misaligned groups.