During the definition phase, we spoke with around 30 asylum seekers on their experience of moving to NYC. For some, the biggest challenge was finding housing, while others struggled to find a lawyer. Some paid exorbitant amounts of money to "brokers" from their diaspora community to help them navigate the social service system, and others spent months searching for educational opportunities.
We then worked with small groups of asylum seekers to identify unifying themes. We discovered that one of the most cross-cutting challenges was lack of access to up-to-date, verifiable information about what resources exist in New York City. We ended on the Design Question:
"How might we strengthen information networks between asylum seekers and organizations so that asylum seekers can both obtain and share accurate and up-to-date information?"
Some of the key insights from these sessions included:
- Asylum Seekers often trust members of their own community more than official non-profits. There are strong networks of immigrant communities, but these networks can sometimes propagate wrong information.
- Asylum Seekers receive competing information from different organizations, and it's hard to distinguish "good" and "bad" information.
- Each asylum seeker's case is different, so information needs to be personally tailored.
- While many websites and pamphlets list resources for Asylum Seekers in NYC, these are usually out-of-date. Asylum seekers generally prefer to go through personal connections and networks within their diaspora community.