What’s New at the Leir Institute – Fall 2022

To our alumni and friends, 

I write to you a few days after International Migrants Day from the renamed Henry J. Leir Institute for Migration and Human Security, a new identity that reflects our approach to developing more equitable and sustainable responses to migration and its root causes using a human security lens. Over the past four months, we have completed our rebrand with a refreshed website and a new monthly newsletter, the Leir Migration Monitor, as well as refocused programming and engagement with our constituencies.  

We have also expanded the Leir community at Fletcher. We welcomed three new affiliated faculty: Carlos Alvarado Quesada, Professor of Practice of Diplomacy and former President of Costa Rica; Alnoor Ebrahim, Professor of Management; and, Chidi Odinkalu, Professor of Practice in International Human Rights Law. We also welcomed a new Senior Fellow: Samer Saliba, Head of Practice at the Mayors Migration Council. Each will bring important perspectives and an expanded network of practitioners and policymakers who share our vision. 

Meanwhile, political and policy developments around the globe have underscored the need for our new approach: the nearly 16 million Ukrainians displaced by war; controversy surrounding Qatar’s treatment of millions of migrant workers ahead of the 2022 World Cup; South Africa’s ongoing efforts to expel hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean permitholders; continued migratory pressures in the Americas; and the use of migrant busing as political theater by U.S. governors

Whether directly related to migration or not, our applied research aims to achieve a world where migration is a choice. Achieving that vision means creating real opportunities in communities of origin and settlement while protecting migrants on the move, thereby ensuring that everyone can meet their needs and reach their potential. Summer field research carried out by Fletcher students for the Journeys Project and Refugees in Towns served as proof of concept for this new vision. 

We also publicly launched our newest program, Digital Portfolios of the Poor (DPP), which seeks to understand the gendered differences in digital usage and philosophies among the poor in order to create new gender-transformative digital products. DPP is a prime example of our approach. While the project does not address migration directly, its insights about whether and how the poor, especially women, mobilize digital technologies for social inclusion can – and should – inform efforts to enhance people’s option not to migrate. Moreover, the tech-led methodology developed by our research partner, Decodis, and tested at scale in DPP has enormous potential for reaching people on the move, who are notoriously difficult to study. And, finally, DPP is providing hands-on training for five Fletcher research assistants who each bring their own regional or technical expertise. DPP’s interdisciplinary, people-centered, and prevention-focused orientation is precisely what a human security approach intends to achieve

In the spring, we look forward to new opportunities to engage our network, including: 

  • Monthly editions of the Leir Migration Monitor, featuring research and analysis from our people and programs; 
  • Refugees in Towns’ Race in Migration Symposium, co-hosted by Tisch College and featuring the Hello Neighbor Network; 
  • Formation of an Alumni Advisory Group to provide opportunities for alumni working in related fields to engage with Fletcher students, lend their expertise to Leir projects and programming, and offer strategic advice on Leir fundraising; and,
  • The launch of new research and tools for policymakers and practitioners.

With a just-announced Tufts Springboard grant, we will also be launching a new project entitled Hopes, Fears, and Illusions: How Migrants Assess Risk and Process Information on their Journey to El Norte, to be led by me and Leir Senior Fellow, Dr. Kim Howe. Stay tuned for more details as we develop our research protocol and assemble our research team over the next few months.

Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have ideas, concerns, or questions. As always, we welcome your ideas, feedback, and financial support as we continue this important work.  

Wishing you a healthy and joyful holiday season, 

Katrina Burgess 
Director, Henry J. Leir Institute for Migration and Human Security 

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