Co-founded by two Penn alumni (C'15) in July 2014, AsylumConnect is an incorporated nonprofit startup creating the first online, centralized database of service providers for LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. The AsylumConnect catalog helps persecuted LGBTQ people find fundamental human needs resources upon their arrival in the U.S.
The Seattle Pilot
In February 2016, AsylumConnect released an improved version of its catalog for the Seattle area. Catalog v2.0 introduced new search functions, improved visuals, and an updated verification model aimed to better ensure that each resource listed is able to accommodate LGBTQ asylum seekers. The catalog v2.0 pilot concluded in late August 2016.
During the Seattle pilot, catalog v2.0 received recognition from Seattle's LGBTQ Center, Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, and several local government officials. In total, AsylumConnect presented catalog v2.0 to approximately 400 Seattle stakeholders and community members over 7 local events (information sessions, catalog demonstrations, and panels). From March through August 2016, catalog v2.0 garnered: views in 38 distinct countries, 851 site sessions, 1251 pageviews, and 532 users.
The Seattle pilot also allowed AsylumConnect to hear directly from asylum seekers. For example, David* an asylum seeker who helped test catalog v2.0, stated:
"Global events are forcing more asylum seekers to feel unbearable conditions in their home countries to come to the U.S. ... Thank you for the efforts and support."
Of catalog v2.0, David comments:
“highly recommended," "easy to use," "nothing not to like.”
When asked what may be missing from the catalog, David tells AsylumConnect that he eagerly awaits expansion to other:
“local [organizations] and regions."
During the Seattle pilot, AsylumConnect also received invaluable recommendations from local service providers. These recommendations led to the implementation of key improvements to the catalog over the course of the pilot, including: new content for users on privacy and user information sharing, preliminary translation capacity in over 100 languages, and an explainer video describing how to navigate catalog v2.0 for the Seattle area.
Although the results of the Seattle pilot clearly speak to the catalog's tremendous potential, they also bring to light significant areas for improvement. AsylumConnect plans to harness insights learned during its pilot to address key access barriers which currently prevent optimal catalog engagement among LGBTQ asylum seekers.
Moving forward, AsylumConnect will strive to boost its online presence as well as its local presence, partnerships, and knowledge.
The Seattle pilot of the AsylumConnect catalog has demonstrated proof of concept. The organization will now focus on both refining and scaling its high-impact product in the most sustainable way possible.
The Future of the AsylumConnect Catalog
Currently, AsylumConnect is working with the University of Pennsylvania's Hack4Impact (a student organization that connects nonprofits with student software developers) to scale an improved version of its catalog to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in February 2017. AsylumConnect hopes to create a resource database for LGBTQ asylum seekers that is predominantly community-sourced and vetted. The organization plans to maintain its catalog as an open source software project, which will allow software developers to contribute directly to the catalog's technical development. Ultimately, AsylumConnect will seek to provide a platform for LGBTQ asylum seekers to self-design their own resource collection and curation tool.
The long-term vision of AsylumConnect remains to scale its catalog to all major U.S. cities and ultimately, transform how LGBTQ asylum seekers connect with fundamental human needs service providers in the U.S.
*Name has been changed to protect this person's identity.
LEARN MORE: For more information on the Seattle pilot, what’s next, and the long-term vision for the AsylumConnect catalog read “The Seattle Pilot of the AsylumConnect Catalog: A Case Study.”
DONATE: To help AsylumConnect improve and scale its lifesaving informational resource, make a tax deductible donation today.