The 8th annual Ford+SPPG Conference took place at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan on March 25, 2017.
This year’s conference focused on an important topic that poses central concerns to policy making in both Canada and the U.S. “Immigration: Integration and Mobility in a Populist Era” explored the themes of economic mobility, multiculturalism, and human rights through an analysis of immigration and refugee policy. The conference was kicked off by a pre-conference panel on both campuses and a keynote panel on the eve of the case competition, featuring Bing Goei, Director, Michigan Office for New Americans, Steve Tobocman, Director, Global Detroit and Hardy Vieux, Legal Director, Human Rights First, moderated by Cliff Martin, Global Engagement Manager for Ford’s International Policy Centre.
The case competition asked students to develop state-centered solutions to facilitate the economic empowerment and social integration of refugees in Michigan. The winning team was comprised of Samantha Chu and Michelle Rubin from the Ford School and Blake Lee-Whiting, Priscilla Mak, and Ali Nasser-Virji from SPPG. Focusing on revitalizing employment opportunities, they utilized a three-pronged approach that would be spearheaded and coordinated by the Michigan Office for New Americans. Their strategy began by creating pathways for refugees to start small businesses by providing financing opportunities through existing refugee development organizations. This would be complemented by sponsored mentorship programs that would connect high-skilled underemployed refugees to jobs in high growth sectors through specialized internship programs. The final part of their strategy concentrated on helping refugees build on their skills by connecting them to community organizations, consequently supporting the local economy.