A service program for Iraqi refugees in cities around the United States
Iraqi Community Organization Project

In 1998, with a grant from ORR, the Iraq Foundation initiated the Iraqi Community Organizing Project (ICOP) to promote the self-help and social integration of Iraqi refugees.

ICOP hence established four CBOs in Nashville, Tennessee; St. Louis, Missouri; Dearborn, Michigan; and Chicago, Illinois.

Statistics had showed that these areas were home to the bulk of Iraqi refugees of all ethnicities and sects. Indeed, over the years, ICOP brought diverse groups and sectors of the Iraqi community together around a common goal. Iraqi Arab Muslims, Shi’as and Sunnis were not the only ones who benefited from the CBOs services; but Feyili and Yezidi Kurds, Chaldeans and Assyrians, did too, although in noticeably slighter numbers.

ICOP’s CBOs have relentlessly sought to collaborate with other Iraqi-American organizations, mainly Assyrians and Kurdish have collaborated together throughout the years in order to better serve Iraqi refugees. The CBOs thus became leading advocates of Iraqi-Americans’ unity.

The establishment of these CBOs was an accomplishment in itself. Having escaped a tyrannical rule back in their country of origin, Iraqis lacked experience with, and trust in the civic, political and economic institutions that are the hallmark of democratic and pluralistic societies.

ICOP, with the help of its consultant Mosaica: The Center for Nonprofit Development and Pluralism has been introducing and training these Iraqi-led CBOs to the notion of “nongovernmental”, the responsibility and practice of “independency” and “self-reliance.”

Today, all four CBOs are incorporated independent 501 (c) (3) organizations. In this sense, ICOP changed perception of civic organizations, and educated people about the concept of nonprofit.

ICOP has been bringing together local and nationwide CBOs and MAAs in its annual conferences to promote capacity building and collaboration, by sharing good practices, identifying common obstacles and forming alliances and partnerships. The most recent was held on December 4-6, 2003 at the Holiday Inn Fairlane in Dearborn, Michigan. It drew participating CBOs as well as members of other organizations and individuals and featured guest speakers, such as Gerald Brown of the Institute for Social and Economic Development, Anna Crosslin of the St. Louis International Institute, and Nicole Namy of ACCESS, who shared their expertise on a range of subjects affecting the Iraqi immigrants community particularly, but not exclusively.

Furthermore, ICOP developed and implemented organizational development training to the affiliated CBOs and have implemented them in local offices including:

  • Staff, board and leadership development.
  • Community outreach, needs assessment, program planning, and management.
  • Media relations (drafting press releases and talking points)
  • Fundraising and building funder relationships.
  • Building partnerships, networking and collaboration.
  • Financial management, including reporting, and proposal writing.
  • Nonprofit start-up, which includes incorporation, by-laws preparation, and tax-exempt
    status filing.

These plans and materials developed are now being shared with other emerging organizations to assist in their capacity building, through the National Network as part of ICOP’s commitment to community development.

Each CBO has assisted hundreds of refugees to access social and professional services, to gain skills and confidence they need to manage successfully in American society; and to educate the American community about issues faced by Iraqi refugees and assets they bring to the community. Through these institutions, are re-building the trust that is so essential to being able to work together and to thrive in a democracy. The institutions are also helping to build the sense of connection to the broader Americans society that is important in the wake of September 11th.

Statistics show that there are approximately 40,000 Iraqi refugees living in the United States today, all of whom arrived after 1992. In 1998, the Iraq Foundation launched the “Iraqi Community Organizing Project” (ICOP) to help refugees adjust to their new environment, acquire necessary skills, and integrate better into the wider American society while maintaining their cultural roots and sense of community. ICOP has formed Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in selected cities to offer services to Iraqis. Four CBOs are currently operating:

  CBO Location Information

  • Nashville, TN
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Chicago, IL
  • Dearborn, MI