Civil Society in the Spotlight: David D'Agnelli from the Jesuit Refugee Service

Civil Society in the Spotlight: David D'Agnelli from the Jesuit Refugee Service

EPIM’s Civil Society in the Spotlight series seeks to highlight the work of our partners- people and organisations who are helping build inclusive communities and develop humane and sustainable responses to migration in Europe.

In this Civil Society in the Spotlight interview, we hear from David D’Agnelli — a Project Officer for the Ukraine Crisis with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) about his work and ideas.

Can you tell us more about your approach to putting people at the centre of your intervention?

JRS’s mission is to accompany, serve and advocate for refugees and other displaced people. We aim to walk with them. That is why all our projects and operations have a strong commitment to be people-centred. We focus on listening to their needs, difficulties, and dreams to help them and make a difference in their lives.  

Strategic plan and good practices meeting with representatives from all of JRS’s Country Offices in Bucharest in June 2023

Why is it important for JRS to involve displaced people in the decision-making, planning, and implementing of the programs and activities dedicated to them?

Participation is one of the main values of JRS. As mentioned, JRS’s main objective is to accompany, serve and advocate. There is no other way for us to work than to pursue the help and the well-being of the people that we serve in connection with their needs. Our approach is always peer-to-peer, walking and working together side by side. 

The One Proposal is quite a complex and big project that stretches over 14 countries with different contexts, operations, and needs. This requires proper management with professionals and skilled people to deliver the best response possible. Having said that, the response for us must always start from the needs of the people we serve. We always welcome suggestions, advice for improvements, and joining efforts through volunteering. For us, it is crucial to receive continuous feedback and we constantly try to organise surveys and both individual and group consultations around the different activities and topics. Moreover, in most cases, the refugee community is very committed to helping not only their fellow citizens but also other people in vulnerable situations. This plays a huge role in connecting and bridging the needs of the people we serve with our response. 

Children’s painting class supported by JRS in Poland


Your response has been unfolded in coordination with other organisations in multiple countries. What is your vision for cross-country coalitions beyond this crisis? 

To address this crisis, we needed to deploy and put together all possible efforts. Even if we were already present in most of the countries where we are operating, JRS felt the need to involve other partners in the response. This decision was based on the vision for a coordinated response to address as many of the refugees/IDPs’ needs as possible. Working together is also a way of sharing good practices and supporting the different Country Offices throughout the challenges we face. 

I also believe that this approach reflects the complexity of humanity where “no human is an island”. This is a “modern” shape of the famous John Donne’s “No Man is an Island” which means, simplifying a lot, that no one is self-sufficient and needs to rely on others. It is a principle that stimulates the creation of communities, to look at the other with an open mind, and to trust and share the journey with other people. This applies also to our way of working where the different Countries could have responded to the Ukraine War on their own while we/they decided to work together sitting at a round table to enhance the most effective possible response.