Community Engagement

Co-Designing Community Gatherings That Boost Vaccine Confidence

A safe space for refugee, immigrant, and migrant mothers to air their health concerns.

MothersxMothers is part of an ongoing collaboration between The National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants (NRC-RIM) and leaders in refugee, immigrant, and migrant (RIM) communities to increase vaccine confidence and uptake.

In a previous phase of work, a team created a solution to reach vaccine hesitant RIM teens, but along the way found that designing with and for their mothers was crucial as they are the advocates—and gatekeepers—of their children’s health. With vaccine hesitancy still high among pregnant women, there was an opportunity to impact an entire household by centering the needs of one, key member.

“Even flu shots for kids aren’t common [back home]. If someone has been healthy their whole life, they think ‘why this vaccine?”


To understand the needs, wishes, and frustrations of mothers, we partnered with the Refugee Women’s Network, an Atlanta-based NGO with over 25 years’ experience serving refugee women and worked closely with a cohort of women co-designers from the Somali and Eritrean communities. A few common themes emerged. We learned that for a lot of mothers vaccination was not common back home, so a greater why” and how” is needed to convince mothers that vaccinations in general—let alone the COVID-19 Vaccine— is a good idea. And if the people around them think similarly, this likely leads to inaction. Community members hold a lot of persuasive power. The opinions of peers have a cascading effect on community actions, down to mistrust of a specific vaccine.

“Who you spend time with determines whether you have the vaccine.”


These insights cued up a design opportunity to create a non-judgmental space for mothers to connect with other mothers and discuss health concerns such as the COVID-19 vaccine. We then ran a prototype meetup for 13 unvaccinated mothers from Somali, Eritrean, and Ethiopian communities. Mothers participated in a genuine discussion that sparked the seeds for behavior change and facilitators highlighted areas requiring unforeseen effort. During this prototype gathering four unvaccinated mothers changed their minds about the vaccine. We’ve taken their inputs to refine the offering into a toolkit organizations can use to host peer meetups.

The goal for these meetups is to create a space that fosters psychological safety and belonging and offers more bespoke, personable information from peers. The Mothers x Mothers Service is oriented around four moments that matter most in a meetup expe​ri​ence​.To support other organizations interested in hosting an MxM gathering in the future, we’ve published a set of open source tools around each moment.

  1. Plan: this section includes a series of key considerations organizations should ask themselves ahead of hosting an MxM gathering.
  2. Promote: this section contains templates any organization can customize to create a print or social media invitation to an MxM gathering.
  3. Prepare: where future organizers can find a custom agenda, and scripts they can adapt to facilitate their gathering.
  4. Present: where organizers can find ready-to-download slides they can project to host a gathering around the MxM vaccine.
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