A couple of weeks ago we met up in person as a team, after almost 2 years of working remotely and with three new people joining the team! It was lovely that most of us were able to attend, and to see each other for the first time. Settled into Manchester’s Northern Quarter with cups of tea and coffee, biscuits and satsumas, we got to work thinking about challenges and successes from 2021 for ourselves and our partners.
Here we summarise the scribbles from our post-it notes, highlighting key achievements.
Frontline Immigration Advice Project: In collaboration with partners and Experts by Experience, and thanks to funding from the Bar Standards Board, we had a Barriers to Complaintsreport produced. The report looks at the barriers which prevent people from complaining about poor immigration advice. It gives an invaluable insight into peoples’ experiences, so that we can address these issues with the relevant organisations. Huge congratulations to all our students - OISC exam results have been high over the last year. We’re pleased that we’ve had the chance to update our courses, as well asoffer new topics. Finally, we are launching an Immigration Advice Group in Hampshire which we are very excited about following the ongoing success of our partners’ work in the Community of Practice in Yorkshire & Humberside.
Afghan Crisis work: In September, we came together as a team to look at how we could offer support during the Afghan Crisis. Together with ASYLOS, ARC and Clifford Chance, the Afghanistan COI Repository has been set up, which presents updated country research. We compiled a Handbook to share information about UK immigration options for Afghan citizens in the UK and their family members, giving an overview of the relevant immigration and nationality applications. Resources from across the sector and partner organisations have been collated into one place on our website. Email us if there’s anything you’d like to add.
Respond & Adapt Programme: We are delighted that more funding has come through from: Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Metropolitan Foundation and Lloyds Foundation to be able to continue the re-vamped Insight Hub (formerly Info Hub), enabling us to collect insight from organisations across the asylum, refugee and migration sector about changing needs and priorities and bring organisations together to meet and discuss/address current issues. The anti-racism training which we commissioned BRAP to deliver to RAP grantees went really well, and has kick started some very important discussions between ourselves and our partners for us to learn and expand together. Finally, the year saw the launch of the Stories of Resilience project, sharing uplifting and touching stories from the sector. The project celebrated how community organisations supported people in the UK’s immigration system during a global pandemic.
Navigating Asylum Partnership: We have welcomed a new colleague on maternity cover to manage this project! The staff handover went well, the NAP partners continue to meet, and there has been a sense of stabilisation after the initial Covid outbreak. The Asylum Guides toolkits continue to be updated to reflect the changing circumstances and policies to help volunteers support clients as well as possible, in addition to a pandemic-related resource and guidance for Asylum Guides to support Afghan citizens.
Explore and design development: As part of our Covid Response Project we brought together 12 organisations to take part in an eight week guided journey using human centred design methodology and skills: discover, design develop; to explore one of two themes: #1 Making websites accessible - how to improve your website so that people can find your organisation and your services; and #2 Adapting service delivery - how to deliver services using digital technology or how to build a flexible delivery model. Read more about the programme and curriculum and some of the impact and learning here from KRAN, MIN and Refugee Rights Hub and here from Right to Remain.
Shifting Power to Experts by Experience: This year we experimented with a new area of work. Following a design sprint to co-produce guidance for the sector on setting up EBE groups and bringing EBE representatives onto trustee boards; we ran a pilot programme with 16 organisations who wanted to develop their approach to working with Experts by Experience. We created a workbook for organisations to follow, which draws upon human centred design and ran two rounds of facilitation skills training with a partner theatre company.
Early Action Summit: In May the Asylum Early Action partnership and Expert Panel brought together over 100 people from 73 organisations across Scotland, England and Wales to showcase our achievements and learning following three years of funding by The National Lottery Community Fund to adopt and embed early action in our service delivery and local and regional coordination and influencing. Read more about the event.
Step Change, Greater Manchester: Launching the new Step Change Consortium in Greater Manchester has been a major achievement, bringing together 9 organisations across the region to coordinate local service provision and work together to break down the complex barriers that prevent refugees and people seeking asylum from being fully integrated into life in the city and surrounding areas. We have mobilised the project, established our shared values, formed a multi-organisation Expert by Experience group to provide insight and steer the work, set up themed working groups, and developed a joint response to working with Afghan residents in hotels.
Structural Racism: This year we have been focusing on structural racism work, as an organisation as well as a team. We are looking forward to working on this more in 2022.
Community building: Throughout all projects we are proud to have developed a number of platforms and increased networking and peer support opportunities for partners. We have 489 subscribers to the newsletter, 304 members on Slack, and 659 members on Meet Up where we host our training and skill shares. Massive thanks to SIDE Labs for all their digital and design support.
Operations and coordination: In the background we have been running skill shares internally and externally, developing internal collaborations, and chipping away at structural organisational processes to streamline our work and increase efficiency. We also have a renewed Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning Strategy, developed by the wonderful Impact Works.
Thank you to our partners for such an amazing year of work. We are consistently amazed by the way you continue to meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers despite the varied and far-reaching challenges that continue to be thrown at the sector. We are privileged to work alongside you and couldn’t do any of this without the collective strength, resilience, flexibility and determination you all show.
Wishing you all a positive festive season and a peaceful Happy New Year.
From all of us in the Good Practice & Partnerships Team – Caro, Chaman, Dan, Helen, James, Julie, Lizzie, Lora, and Pascale