Coalition building for integration

Lord Mayor Uruemu Adejinmi (in black and pink), Aga Wypychowska (red haired with headband), Joy Eniola (in yellow and Green, with multicoloured headband) and Lucy Michael (in a black skirt suit), in front of a crowd at the Immigrant council of Ireland conference.

Tuesday 10 May, 2022, Immigrant Council of Ireland Migrant Integration Conference

Panel: Lord Mayor of Longford, Uruemu Adejinmi, Aga Wypychowska of Laois Partnership and Joy Eniola of Dublin City Council, chaired by Lucy Michael

It’s our pleasure to publish here our notes of the panel, capturing the expertise of the speakers. You can also see the thread and commentary on Twitter here

On Principles to support strong coalitions; Lord Mayor Adejinmi pointed to communication, respect and equality. Shared goals are key. Joy Eniola highlights the need for ownership, inclusive representation, learning, and being willing to redefine success around outcomes rather than outputs. In that, it sounds rather like Joy is moving towards a Theory of Change approach!

Aga Wypychowska points to the need for organisations to understand each others drivers – voluntary and statutory organisations are driven by very different aims, with different resources and timescales.

Migrants are not at the tables setting integration policy, or even designing and managing programmes or activities designed for their inclusion. In this, Integration work can actually reinforce exclusion and distinction between receiving communities and migrants.

Inclusion is not just in terms of the wider activities, but must also be at the decision making table too. Trust is key to making good integration plans and programmes effective, and that only happens with migrants involved in plans aimed at them.

We turned to factors that undermine good coalition working, and these are multiple. I think we can all recognise these from our work in this sector.

Capacity on the voluntary side means that you often see the same faces at multiple tables. That can lead to singular approaches, and sometimes blurred lines because they are across different coalitions.

Big organisations (esp statutory) dont recognise the urgency of volunteer organisations. Frustration and delay leads to volunteer dropoff as they become exhausted.

Other factors: meetings about meetings, micro management, lack of accessibility, poor leadership from the Chair/lead organisation, and high turnover of key staff supporting coalitions can lead to collapse.

Above all, the absence of shared principles and equality in coalitions for integration means that the very aim – equality – is missed. Thus it is possible for partners to say they are working on integration but not interested in equality or discrimination issues.

It’s necessary to see who’s at the table – Aga and Joy both point to the problem of big hitters not being there, or the wrong people filling seats.

Not all coalitions should last – some are formed in crisis, or in response to funding opportunities. If there’s no pause after crisis / funding to reassess, to look at aims and roles, a coalition can continue zombie-like, and prevent new effective coalitions taking shape.

Keeping accountability on the agenda is crucial to preventing a coalition slipping into stasis and volunteers feeling frustrated. Especially if external accountability (eg a grant) disappears, it’s urgent to get new accountability measures and processes into place.

Finally, it’s important for any coalition to recognise when they need external expertise and be willing to bring it in. Quick investments on knowledge and capacity building can (re)invigorate a coalition and pull everyone in the same direction.

And remember… Integration work without equality is just assimilation. More equal power relations are key to ensuring integration is multi-directional and multi-level.

If your interventions *only* target migrants, are you really doing assimilation work instead? What parts of your work target receiving communities for integration with newcomers?

Thanks so much to our brilliant panel and to @immigrationIRL for arranging this event.

IOM Practitioners Guide

If you’re interested in the Theory of Change approach for integration planning, intervention design and measurement, may I humbly point you to a handbook I wrote on that subject for IOM – UN Migration

And do share this thread with everyone you are in a network with, whether you’re in statutory or voluntary roles, whether your coalition is new or well-established. Our panel know what they’re talking about! Best of luck!

Planning for Anti-Racism Month events

Receiving a few queries this week about how to run events for Anti-Racism Month in March… a few quick thoughts.

If you’re organising events at work for anti-racism month in March, a few tips…
1. There are lots of online events going on for March – you might think about attending one as a group in your organisation and following it with a zoom/teams discussion in-house. 
2. If you are planning a panel, particularly if you are looking for representation from minority communities, I suggest that you offer a speakers fee upfront with your invitations. This is a respectful approach. Too often this burden falls on invited speakers to request it. 
3. Design your events so that they go beyond awareness to identify key actions – e.g. theme events around working practices & processes, rather than discrete minority identities. 
This allows you (1) to move from awareness into action quickly, and (2) facilitates a more intersectional approach to understand how practices and processes in your organisation are experienced by individuals. 
4. Support your guest speakers. They should not feel alone at the front of a defensive room. Plan with them, prep your audience, support your speaker actively. Tell them about the organisation, your EDI aims, check you’re on same page. Don’t misrepresent your capacity for change. 
5. Go to other events, and look for good practice. Don’t organise an anti-racism event if you don’t know what good practice looks like. Ask for advice from other organisations, attend their events. Read up. 
6. What are you trying to achieve? Can you do that in a one-hour session at lunch (probably not)? If you need a half-day to leverage change, take a half day. If you need several events to help your audience progress, plan a series and communicate that colleagues should attend all 
7. Get buy-in from the top. Leadership is key. Ask your VP to be present, to welcome the guest speaker and to stay for the whole session. It matters that senior leaders are seen to be there and take it seriously. Seriously, it matters. 
8. What’s next? Have you got a goal for where you’re going with this? If you’re just ‘raising awareness’, I need to break it to you… it’s not enough. Raising awareness is a fop for not doing anything about it. Do something. Anything. Plan to do it, and do it. 
9. If you want to know about racism in your country, partner with a local organisation for training. Context matters, most UK/US organisations don’t know Irish context. If you want to know about EDI progress in your industry, invite an industry leader.