IMIX’s Chief Executive Emma Harrison on the challenges of coalition campaigning, and why it is crucial – if not necessary – to achieve effective change.
Why working together is hard
Collaboration is at the heart of everything we do at IMIX. However, let’s be honest; it can also be challenging. Across the refugee and migration sector, there are thousands of people who are passionate about the rights of those who make the UK their home, and we all have different ideas about how to secure those rights.
And while fundamentally we are all on the same side, we have a wide range of views and policy aims that don’t always sit comfortably together. This means building consensus can be hard and that is okay.
When things get messy and difficult, I remind myself that there are many ways to achieve change.
We need multiple approaches. For every group like the trailblazing Stansted 15, we need a Brighton Table Tennis Club. There is not one person – or group – that speaks for refugee protection, we need as many lefty-lawyers and do-gooders as we can get, but we also need the conservatives who quietly provide food parcels and coats for Calais.
Why do we need multiple approaches and voices?
Because people are motivated to act in different ways. For many, donating to charity or signing a petition is as much as they will ever do, while some people will throw open the doors of their homes to strangers.
Whatever action people take, the reasons they act are different. We know from research that lots of people respond positively to directly hearing from refugees and migrants, and will take action based on those interactions. However, there are also a lot of people who are motivated to act when they see people who’re just like them getting involved in causes. So, if we want people to take action, we need to offer up a range of options of things they can do, and we have to get our messengers right.
You’re possibly thinking, ‘Why? When we only need 3.5% of the population to act to create tangible change? Why can’t we just focus on our base?’
That is a great question, and the answer is going to agitate. We haven’t done enough to energise a big enough section of our base to get to 3.5% of the UK population (plus there is some evidence that the 3.5% rule hasn’t got a 100% hit rate).
The other reason we need to think beyond the base is that up and down the country, people who are seeking asylum, refugees and migrants are living in communities where our base isn’t. We need to make every single community across the UK welcome to those who make the UK their home.
How can we work together better?
If we agree that we need to make communities feel welcome and that refugees, migrants and people seeking asylum should have the same rights as everyone else, how do we enable different voices and approaches to sit within ‘the ecosystem’ without stifling creativity? Inevitably there are lots of ways to do this.
And core to the success of any tactic is how we approach collaborations: with mutual respect, openness, inclusivity and most critically, listening to others rather than focusing on broadcasting your own opinions.
One approach is the creation of an umbrella campaign that is broad enough to enable as many people as possible to join, but specific enough to encourage action.
This is why we’ve signed up to the Together with Refugees coalition. It’s a long-term campaign with clear aims and there is enough space for more radical groups, as well as those who want approach things slowly at a community level.
We’re looking forward to working with partners across the UK to tell stories of communities who’ve welcomed refugees, and continuing to shine a light on the problems within the asylum system.
There will be bumps in the road. While we might not agree on everything, we will learn and improve so that we can achieve our ultimate goal of securing much needed change for people seeking asylum.