This case study was produced as part of the BIG Assist programme.
Representing refugee groups
Hammersmith and Fulham Refugee Forum is a second-tier membership organisation representing the interests of refugee communities in this west London borough. Its members are front line refugee community organisations.
Advice and training
The Forum provides advice, training and networking opportunities and gives the refugee community a voice with the media, local government, opinion formers and stakeholders.
The issues we faced
Many member groups had lost premises and funding primarily as a result of cutbacks by the local authority. Some groups were no longer able to continue, though the need for their services remains.
The Forum itself had to attract funding and address its own development during this difficult financial climate – made more challenging by the hostile nature of much of the public discourse on migrants and refugees.
The actions we took
Our journey began by considering two key points
1. Reflection and review - the future of the Forum
We did this by having two away days for our management committee members and other refugee group representatives. We found it extremely valuable to have someone from outside the organisation challenge our assumptions about what we were doing and why.
This took us back to first principles and we discussed how we should shape our future development in such a way that it addressed new realities. We asked:
- were we providing appropriate training
- how should we reconnect with organisations losing funding and premises
- should we widen our membership and area of operation?
The outcome of this re-examination led us to concentrate on incorporating our re-assessment into a three-year business plan.
2. Digital skills - considering suitable projects to attract potential funders
We began to identify the fact that that even though small groups often lacked funding and premises, they were still able to present their ideals and opinions well, and network with each other on the internet.
We realised that not everyone had these skills and so a bid should be made to fund a specific social media project.
A potential funder, Awards for All, was quickly identified and work began on a grant application.
We arranged away days with a variety of people which led to the creation of a three-year business plan, providing renewed focus for the Forum.
A successful funding bid was made to Awards for All which gave us £9,530 to run a series of six training workshops to help refugee groups use social media (Twitter and Facebook).
It would have been helpful to have more success with funding bids to expand the Forum’s remit and clientele.
Such things take time and the consultant could only achieve so much in the time allowed by the BIG Assist voucher award.
A specific outcome was the decision (approved at a subsequent AGM) to include migrants in the clientele served by the Forum and to expand our area of operations to include a greater area of west London.
The impact of this will become apparent when we have been able to put this expansion into practice.
The social media project has begun and been very well received by beneficiaries so far. They feel that these skills will equip their organisations, however modest they are, with the knowledge to raise awareness, network, express opinions and attract the support of stakeholders.