Needs assessment for Organising for Power Programme

PART 2 – The Results

In the previous blog we shared about the process on how we consulted with 18 individuals representing 9 organisations and grassroots groups working with refugee/migrants’ rights and advocacy services and/or tackling racism and xenophobia in Scotland to help us design the Organising for Power Programme. In this blog we will be sharing with you the results of that process.

In that one day consultation workshop the group explored

  • their aspirations and visions for change for refugees, migrants and black, minority and ethnic  communities in Scotland;
  • the major problems, their causes and consequences they face that require attention;
  • their organisations’ capacities in addressing these problems;
  • gaps in their knowledge, attitudes, and skills to effectively tackle the root causes of racism/xenophobia and/or work for refugee/migrants’ rights, and;
  • recommendations for training topics and other support or interventions needed.

The results were very telling.

In terms of the aspirations the participants have in relation to their work fighting racism/xenophobia and for refugee/migrants’ rights, participants clearly articulated a shared vision of the change they desire. They wanted positive change in the current social context where people of diversity come together, integrate and collaborate in love, acceptance, and with equal rights where there is no discrimination, borders, labelling and barriers. Though drawn in different ways, the unified message was clear.

some of the visions drawn by the participants

With regards to the barriers that hinder them from achieving their visions or the problems that refugees, migrants and BME communities face, 3 major themes emerged:

  1. Institutional discrimination: for example, lack of rights for employment and insufficient service provision;
  2. Behavioural racism: with incidents of racist behaviour by members of the public increasing in the last couple of years;
  3. Capacity limitations: the extreme precarity of living circumstances impacts individuals’ capacity to organise against injustices and a lack of resources and strategic skills in their organisations limits their impact.

With regards to their analysis of the root causes and consequences of these problems the groups identified capitalism, colonialism and greed as the core root causes of the 3 main problems identified above. One group highlighted the role of media as one of the core causes which perpetuates racist behaviour in society. Some of the other causes of the problems mentioned were fear of the ‘other’, cultural differences, maintaining existing power structures, and privileges given to a select few. While the effects or consequences of the problems include: harm, alienation, organised crime, global inequality, deprivation, internalising oppression and disempowerment. There seem to be non-linear interlinkages between the different causes and consequences of the problems. One group highlighted that the linkage between causes and consequences is a vicious cycle where root causes replicate the consequences and thus reinforce oppression. For example, fear of the ‘other’ and isolation are both seen as a cause as well as an effect of racist behaviour. The same goes for privileges for the few which can be both a cause and a consequence of institutional racism.

Problem tree analysis by 3 groups of participants

In terms of the organisational challenges they face that hinder them to effectively do their work the key barriers they identified were:

  • lack of funds and resources
  • lack of internal capacities to strengthen group processes including lack of coherent strategy
  • overstretched staff and members with precarious circumstances and limited resources to cover child care, transport costs and language classes

Key recommendations from participants for support to tackle these challenges included;

  • More focussed and skilled campaigning on how to effectively engage with and influence the system e.g. through better legal literacy, policy awareness and collaboration to increase ability to influence decision-makers;
  • Redress falsehoods about refugees/migrants in mainstream media with refugees/migrants’ voices and stories better represented;
  • Better organisational skills and linking of existing groups and strengthening volunteer bases to include more skilled professionals;
  • Strengthen skills in funding access for organisations and access to other available support services;
  • Cross cultural awareness events to errode ignorance, build empathy and understanding;
  • Welfare support and emergency fund as a safety net for struggling refugees/migrants;
  • Emotional support for refugees feeling discriminated against and downtrodden and for volunteers feeling burned-out;
  • Improved English literacy, communication skills, confidence and empowerment to be more able to engage in organisations and in public. 

There were really no big surprises on the results we gathered that day. But we were enthused with the lively and sometimes fiery discussions and high level of engagements by the participants. At one point, one group of participants emphasised the need to include people in power or authority in our campaigns while another group believes that power lies within the people and sustained mass participation is required to win campaigns. But despite some differing views on this, one thing came out consistently throughout the day – the need for small groups to collaborate together was emphasised as they believe that strength is found in numbers.

We recognise that we do not have the capacity and resources to address all the expressed needs and the recommendations that came about. But it was worthwhile to know them all to enable us to see how what we can offer fits into the bigger context. We could also signpost them to other relevant organisations.

Personally, what I found most fascinating is how Greed seems to be the root cause of many things. Maybe next time when we discuss campaign strategies we can brainstorm ideas on how greed can be tackled. Ideas anyone?