The Outsider Project: Barking and Dagenham

The Power of Listening and Community Organising

anna Wednesday February 14 2018

In 2017, four teams of volunteer Migrant Leaders led action to address key issues facing migrant communities in their local areas of the UK; Boston, Oldham, Wolverhampton and Barking and Dagenham. Between them they established free ESOL classes and a migrant hub, held numerous events that brought together communities, and achieved multiple positive newspaper articles about their migrant-led initiatives. Leading this action in areas that had had a majority leave vote in the EU Referendum just months before, how did the Migrant Leaders begin to change the local negative narrative around migration so quickly?

The answer can be found in the Outsider Project, which was coordinated by the Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN) and used a participatory action research methodology to support and empower migrants to lead change in their communities. We Can Win played an important role in the design of the project’s community engagement, working with MRN to develop and deliver a plan to equip communities and volunteer Migrant Leaders with the knowledge and skills to self-organise, to identify key issues and to take effective action.

Over the course of three months, We Can Win worked with MRN to deliver the trainings, workshops and exercises:

Community Organising Training

In each of the four project locations, We Can Win helped launch the Outsider Project through the delivery of a Community Organising Training. Led by We Can Win’s team of community organisers, the trainings brought together members of the local migrant communities and explored the power of local community organising. The trainings gave concrete examples of successful community organising and explored how attendees could work together to achieve similar successes with issues affecting them, and presented the ownership the communities had to shape the project.

Migrant Leader Training

Following the Community Organising Training, We Can Win delivered a day-long Migrant Leader Training with MRN. The volunteer Migrant Leaders from all four project locations came together for training in leadership, running a Listening Campaign within their communities, and mapping community links and allies.

Listening Campaign

Over a six week period the volunteer Migrant Leaders put their training into practice and delivered a Listening Campaign in their local areas, conducting interviews using a questionnaire devised by the Migrants’ Rights Network about Brexit, UK immigration policies and their experience as a migrant living in the UK. In total, 277 migrants were interviewed across the four project locations.

Issues Workshop

At the conclusion of the Listening Campaign We Can Win delivered an Issues Workshop in each of the four project locations. Migrant communities came back together and discussed the issues that had been highlighted during the interviews and collectively selected three local key winnable issues to take forward for the remaining duration of the project (details of these issues can be found in Migrants’ Perspectives on Brexit and UK Immigration Policies.

Anna Roguski, MRN’s Outsider Project Manager, said:

‘We Can Win brought their valuable experience of leading and supporting community organising to the process of shaping and delivering the project’s approach, training and workshops. The impact of their expertise could be clearly seen in the Migrant Leaders’ confidence delivering the Listening Campaign, and their passion and commitment leading the following community action.

‘We Can Win’s approach was also invaluable to our organisation, building on the methodology we planned to use to ensure project delivery was inclusive, participatory and migrant-led.’

This approach and training ensured that the project was migrant-led, and that the volunteer Migrant Leaders and migrant communities had the skills, knowledge and support to organise and take action around the key issues they identified. Over the following six months of the project, the Migrants’ Rights Network supported them to do so; further details of the outcomes and the Outsider Project’s methodology and approach can be found in MRN’s report The Outsider Project: Empowering Local Community Organising for Migrant Led Change.