Co-creating system change for refugees 

Article by:  
Richard Thickpenny  
Business Development Manager | ACH Bristol 
We have recently received funding to deliver a collective impact initiative, focusing on driving system change in refugee integration. Our aim is to upskill refugees onto career paths along which they which they can progress in rather than the typical entry-level job route that condemns them to a life stuck in a poverty trap. 
 
Earlier this year, a report by the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) and the Runnymede Trust found that Bristol ranked among the worst cities in the UK for education and employment inequality between White British and ethnic minorities. 
 
From this report and others in a similar vein it is clear refugee integration ties into wider issues of race equity. Tackling these problems requires system change at a regional and national level, which cannot be achieved by one organisation acting alone. 
 
The necessary cohesion does not yet exist in the West of England, where the landscape for refugee support services can be described as 'programme rich but system poor'. More people can be helped, and more value brought to the community, if these efforts align rather than compete. 
 
While discussion and research around racial equity and refugee integration is frequent in Bristol, strategic actions need to be taken to tackle this long-standing issue. There is a sense among many stakeholders in the area that we need actions, not just words, and a structured approach to making a genuine difference. We believe that Collective Impact is the way to do this. 
 
As reported in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the success of a Collective Impact approach relies on five key conditions: 
 
1. A common agenda to align efforts and define each organisation’s commitment. 
2. Shared measurement systems, which formalise the common agenda into a set of indicators, allowing success to be  
measured. 
3. Mutually reinforcing activities. Though efforts should be aligned, organisations should not be doing the same thing. Instead,  
each effectively addresses a different part of the same problem. 
4. Continuous communication to build trust and coordinate efforts, with frequent and structured meetings. 
5. “Backbone” support organizations. Neutral parties of experts on the issue, which guide and inform all other groups involved. 
 
We believe that refugee resettlement and integration is too complex an issue to be effectively tackled by individual organisations. If we apply Collective Impact best practice, we will see real, measurable change. 
 
This new innovative project will be launching in the New Year. We have great hopes for organisations to partner with us to create a systemic change that will bend both policy and resources to impact on refugee communities. Our collective impact working group will initially operate in Bristol, where we will identify and work with major employers, organisations and key decision makers. 
 
If you want to be a part of the community engagement that overthrows the current system of integrating refugees, please contact richard.thickpenny@ashleyhousing.com or to find out more, read our blogs on Collective Impact and creating a Shared Vision
 
 
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