A new way of working: The idea behind the policy unit
At IPPR, we seek to play an important role in the policy ecosystem, acting as a bridge between power holders, civil society, the media and the public. Recently, we’ve been asking ourselves a couple of big questions about how we do this work. How can we best work collaboratively with others so that we have the greatest chance of securing progressive change? And how can we ensure that the people affected by policy decisions are meaningfully included in our work?
The idea for the migration policy unit came from our reflections on how our team, working on immigration policy, could step up to the challenge posed by these pertinent questions.
"it’s an unavoidable truth that the turmoil and churn in immigration policy – and politics at large – has placed an enormous amount of strain on those campaigning for change"
There are huge pressures on the migration sector, and on people going through the UK’s immigration and asylum system. The end of free movement, the ever-tightening grip of the hostile environment, and a raft of humanitarian crises, such as those seen in Afghanistan and Ukraine, have led to a challenging – to say the least – context.
Campaigners and organisations have responded with determination, and there is a lot of energy behind the movement for a fairer immigration system. But it’s an unavoidable truth that the turmoil and churn in immigration policy – and politics at large – has placed an enormous amount of strain on those campaigning for change, particularly as advocacy resources within the sector are finite.
"working together we can achieve so much more than working alone"
Over the last few years, the IPPR migration team has been increasingly working in partnership with organisations on a range of complex policy issues. To name a few, we’ve worked with Doctors of the World on NHS charging, with Crisis on EEA homelessness, and with Praxis and Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit on the experiences of people on the 10-year route to settlement.
These collaborations have cemented our belief that working together we can achieve so much more than working alone. The research and analysis that we’ve produced has underpinned the campaigns of our partners, and in turn, our relationship with frontline organisations has ensured that we’re working on the most pressing policy issues. Moreover, through these partnerships, we’ve been able to meaningfully involve people with lived experience of the UK’s immigration system in our research, analysis and media work.
Up to now, these partnerships have come about in organic ways – through the relationships we’ve built over time and in response to emerging issues. With the Migration Policy Unit, we wanted to experiment with formalising our approach to partnership working. We intend to be led by the issues cropping up in organisations up and down the country – after all, frontline organisations know very well the problems caused by policy much earlier than we otherwise might.
So how are we going about this?
At the end of last year, we sent out an email to the IMIX google group (a wonderful sector resource), inviting organisations to get in touch with us about how we might work together on campaigns for progressive change in the immigration and asylum system.
Between February and March, we spoke with almost 30 organisations about the policy issues most pressing for those they worked with, and what support we could offer to them in their efforts to secure change. There was – unsurprisingly – lots of crossover, as organisations across the country grapple with many of the same intractable issues (We’ll share more on this in our next blog post).
At the same time, we’ve set up an advisory group of people with lived and learned experiences of immigration. Meeting every other month, we’re excited to grow the Migration Policy Unit with the support of our advisory group members. We’re also prepared to be challenged by them and to have our assumptions tested – we think that our work will be all the better for it. Importantly, we’ve made honorariums available to members who are not in fulltime or secure work, as we recognise that so often people in this position are excluded from policymaking spaces.
"We’re so excited to be embarking on this programme of work in the pursuit of a fairer immigration system"
In late June, in the offices of one of our funders – the Paul Hamlyn Foundation – we presented the group with a longlist of projects that we could take forward. Drawn from all the conversations we had with organisations following our call out earlier in the year, we shared eight ideas for consideration. With their help we’re whittling down what we should take forward as our first project, as well as what we might take forward next year.
We’re so excited to be embarking on this programme of work in the pursuit of a fairer immigration system. In the coming weeks, look out for our next blog reflecting on the issues that organisations raised with us, as well as more detail about the decision we’ve made as to what our first project will be.
And, in the spirit of collaboration, please get in touch if you’d like to discuss the policy unit further – we’d love to hear from you.