PRESS RELEASE - 3 MAY 2022
Evaluation of We Belong's campaign win identifies key role played by 'lived experience activists'; a 'pragmatic and incremental approach' to change; and 'clear, authentic' messaging.
We Belong - the young-migrant-led charity set up in 2019 - used a range of campaign tactics to persuade the Home Office to halve the length of time those who came to the UK as children have to wait before being recognised as permanently 'settled' here.
The policy change announced by the Home Office in October 2021 in response to We Belong's campaign means thousands of young people growing up in the UK can apply for permanent settlement after five years of 'limited leave to remain', rather than waiting at least a decade.
An evaluation report* published today, written by Fiona Bawdon, We Belong's longstanding comms consultant and director of Impact - Law for Social Justice, aims to analyse 'the mix of campaign tools, tactics, values, resources and expertise (in house and external) that led to We Belong's success'. It is based on interviews with more than a dozen We Belong staff, volunteers, MPs, and external advisers, who all played a part in securing reform of the limited leave to remain process.
The report quotes a lawyer and a public affairs consultant who describe We Belong as: 'the biggest success story in the immigration sector in 10-15 years' (page 5); and 'one of the only migration-related organisations progressing their long-term aims to improve the situation for migrants at the moment.' (page 24).
Report author Fiona Bawdon writes (page 8-9):
Alongside lived-experience leadership, direct work and community building, the other key weapon in We Belong's armoury has been its emphasis on the individual stories of young migrants who are living with limited leave to remain.....For We Belong, story telling is part of its DNA, rather than a bolt-on. CEO and founder Chrisann Jarrett describes it as using "our lived experience narrative as a mobilisation tool, and to develop a community of young migrants facing a shared in justice".
Chrisann Jarrett, We Belong founder and CEO, says:
Our success shows that change is possible, and that lived-experience activists can make uniquely powerful advocates for themselves and others in the same situation. However, it is essential that funders and other organisations recognise the toll this work can take on young migrants, and that it needs to be done with great care, and appropriate wellbeing support.
Key factors which contributed to We Belong's success include:
1) Building the campaign and organisation around lived experience.
At every stage of We Belong's campaign, all key decisions were made by young migrants with experience of being on the 10-year limited leave to remain path to settlement (page 11-12)
2) Clear, consistent and authentic messaging.
The focus of We Belong's messaging was always positive, highlighting the great potential of the young migrants whose lives were blighted by the cost and length of limited leave to remain, rather than on the scale of injustice they were facing (page 13-14).
3) Cross-party parliamentary strategy.
We Belong recognised that to bring about legislative change, its campaign would need to appeal to Conservative MPs, and adapting its approach and messaging accordingly (page 14-15).
4) Collaboration and building genuine relationships
The group was careful to forge strong links with like-minded groups and individuals; while also plotting its own singular path that reflected the interests of the young migrants it represents (page 15-16).
5) Knowing when to bring in external expertise
A strength of the campaign was the flexibility to call on help from public affairs consultants and other external experts to fill gaps in its knowledge as its parliamentary campaign progressed (page 16).
6) Integrating comms
Campaign advocacy was centred around the experiences of individual young migrants, who are given time and support to tell their own stories about living with limited leave to remain (page 16-17).
7) Pragmatism and incrementalism
We Belong focused on a winnable campaign ask - reducing the length of limited leave to remain from 10 years to five year - that would directly benefit the cohort of young migrants it was set up to represent, rather than a broader, less achieveable goal; entering discussions with the Home Office in good faith (page 17-18).
* We Belong Campaign Evaluation: How a 'small but mighty' team of young migrants won a fairer, shorter, path to settlement.