In an increasingly challenging migration environment underpinned by global political instability, protracted conflicts, increasing economic insecurity and a resurgence of nationalist sentiments across Europe, there is urgency for effective leadership in the migration sector. Such leadership needs to be reflective of contemporary realities of issues and societies whilst strategically focused on the bigger picture and long term challenges.
In the development of this leadership response, people with lived experience of migration play an integral part recognising and building on their experiences. This shift from being ‘recipients’ of leadership to ‘Givers’ of leadership would add significant value to leadership and service delivery experiences across the sector.
It is against this backdrop that Migrant Action hosted a Leadership Development consultative workshop in Leeds organised by Migration Exchange as part of a national consultation on Leadership and Development in the Migration sector. Workshop participants from the Refugee Council, Leeds City Council, HANA project-Hull, Migrants Organise, MERMEC and Migrant Action shared experiences (personal and organisational).
Participants recognising the value of good leadership in ensuring quality service delivery, growth and sustainability acknowledged that leadership development does not often constitute ‘investment priority’ for most organisations who are struggling with small budgets. Ever limited funds prioritise frontline service provision responding to client needs rather than staff leadership development. Therefore, funders have a role in shaping organisational cultures and attitudes towards leadership development.
Participants also reinforced concerns about the lack of diversity in leadership in the sector acknowledging that too many organisations in the sector have leadership and governance structures/personnel that do not reflect the communities they serve. They observed this trend reflected a wider structural problem of prejudice, discrimination and racism which is under serving people of lived experience of migration and other groups. This needs to be acknowledged within organisations and leadership take responsibility in systematically addressing it. There was also recognition that people of lived experience need to get better in mobilising and organising themselves in order to be able to influence and achieve the change they seek.
Finally, the model for delivering leadership development needs to fundamentally change. A real shift is required towards a more inclusive, nurturing, empowerment and sustainability-led model. At the heart of the new model must be a thriving partnership between migration and other sectors. Equally, a good partnership with migrant communities to identify, develop and embed good leadership.
Migrant Action will continue working with Migration Exchange on this consultation whilst continuing conversations with local partners.