On Saturday, CITIZENS for Sanctuary held an away day for leaders to help decide the priorities for the next 12 months and to start conversations about how CITIZENS for Sanctuary will function after the initial funding runs out at the end of 2011.
It was a productive afternoon and we are grateful for the leaders who joined us from the Tees Valley, West Midlands, Solent, Tyne and Wear, Plymouth, Greater Manchester and Nottingham Regional Campaign Action Teams as well as members from across London CITIZENS and the New Citizen Academy. However, we are aware that not everyone could be there and so this email briefly outlines some of the decisions and strategies that came out of Saturday’s event.
As with all Community Organising, we started with a discussion of power. How can CITIZENS for Sanctuary build its power to make us more effective at bringing about the change that we want? Each RCAT and chapter of London CITIZENS needs to consider this at a local level – whether the team needs to be more diverse, build relationships with the local media, recruit more volunteers or have their organizer run more training with them.
We also considered what issues we should be prioritised over the next 12 months. Each RCAT and team should be setting its own agenda but it was agreed that pooling our power makes us more effective and that having a joined up strategy around the problem of legal advice should be a top priority going forward this year. Leaders also considered issues around the transition period for people once they have been granted status and how the cuts will impact us locally, for instance in West Midlands the Council have decided to withdraw its provision of housing for people seeking sanctuary.
Finally, looking ahead to the next two years, the group considered the future of CITIZENS for Sanctuary. It was overwhelming felt that CITIZENS for Sanctuary should not fold at the end of this current funding stream (end of 2011) because of the effective work we have done so far, from a new reporting centre in Tees Valley to housing action in Manchester and of course ending the detention of children and families at the national level. However, leaders recognised the need for CITIZENS for Sanctuary to be learning and evolving. So, the plans for the future will consider the need to be more regionalised, to expand RCATS (some teams want to develop sponsoring committees for future broad-based organisations like London CITIZENS), to build more relationships between RCATS and chapters of CITIZENS UK and to find more nationalised action that has an over-arching target but that can be carried out at the local level.
We hope this is a helpful update. If you have any additional thoughts please email us. We have interesting times ahead so it’s important that teams are looking to develop their own unique plans for the work of CITIZENS for Sanctuary in each region. We need to build on the many successes of last 18 months and make sure we continue to develop new leaders and take on more action.