NACCOM’s Community Researcher group was established in March 2021 to provide a space for people with lived experience of immigration control to research, analyse and present solutions to destitution in our communities.

Community Researchers are NACCOM volunteers who discuss the areas of destitution, homelessness, and migration that they wish to collectively research and NACCOM supports the group to undertake ethical, safe and impactful research.

After 6 months and with research underway, a planned review process has been conducted to evaluate the programme. Here, Community Researchers share key learnings from the programme.

A close group is supportive

The group was really very good – We have got connected now. We are very supportive of each other. We take notes for each other. We explain things to each other very freely like we are brother and sister. The best thing is that even though it is online we have had this kind of bonding. It is good to engage with people particularly in the lockdown time as it was good for my mental health – most of the time I am alone in my house – so meeting with people regularly has been really positive.

– Sarah

Clarity of roles, responsibilities and support

As a person going through the immigration system you don’t know how it works. Support providers like Local Authorities and charities don’t explain what is happening or what the process is and that can be disorientating. When you join an organization as an ‘expert-by-experience’ it is really important to know what your role involves and what support is on offer. The first and foremost thing is to have introduction to understand the organization, your responsibilities and what kind of support is on offer and how it might help you in the future. This needs to be really clear and you need to keep reminding people on what’s available and what’s expected of people. It is all about having clarity.

– Luna

Importance of a safe space

For research to be a true reflection of how immigration challenges and shapes lives it needs to involve people who have experienced destitution. The true impact of destitution is incapacitating, financially, physicality and emotionally. You are wrestling with need for shelter but feeling you do not deserve support. A lot of people who have gone through homelessness and immigration feel that you need to protect yourself and not speak out as you worry you will be seen as demanding, ungrateful or seen as someone who can cause trouble. That is why it is important to create an environment where people are comfortable to talk. For our research there is still a power dynamic as our experiences are similar yet different. That can mean it is hard to feel confident. As a group we have created a space that is very safe. For me that is due to the way we have shared the planning and facilitation. You felt so safe that you ended up expressing yourself.

– Geo

Working Together Builds Confidence

Because I don’t have public speaking skills that has been challenging. I know what I want to say but I find it hard to get the right words and having the confidence to speak. Doing the meeting every week has helped me improve. I am getting used to it. That comes from speaking to more and more people. I didn’t even know the word ‘Facilitation’ before I got involved! We take turns to facilitate the group and work together to plan the work we are doing. One thing I believe is that facilitating improves my confidence so I am really enjoying it.

– Kas

The power of shared experience in research

NACCOM gave me hope since I started volunteering in 2018 until now.  The training has been really important. We learnt how to conduct interviews on camera and Audio and how to answer questions from the media or in public as a lived experience Asylum Seeker. NACCOM has helped a lot of people without accommodation through its members network and harnessing this experience in research can help us to ask the right questions and build the evidence that we need to change immigration policies for the better. The government should start listening to NACCOM service providers and the people they support as these are people who have the experience of how the system works.

– Nico

Creating change motivates us

Policy has to change. We talk to people so we have the understandings of what is happening. The part that is really powerful for me is that we can make the change. Generally, I want to change Immigration – as a person who is a minority and a person of colour then it is more of a problem to me. As a group and as NACCOM we need to look at the thing that effects people the most and figure it out. Even if we can make the smaller changes it will help people. We need to look at what is achievable, where we put our energy to and what is with NACCOM’s strategy. We need to set where are direction should be so that we can make the system better.

– J.A.