Since we launched our local community meetup group in Brighton (Help Refugees Prosper) we've learned a lot about the different types of people and organizations working to help refugees in Brighton. We also learned there is a lot of overlap and alignment that isn't being harnessed.
Many organizations are fundraising for very similar causes and needs. Many people are struggling to solve the same problems. Many initiatives are very closely aligned—albeit with small but important differences.
During our January meetup there was a strong and dominant theme:
What if we could centralize our efforts to help refugees in Brighton and in Europe?
We listened to the needs of our community and have structured February's meetup to explore that theme.
February Meetup in Brighton
Our goal for the February meetup isn't to merge a bunch of potent organizations into one dull monolithic entity. We simply want to spark conversations around crucial questions and to build small yet significant relationships:
How can we work together to help refugees prosper?
How can we maintain the unique identity of each of our initiatives while collaborating where it makes sense?
How can we leverage our existing efforts to be more effective?
How are other people dealing with the problem I am facing?
These questions reflect a core belief at Prosper that we have articulated in our Playbook: "We believe that everyone has something to teach and something to learn. Alone we can do nothing, but together, nothing is impossible."
Structure of The Event
Given the purpose of the event, we've dug around for the best facilitation techniques to allow a diverse group of people to create shared understanding about the problems at hand and to discuss ways to collaborate and centralize efforts.
As a result of our findings, we've broken the event into two major parts:
Part I: Talks
In four informal 10-minute talks, we're looking forward to hearing from four refugee community organizations who are based in Sussex and are working to help refugees. We're hoping to discover answers to three major questions for each organization:
- Why does your organization exist?
- What has your journey been like to fulfill that purpose?
- What are your biggest obstacles and needs?
We've invited the following organizations to the event:
- Citizens UK
- Sussex Syrian Community
- Brighton Sanctuary on Sea
- Brighton Migrant Solidarity
- Brighton Voices in Exile
- Sussex Refugee Solidarity
- School Bus Project (Calais)
- Be In Their Shoes
- Calais Action Brighton
- A World of Hands
- Children of Calais
- Migrant English Project
- Refugee Radio
- Refugees Welcome UK
With so many fantastic organizations in one place, there will be no shortage of information to use for discussion about how we can work together to better serve the needs of refugees.
Part II: Discussion
With loads of raw material about the refugee crisis floating around we're going to break the room into smaller parts and allow participants to ask critical questions about the topic at hand: How do we centralize refugee crisis efforts in Sussex?
Some of the questions might be as specific as "How can we work together to fundraise for Calais / Dunkirk initiatives?" or as broad as "How can we better provide English language training to refugees when they arrive?"
Each section of the room will be designated a question. Participants may move throughout the space and engage in conversation, listen and leave as they wish. Conversations may finish and new ones may start.
The takeaways from these discussions might not be massive partnerships, but they might be small relationships—which are the building blocks of any social change.
With six days until the February meetup, we're excited to host a range of participants—from founders of organizations to staff members at NGO's, and from volunteers to refugees themselves. This gathering of a diverse group of people will likely challenge the assumptions we've made about the work that we're doing and make us question the best way forward.
There are many organizations working to help these refugees here in Brighton and there are many working in Calais and Dunkirk. What can we learn from one another? What can we share?
If you're interested in learning how to contribute your skills towards helping refugees, or if you're already working to help refugees—please do come along to the Feb 22nd Meetup at 68 Middle Street: Centralizing Refugee Crisis Efforts in Sussex.
The event is from 7–9:30pm. Free beer will be provided by Bison Beer and free pizza by Fatto A Mano. A big thank you goes to Clearleft for their continued support of Prosper and the use of their Auditorium.
Hope to see you there!