For all charities it’s important to show funders, supporters and all those they work with that they are making a positive difference. It’s no surprise there has been a trend in recent years to not just produce annual reports but to publish detailed annual impact reports to showcase successes and achievements.
At the Refugee Council we are no exception. Our latest 2020/21 impact report shows we supported nearly 15,000 refugees and people seeking asylum last year, including providing 3,400 children, who arrived in the UK alone, with vital information, advice and help. We also supported thousands of refugees with help to learn English, find a home and return to work. Our report includes a range of powerful real stories, such as that of Dr Attayee from Afghanistan who, having faced death threats, fled to the UK alone with nothing in 2012 and is now living in Hampshire finishing his GP training.
Our latest impact report, however, does not just focus on all we have achieved – including our work to build a more compassionate public and political narrative about those who come to our shores seeking safety. It also highlights where we need to do better. Being transparent about this is important as it shows we recognise that we must always seek to learn and strive to improve if we are to have a greater impact.
We’ve identified four key areas that require us to go further, many of them related to the delivery of our new strategy to 2025.
Firstly, our approach to including those with lived experience in all we do is not as good as it should be. Several of our projects have a clear focus on this, and our frontline work is very much centred on empowering refugees. But we know that, as an organisation, we do not have a shared understanding of what we mean by lived experience, what we want to achieve in this area nor a comprehensive, resourced plan to deliver it. So, we have prioritised developing an organisational approach and delivery plan as well as ensuring our board of trustees includes people with lived experience.
Secondly, we know we can do better as an organisation on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). We have always been committed to EDI and have an engaged EDI cross-organisation staff group, yet taking concrete action that feels meaningful to all our staff remains a challenge. Our staff don’t believe we are dramatically failing on EDI, but would like to see more firm action that everyone can be a part of. For this reason, EDI will be a critical priority for us over the coming year.
Thirdly, our impact report shows that we do collect data on outputs but that we can improve reporting on our outcomes for those we support. Establishing and transparently reporting on meaningful outcomes has not been easy. Working out how best to capture them has also been more difficult than we expected. We have learned that demonstrating our impact is far more complicated than we anticipated not least because it requires us to change how we record data and adopt a different mind-set. Despite this we are committed to developing a new high-level outcomes framework for all our services to demonstrate the real difference we make to the people we exist to support.
Finally, we have learned that we need to give greater priority to our infrastructure to ensure that our staff and volunteers are able to do the best job possible. We are not complacent about the fact that we don’t have all the right systems and processes in place. For example, we are reviewing our safeguarding practice so that learning, development and continuous practice improvement is at the heart of our approach. We are also going to put in place a digital HR system, a first class fundraising database and move to an improved IT system.
These areas for improvement are challenging, but they are critical to address as we move forward as an organisation. We’re not afraid to be open and honest about what we need to improve or do differently, alongside celebrating our brilliant successes. By doing so, we believe we can deliver far greater impact for all those we work with.