Empowerment

MRCI’s community work is about the empowerment of individuals and migrant communities to address the unequal distribution of power, supporting individuals to link their lived experiences with an analysis of power and structural inequality and encouraging a move from individual experience to collective concern. In MRCI this happens through action groups like the Domestic Workers Action Group and issue-based campaign groups. These spaces enable migrants to collectivise their experiences, form an analysis, identify solutions and work together with MRCI for change. Leadership development is a core part of this empowerment work. Click here to return to Community Work portal.

  • Practice Principles

    MRCI Community Work, Empowerment Graphics by Form.ie Community work is about the empowerment of individuals and communities, and addressing the unequal distribution of power. It is about working with people to enable them to become critical, creative, liberated, and active participants, allowing and enabling them to take more control of the direction of their lives, their communities and their environment. It aims to effect a sharing of power to create structures that provide genuine participation and involvement. It is a process based on mutual respect and equal and genuine partnership between all those involved to enable a sharing of talents, experiences and expertise. Sharing and building power with migrants to develop skills, analysis and confidence to take action to build real and critical participation in solutions for change is key to success.


  • Community workers have a responsibility to:


    • MRCI Community Work Practice Graphics by Form.ieAcknowledge, value and build on people’s lives, situations, skills, knowledge and experience.
    • Work with people to build an understanding and analysis of their reality through consciousness raising that creates the conditions for collective analysis of the issues affecting them and results in the identification of ways to overcome these issues.
    • Work with people to build confidence and self-esteem as pre-requisites to supporting them to undertake action.
    • Have an analysis of power and how it is acquired, sustained and applied.
    • Recognise power inequalities and seek to address them. This may involve work towards change in existing structures to ensure they embrace the empowerment of individuals and communities.
    • Work with communities to develop informal and formal networks, and create alliances that support the achievement of collective goals.
    • Be reflective and conscious of personal power and perceptions of it, and strive to use it appropriately.
    • Work in partnership with communities to achieve outcomes in line with the issues they have identified.
    • Identify and deal appropriately with conflict when it arises and support individuals, groups and communities to deal with conflict.
    • Be prepared to challenge power imbalances in order to promote greater minority participation at all levels.

      Illustrations by Form Design


  • Your role as a community worker working with migrants:


    • Inform yourself about the realities i.e. the burning issues facing migrants and their families in Ireland
    • Work in a collective (group setting) to engage migrants in an analysis of issues. This may start in the sharing of problems and stories but should move on to a collective analysis of the issues identifying common needs and solutions and taking action together.
    • Work towards the collective outcomes for all migrants in Ireland i.e. moving on from individual problem solving to a collective agenda.
    • MRCI Community Work Practice Graphics by Form.ieUse participative and innovative ways to collectivise experiences.
    • Build power with people you are working with by enabling migrants to develop knowledge, skills and confidence to address issues through collective action e.g. leadership skills, media training, understanding the Irish political system.
    • Take action collectively on issues of concern. Ensure this action is planned, well thought through and regularly reflected upon i.e. develop a campaign strategy.
    • Regularly reflect, review, evaluate and reset priorities and objectives.
    • Be clear about the change being sought, informed by a critical analysis and underpinned by the active participation of migrants impacted by the issue that change is sought on.
    • Collaborate, build alliances and solidarity with allies and stakeholders to build power for change.
    • Develop innovative and creative approaches to working with communities
    • Reflect and learn from success and failure and share good practice

     Illustrations by Form Design


  • Leadership Development Courses

     

    Empowerment; participation; collective action; community work model

    Successful collective action requires strong leadership. At MRCI we continually seek out and nurture migrant leaders. Over the years, we have organised many workshops and residential sessions aimed at developing skills, knowledge and analysis in areas such as communications, community work, campaigning and lobbying. Migrants active in campaigns and action groups are supported to develop their leadership skills through participation in collective forums as well as more structured leadership programmes and sessions. Leadership development is a core area of all campaign planning in order to support new leaders to emerge, to take greater ownership of the work and enable greater representation around issues of concern. In addition, when resources allow MRCI organises structured leadership development courses or programmes; two examples are shared here.


  • Community Work in a Changing Ireland – accredited community work course for migrants

    NUI Maynooth LogoIn collaboration with the Department of Applied Social Studies, NUI Maynooth, we devised and ran a nationally accredited community work course for 22 migrant participants in 2009. We feel that as a national organisation concerned with equality we have a responsibility to create avenues for migrants themselves to become professional community workers. The participants included seven MRCI activists as well as other non-EU immigrants who were already involved with ethnic minority groups or community organisations around the country, either as employees or on a voluntary basis.

    The 22 holders of the Certificate in Community Work can progress to professional degree level studies. Three of the MRCI migrant activists who completed the course subsequently became members of our board. Several participants gained employment in a social justice organisation. The Certificate in Community Work has been replicated across the country by other organisations.


  • Leadership Sunday Sessions

    MRCI Community Work Practice Graphics by Form.ieIn 2011/2012 MRCI and SIPTU organised a series of leadership development workshops aimed at activists and workplace leaders from an immigrant background. This work was initiated by MRCI under its European Integration Fund programme of activities and supported by the Department of Applied Social Studies in NUI Maynooth. Twenty-four leaders participated in the workshops from across a number of campaign groups: MRCI's Justice for the Undocumented, Campaign to Criminalise Forced Labour, Domestic Workers Action Group and Restaurant Workers Action Group, and SIPTU's A Fair Deal for Cleaners and The Red Meat Sector Campaign.


  • Three one day ‘leadership Sunday sessions’ were organised around the themes of:


    • Understanding and tackling discrimination and racism,
    • Developing a critical power analysis
    • Exploring leadership; impact as a leader; supporting leadership development.

    Empowerment; participation; collective action; community work model

     

    The purpose of these leadership sessions was to:

    • Build relationships and connections amongst migrant leaders and activists active in MRCI and SIPTU’s work
    • Enable leaders to recognise and understand multiple forms of discrimination especially gender, racism and social status
    • Support migrant leaders to develop the skills and analysis necessary to  take on greater responsibility and representation on ongoing campaigns
    • Strengthen and deepen MRCI and SIPTU’s leadership development work and ongoing collaboration
    • Build worker power and solidarity

  • Learning points in using leadership development to support empowerment work

    Leaders and activists often emerge organically through the work but a commitment to supporting learning and skill development has been key in enabling empowered, informed and skilled leaders to emerge. This can be fostered through:

    • MRCI Community Work Practice Graphics by Form.ieAllow time and resources for leadership courses that help collective analysis to emerge. These must focus on consciousness raising and politicisation process and not be pitched at individual personal development
    • Building analysis and skill development into the work of ongoing groups through sharing tasks, jobs, allocating responsibilities is a key part of the empowerment process.
    • Sharing power, analysis and information in an ongoing way that empowers migrants to take leadership on issues and representative roles, must give time to ensure preparation and de-briefing after key events/meeting/actions/activities.
    • Leadership spaces and courses should be organised using community work principles, with facilitated and participative learning workshops, field trips and residential sessions as opposed to the use of traditional lectures.
    • A focus on power analysis and values is key to support this empowerment process as well as build solidarity on broader social justice issues, migrant rights and human rights.

     Illustrations by Form Design


  • Undocumented Migrants & Supporters Make a Human Shamrock


  • We have over ten years' experience of using community work to empower migrants and build collective action. Here are some of the resources we've developed over the years - please help yourself! Click the red title to view each document.

    Leadership Development: The sharing of skills, analysis and knowledge forms is a key part of MRCI’s empowerment work with migrants. This gives an overview of the leadership development content we use in training.

    A Tool for Campaign Messaging: Leaders need to be on message. Click here to download a useful tool for getting on message and doing media preparation work.

    Checklist for Choosing an Issue: Encourage leaders and activists to think before we act. This checklist helps with choosing an issue to campaign on.

    For a full list of our community work resources, please click the Resources tab of the Community Work portal.