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Repository of Practices

Interconnecting Southeast and East Asians in the UK (iSEA)

Primary GCM Objectives

Secondary GCM Objectives

    6
    18
    19

GCM Guiding Principles*

*All practices are to uphold the ten guiding principles of the GCM. This practice particularly exemplifies these listed principles.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Dates

2020 - Present

Type of practice

Partnership/Multistakeholder initiative

Summary

Before the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in the UK, given many Asian diasporas’ experience in SARS, the UK Federation of Chinese Professionals (UKFCP) served as a very early alert mechanism to write to the government about the potential risks of not using face mask protection and rise in racial related community tension. Our chair introduced the concept of virtual third party reporting centre to Police Scotland, which was then formally recognized to use for victims and witnesses to report since the beginning of the anticipated rise of hate incidents.

The pandemic not only led to xenophobia and hate, but also other critical issues. In response to the urgent needs of the Chinese diaspora community, UKFCP launched its non-emergency third party national support centre in February 2020 with ten priorities most affected the community such as elderly care, resource aid, hate incident reporting, language support, mental health and career support. Soon the centre was approached for help from East and Southeast Asian communities that were also severely impacted but sometimes overlooked. Hence, UKFCP decided to extend its support to all East and Southeast Asian diaspora communities across the UK.

The centre has become the UK’s first national support centre for East and Southeast Asian communities but without financial and human capital. The centre has played a key advocacy and outreach role in providing community reassurance while worked closely with stakeholders to communication gaps between the diasporas and the public sector, reducing vulnerabilities and eliminating discriminations. The centre, later renamed to Interconnecting Southeast and East Asians in the UK (iSEA), has donated and sent personal protection equipments to vulnerable diasporas, reached out to share reassurance and useful information from public partners, provided language assistance, organized career support events, trained community volunteers, assisted hate incident victims in reporting to the police, collaborated with local authorities on individual diasporas in need, worked with other diaspora organizations and consulate general to other diaspora networks, provided befriending support and volunteering experiences to people to stay resilient and healthy.

To date, UKFCP put together all resources from building a new call centre to setting up eleven teams of over 200 volunteers in more than 20 UK cities and countries of origin, from speaking only three languages to later providing assistance in over 30 languages, from mobilizing its entire team of academic placement student ambassadors to carry out combating Covid-19 researches for Asian diaspora professionals and organizations to harnessing medical advisors’ support who are diasporas specialized in their fields including respiratory.

Organizations

Main Implementing Organization(s)

UK Federation of Chinese Professionals (UKFCP)

Detailed Information

UK Federation of Chinese Professionals (UKFCP)

Partner/Donor Organizations

Interconnecting Southeast and East Asians in the UK - iSEA

Benefit and Impact

200 diaspora volunteers in 20 UK cities, speaking 30 languages, age ranged from 19 to 76, were recruited to UK’s first national support centre for East and Southeast Asians. Some landed jobs through the help of others. Many developed empathetic and communication skills especially overseas students and new immigrants who secured jobs while volunteering.

A student ambassador was nominated HR Graduate of the Year in the UK for her centre work while others received Saltire Award recognizing their contributions from First and Deputy First Ministers of Scotland. Universities also approached to offer partnership and paid internships. E.g. University College London had more than 15 students in three capacities – volunteering, student ambassador and internship. UKFCP was first to support UK universities’ virtual volunteer fairs, while its Young Chinese Professionals UK organized a global mental health convention and its UK-China Career Fair to improve access to decent work. Partnering with University of Strathclyde, student ambassadors conducted Covid-19 related HR researches for diaspora professionals and companies. Mental Health Foundation partnered to advertize jobs to further ethical recruitment during the pandemic. The centre also organized CV workshops and mentoring while offered development experiences and recognitions for diaspora supporters.

UKFCP advocated on the need for joint efforts in reducing inequalities and discriminations at platforms including Metropolitan Police Service’s Chinese and Southeast Asian Forum, Deputy Mayor of London’s community meeting, National Hate Crime Awareness Week, iDiaspora’s Global Diaspora Virtual Exchange, GFMD, Congress of Migration Fair, African Diaspora Summit and International Dialogue on Migration. The concept of virtual third party reporting was introduced to and registered with Police Scotland, which was promoted across the UK and taken reference by many diaspora organizations. Thereafter, there were more help for affected communities e.g. UK parliamentary debate, new Police hate crime form, immigrant integration project, civil society grants, community training and consultations, anti-xenophobia campaigns and hate crime reporting has become an important mechanism welcomed by Mayor of London. Thousands of diasporas and organizations were offered reassurance and PPEs donated to vulnerable diasporas in remote locations. UKFCP initiated and co-convened the joint statement in solidarity with victims affected by xenophobia and discriminations due to Covid-19, supported by IOM and issued with 230 diaspora organizations from over 100 countries. The statement led to diaspora organizations coming together to establish Global Diaspora Confederation.

Impacts were measured against how communities were supported at personal, community and national levels. With its published progress report and later 830 anonymous incident records analyzed to address diasporas’ needs, now the centre begins its second two years.

Key Lessons

Lack of financial support was the main challenge during implementation and the dynamic situation the pandemic presented also affected the stability of human resources for the centre. Volunteers also went through different life challenges during the pandemic and it takes an immense effort for find volunteers who have both the time and passion. This happens often to diaspora organizations that is very people dependent. Therefore, the centre had to focus heavily on ensuring its human resources team performs. This proved to have brought a degree of sustainability to the centre for it to focus on responding to other important aspects such as community priorities and organization operation. It is always effective to start with some financial capital but the pandemic urgency did not allow such space unless support is delayed.

With strengthened support now available at national and international levels, initiatives can be better supported and promoted that could in return increase the level of support received at regional and local levels. While it is easier said than done, it is better for diaspora initiatives to have financial resilience especially during crisis. In other words, having innovative contingencies to ringfence important parts of the initiatives should be considered by all diaspora organizations.

Recommendations(if the practice is to be replicated)

You will need a passionate, full-time and all-rounded leader who is able to strategize the practice while strong in execution. The leader needs to be prepared to step in to help with any issues whether on quality assurance or leadership decision or brand management. This leader also needs a strong team starting with HR Talent Acquisition. Unless you have someone even more passionate than you to take over your role, otherwise you will need to be that inspiring leader to walk the walk.

Innovation

Community centre is not a new practice. But virtualizing it to deliver what a physical centre could not do might have be an innovative approach. Its operation had much less geographical limitations, which was able to switch from local to national and vice versa within two months. We saw partnerships, volunteers, communications and events were all achieved digitally. The practice of UKFCP’s national support centre brought together 200 diaspora volunteers across the UK. When the practice was adopted by a charity with UN ECOSOC status in Cameroon, the national support centre there brought together over 1100 volunteers across the world. These two national support centres had different community priorities but it was a clear example of how a practice has catalyzed new initiatives at a larger scale. Whether it was a support or a community centre, the practice still needed to sustain financially and human capitally. Different management skills were required to adapt to the changing circumstances posed by any crisis including the Covid-19 pandemic in the space of online volunteering. When online volunteers became flexible and inconsistent, management teams needed to adjust themselves to take ownership to sustain the practice. The change in volunteers’ expectations had to be monitored as volunteers / supporters may also go through difficult life challenges. Therefore, the sustainable approach was to ensure the practice actively searched for new passionate staff and volunteers who believe long term impact can only be made happen with long term commitment.

Nevertheless, for virtual third party reporting mechanism, it is an adoptable practice for many countries with a higher level of trust in public authorities. With a empathetic and organized team, the mechanism can be linked with the public authorities to enhance greater community trust, close more communication gaps, and create long term partnership for all.

Media

UKFCP National Support Centre - East Asian Team 英国华专会全国援助中心东亚组

UKFCP National Support Centre - East Asian Team 英国华专会全国援助中心东亚组

Date submitted:

31 March 2022

Disclaimer: The content of this practice reflects the views of the implementers and does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations, the United Nations Network on Migration, and its members.

 

 

*References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).