Jones, Patricia A (2010)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
This thesis was based on five multi-agency, urban Partnerships at the heart of the Accommodate Project: An initiative that set out to stimulate grassroots resolution to the problem of refugee housing, settlement and integration, at a time when large numbers of people were arriving seeking asylum in the UK. Refugee Community Organisations (RCOs) were engaged by the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust (hact) to work alongside housing providers, local authority partners and others, for three years in five cities where refugees were struggling to find permanent housing. My original contribution to knowledge concerned study of the Partnerships from the perspective of organisations working with the most socially excluded, the RCOs. The Partnerships created a structure where power could be brokered. Research was conducted in a critical realist tradition in order to discover the relationship between emerging themes. Connections made between structural barriers and local interaction meant this approach presented a bigger picture view that other methodologies might have overlooked. A longitudinal methodology tracked progression from the marginalised position that was the starting point for many RCOs, struggling to survive and fill the gaps in service provision for community members. By the end of the Project, RCO partners had changed attitudes, improved access to housing services and transformed institutional relations between social housing providers and refugees. Hact’s support for RCO capacity building was fundamental to their being able to influence the agenda, define the solutions and participate in policy decision-making. The Accommodate Project created a learning space that countered marginalisation by actively involving community groups in cross-sector partnerships. This study demonstrates that community empowerment is an accumulative yet uneven process. A participatory approach allows less engaged groups to learn quickly from those that are better established. If the intention of community empowerment is to lead to fundamental change, the role of active management strategies by a catalyst such as hact is paramount. The thesis deploys and develops theories of community empowerment and network management to conceptualise the social inclusion of marginalised groups.
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