Research Matchmaking: Linking the Demand and Supply of Research Expertise for Migrant Support in the UK and US

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

This project aims to develop an online exchange and forum that allows migrant support groups and individual researchers in the UK and US to connect, identify matching research needs and skills, and collaborate in completing projects that are relevant and beneficial to both migrant support groups and researchers. Specifically, the project involves:






  • Development of a searchable website where:
    1) migrant support groups can list information, project, and research needs
    2) university-based post-graduate and professional academics/researchers can upload a profile identifying interests and areas of expertise.


  • Development of a series of interactive tutorials and downloadable materials geared towards promoting effective collaborations throughout the research process. Materials will draw on participatory research principles and methods, which emphasize active, ongoing engagement by research partners throughout the research process. Materials may include sample research agreements, step-by-step guides to participatory practices, case studies of project successes, and practical as well as ethical guidelines.




This project will impact the migrant support sector by facilitating the completion of relevant research and by improving their research capacity. It is intended that the website will become self-sustaining with continued use by researchers and migrant support groups beyond the 12-month life of this project.


Planned Impact

Who will benefit from the project?

There are four key beneficiary groups from this project. First and most importantly we hope that migrants to the US and UK will benefit from the project. Second, migrant support groups will benefit from the project. Third, it is our intention that researchers, through working in meaningful partnership with migrant support groups, will benefit from the project. And, fourthly, university departments and centres involved in the project will also benefit.

How will they benefit?

Migrants will benefit because migrant support groups will be more knowledgeable about their needs. Part of the impact of funding cuts in the sector is a paucity of funding available for migrant support groups to conduct their own research about where migrants are located, what needs they have and how these needs are impacted by current social, economic and political conditions (Gill et al, 2012). By creating the online architecture to connect disparate researchers with migrant support groups, the research will empower migrant support groups in their work to support migrants themselves.

Migrant support groups will benefit by being able to demonstrate to their funders that they have found a way to save money as well as to target their resources more effectively on the basis of bespoke research that addresses their knowledge gaps.

Researchers will benefit from the process of work with and for migrants support groups. One of the strengths of the participatory research methodology that we are seeking to nurture through this project is that it can be transformative for researchers who gain insight and inspiration into a socially relevant area of action.

University departments will benefit by being able to show that their researchers are engaged in research that is making a difference and having an impact outside the academic context.

Publications

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Description This project set out to create the online architecture that will allow researchers to address the needs of migrant support groups (MSGs). This was to be achieved by creating a 'research matchmaking' website that allowed MSGs to post their research needs online, so that researchers, including professional academics and students, could pick them up and address them in their research. The website was also intended to feature a facility through which researchers could offer their time and skills to MSGs. The project was designed according to the principles of participatory research.

We are delighted to report that the website is firmly on track to achieve these objectives, despite various unforeseen challenges occurring en route. The website has now had over 6,000 visitors and boasts seven full projects listed in the 'projects seeking researchers' section and ten researcher profiles in the 'researcher seeking projects' section. This engagement is the fruit of presentations at high profile events such as the ESRC-funded seminar on immigration detention at the University of Oxford in March 2014, the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers in Tampa in 2014, the Centre for Migration Studies in New York City and the South West migration forum, UK, in October 2014. There are plans to increase the numbers of projects and researcher profiles even further over the coming months via a programme of activities, well beyond what was set out in our objectives, that includes presenting and demonstrating at a national event for migrant support groups, the 'Sanctuary Summit' to be held in Birmingham on 15th November 2014.

The challenges that we have encountered along the way include the named web developer on the proposal not taking on this sort of work any longer and our having to tender for a new one which put the project back significantly, the Co-I taking a new post and going on maternity leave (and maintaining nevertheless full commitment to the project), and a series of technical issues such as the formatting, sequencing and security of the website requiring modifications after the initial launch. In the face of these challenges, though, we have developed and utilised a very strong core team network that includes the website developers based at the University of Leeds, as well as a wider team of volunteer students, both Ph.D and BA, as well as support staff.

Additionally, the website has been met with an overwhelmingly positive response and interest from MSGs both in the UK and in the US. Comments from non-academic organisation communicating with us about the site include: 'This is incredible', 'It (the website) looks fascinating and I'm looking forward to going over the website and the opportunities it creates', 'We are interested in collaborating with other researchers and migrant support groups and the website, based on my quick assessment so far, seems very promising' and 'It sounds like a useful tool'.

The main achievements include:
1) A new innovative methodology that harnesses the internet and online connectivity to generate research projects with a participatory element. This is the core contribution of the project which represents a substantial opportunity for the sector and for researchers.

2) Hugely increased capacity to generate timely and relevant collaborations and partnerships between MSGs and researchers in the future. In addition to greatly expanding research capacity among MSGs, the project enhances the knowledge transfer capabilities of university-based academics and researchers.

3) To date, up to 17 new research collaborations and partnerships as a result of the generation of the site.
Exploitation Route The website is now a permanent, free, open access resource for researchers and MSGs to use into the future. Aspects of the site that are particularly noteworthy include:

• The two tabs on the landing page entitled 'researchers seeking projects' and 'projects seeking researchers' - these are the two main, message-able tile-style forums that facilitate the matchmaking elements of the project.

• Behind these are two more tabs - 'add a project' and 'add a profile' which is open to any registered user. It should be noted that registration is free and is only there to allow us to control spam messages and security threats.

• The 'resources' section of the site which includes action packs and orientation material to help collaborators get the most out of their collaborations. These packs cover collaboration, ethics, confidentiality, memoranda of understanding and links to useful websites.

• The 'how to search this site' section which provides detailed guidance on how to search the website for users in order to optimise the quality of user engagement.

• The 'read this first' instructions which provide a clear, user-friendly orientation to the site.

It is the PI and Co-I's expectation that the use of the website will increase systematically as it is rolled out in the years to come and its profile grows. This will require some input from the PI and Co-I, but it is input that we are willing to undertake, including: i) to manage the security and integrity of the site itself and ii) to periodically advertise to students and MSGs. Were additional resources available, we would devote time to strategic communications via social media in order to ensure wide spread dissemination of information about the matchmaker website. Our expectation is that MSGs and researchers will continue to benefit from this site via the formation of participatory research matches in years to come.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

URL http://www.asylum-network.com
 
Description The asylum-network match making site (available here) was designed to put researchers and the academic community in touch with migrant support groups so that researchers could be informed by the needs of the sector at an early stage in its design. This project ran over 2013 and 2014 on a modest budget, in order to construct a website that would allow this matching to take place. The project has been successful in the following respects. First, the website itself was constructed via close collaboration with the University of Leeds and the team at Leeds managed to include a variety of interactive features of the site that have worked well, such as allowing comments on posted entries and allowing posters to attach multi-media such as images to their posts. Second, the team also faced some technical challenges such as how to prevent spamming on the site, and have done a good job of creating the required security for the site. Third, the site itself has attracted roughly equal numbers of researcher and non-academic posts representing a wide variety of different projects and approaches from across the migrant support sector and the academic community. Alongside these successes, the project has also fed into the sustained engagement of the asylum-network group with non-academic migrant support groups. During the project, for example, asylum-network was invited to join the Detention Forum, a group of organisations working on immigration detention related issues. The invitation to join this forum came during the event at which the match-maker was launched in Oxford University on 25th March 2014 at a workshop on everyday life in immigration detention. Since then, asylum-network has contributed to the submission of the Judicial Oversight working group of the Detention Forum to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Immigration Detention, published in March 2015 (available here). Asylum-network also wrote its own submission to the inquiry, which was cited in the Parliamentary report, using guidance made available through the Detention Forum. The asylum-network research matchmaker has therefore served as an effective catalyst of academic and non-academic co-working in the field of migration support.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Launch Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A Launch Event Organised at the Unviersity of Oxford to coincide with the third seminar in the ESRC's seminar series entitled 'Exploring Everyday Practice and Resistance in Immigration Detention'. The launch event will introduce the matchmaking site to over 60 activsits and migrant support organisations present. The event will be held at The Cube, Oxford Unviersity, on 25th March.

During the project asylum-network was invited to join the Detention Forum, a group of organisations working on immigration detention related issues. The invitation to join this forum came during the event at which the match-maker was launched in Oxford University on 25th March 2014 at a workshop on everyday life in immigration detention. Since then, asylum-network has contributed to the submission of the Judicial Oversight working group of the Detention Forum to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Immigration Detention, published in March 2015. Asylum-network also wrote its own submission to the inquiry, which was cited in the Parliamentary report, using guidance made available through the Detention Forum.

The asylum-network research matchmaker has therefore served as an effective catalyst of academic and non-academic co-working in the field of migration support.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://immigration-detention-seminar-series.org/105-2/