Friday 17th February marked an invigorating event for an even bigger, empowering occasion still yet to come. It was the conference for the annual Refugee Week, held in none another than the Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre in London. The day held talks and discussions for what else is in store for Refugee Week 2017, which is taking place between 19th-25th June – dates to be added to the diary.

People from various organisations uniting to make Refugee Week 2017 a success

Starting in 2009, and falling as close to Refugee Day (June 20th) as possible, Refugee Week celebrates the array of wonderful and deeply meaningful contributions of refugees in the UK, and many other countries, as well as to spread the message that refugees are welcome and valued here.

It was extremely rewarding to be in the presence of a like-minded, determined group of people who are eager to make Refugee Week 2017 a HUGE success. The first to welcome us to the conference was Morice Wren, Chairman of the Refugee Council, who shared with us an insight into the impact that we are making on the lives of not only refugees, but communities as a whole. In his opening speech, he stated: “Today is about solidarity… about building momentum for our movement for change.”

“Today is about solidarity… about building momentum for our movement for change.”

Notwithstanding, the week will no doubt be a challenge, particularly regarding the current geo-political climate in which we live, including the hardening of Brexit policies, Theresa May’s premature announcement of the termination of the Dubs scheme, and a newly appointed American president of elect who is determined to put in place harsher immigration measures, which could be detrimental to the safety of many lives. Indeed, as Wren put it simply and realistically, “It’s [a] difficult time for us all – but I think one of great opportunity too.” The optimistic atmosphere was by far welcomed within the hall, as the walls of the Amnesty International building itself seemed to bounce off positive vibes and reiterate the mindset of creating change and saving lives. Representative of the UNHCR, Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, highlighted: “It is about changing hearts and minds.”

UNHCR representative, Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, delivering a presentation about his high hopes for Refugee Week 2017

Food, films and flash mobs

Ideas were shared and discussed on the types of events that people are planning, from food and film nights with refugees within their community to flash mobs. Why not both?

The structure of the conference did somewhat differ from last year. Whereby there were more workshops for ticket holders to attend, this year’s conference saw people participating within the same shared space and forming groups in order to share ideas and expertise. For example, one exercise beckoned the brainstorming of different ways in which to engage new audiences, with a film night being a popular suggestion by most, as well as art and dance classes to be able to welcome anyone and everyone from communities to alleviate stigma around refugees within communities.

A flurry of ideas on engaging new audiences with a ‘flashmob’ as top of the list

Art resources

“My Marxist Feminist Dialectic Brings All The Boys To The Yard”. This slogan was printed on one of many punny balloons from the wonderful artist, Richard DeDomenici, whose project ‘Free Balloons’ has truly lifted off the ground to raise awareness of refugees as human beings, bringing smiles to the faces of even the most apprehensive in a fun and non-threatening fashion. As a warm up activity, suggestions were put forth to create more slogans that could be printed onto balloons, with the winning one being: “We’re here because you’re there” – although “Mary Poppins was a refugee” came a close second.

Do check out his work, and if you happen to come up with a punny line yourself, don’t hold back!

Balloon printed by artist Richard DeDomenici

Other art forms included song compositions, which had the audience participating in collectively singing a children’s song, which resonates with the theme ‘Our Shared Future’, as well as a drama performance by a multi-cultured drama group and snippets of films made by film makers.

In partnership with Refugee Week is Counterpoints Arts, who collaborate with ‘artists, arts, cultural and educational organizations and civil society activists working with refugees and migrants’. And they’re mission is to ‘support, produce and promote the arts by and about migrants and refugees – through a range of programmes.’ Around April resources will become available, or you can contact them in order to use their resources during your Refugee Week 2017 events – I certainly want to plan to use their film offers for screenings at my university during the week. Keep checking on their website for updates.

“Mary Poppins was a refugee”

Social Media Tips and Insights

For me in particular, the most interesting and useful part of the conference was listening to the suggestions put forth by media consultants, Marienna Pope-Weidemann and Jenny Lowthrop, on how to create efficient and effective media strategies.

They shared with us some of their golden rules on utilising social media before and during Refugee Week, which include:

  1. Be prepared well in advance – create a well-planned media strategy in advance. If you want to have your event to have lots of publicity, it is recommended to start promoting it as early as possible.
  2. Quick and easy – you want audiences to be able to understand your event or story in as little words and time.
  3. Clear and touching – provide a clear yet gripping hook for your event or story. For example, when working with refugees, make the story heard by using effective and eye-opening language to communicate their story in a compelling manner.
  4. Target your audience – in order to be able to reach the appropriate people – or rather as many people as possible – do some research into the best ways in which your message will be noticed by a vast array of people. Think about the pages they will be following or groups they are a part of for example.
  5. Make it personal – explain your story. What makes Refugee Week important to you, and why have you organised your particular event? Remember to speak from the heart.

Their Strategy

  • Promoting understanding
  • Positive encounters (with refugees)
  • Creative communication

Your Strategy

  • What? – what type of activity are you carrying out? Event promotion? Panel discussion? Documenting people’s stories?
  • Where? – where will your event/activity be taking place?
  • When? – when will your event/activity be taking place? Remember to give as much notice as possible, and build it up by promoting it on social media. Think about submission deadlines, too.
  • Why? – why the audience should care.
  • Who? who is involved?

Refugee Week Online Campaign @refugeeweek #OurSharedFuture

7 Easy Steps to be part of your social media story

  1. Add the hashtag #OurSharedFuture in Twitter or Instagram, or any other social media sites which use hashtags.
  2. Interacting with Our Shared Future and Refugee Week through your social media accounts.
  3. What does #OurSharedFuture mean to you? You will be able to access a Google document which allows you to write what it means to you. You have the freedom and platform to write either an extended piece, paragraph, sentence or even just a one-word answer.
  4. Add their twibbon to your social media account
  5. Share their case studies
  6. Share each other’s events and build valuable links on social media by following #OurSharedFuture
  7. Use their graphics to promote your events – you can even personalise the graphics online to make it more fitting to your event.

Social Media Tips to help you reach more audience: The Ladder of Engagement

– Like a post

– Share a post

– Join in a conversation

– Actively seek out your news

– Respond to call outs/requests e.g. donations

– Advocate: Use your knowledge and passion to inform your social media groups and networks about your events and the cause

Here comes the most eye-opening things to put to consideration when creating your media strategies.

Social Insights

  • Mobile: – At least 50% of audiences are on their mobile. Be it on the bus, at work, or when watching TV. It is vital in this current climate to be mobile size-friendly, which means using subtitles if you create promo videos, or ensuring that the images you use will still look good even on the small screen.
  • Out of hours: – Evenings and weekends are key times on social media. Use sites such as HootSuite which helps you manage your social media marketing. It identifies the key times when your audience will be online and active to see what you post, and you can schedule when exactly you want your posts to be uploaded – even outside of normal working hours. I had a play around the site myself and would highly recommend creating an account in which to monitor and manage your social media account or page.
  • Multi-platform and visual: – Create visual and creative content. Again, you will soon be able to gain access to their resources, such as infographics and other graphics which you can use and share for your own events. But the point here is to be as innovative and eye-opening as possible.
  • Frequency: – Post as often as you can, create and share relevant content. On Twitter, it is acceptable to repost the same thing, particularly with the issue of out of hours, for your audiences to view new information at any time of the day. And it doesn’t hurt if your audience sees it more than once – it helps to ingrain the information into their brain!
  • Network: – follow and share like-minded organisations to reciprocate the support for #OurSharedFuture. And also, your networks will know other networks, which can create an expansive web to be able to enable your event to have a wide coverage.
  • Twitter: – go crazy with hashtags. They recommend using at least 30 in order to broadcast your message further.
  • FaceBook: – it costs as little as £5 to boost your post, or have it targeted to a particular audience.
  • Like and comment on relevant postsas the page you manage. Time and time again have I shared posts on my own personal account when I had intended on doing so for the page I manage, which delays the message getting out in an appropriate way.

Please remember to be cautious about who and what you are releasing into the internet ethos. Ensure that whoever you are writing about has given you their permission for it to be shared. For example, if writing about a refugee’s story, there may be some personal or sensitive information that they would rather not have broadcasted, in which case, please remember to be ethical at all times.

Evidently, I took a lot from the conference this year, and having not visited the Amnesty International headquarters before it invigorated further to play my part in the cause for celebrating the wonderful contributions of migrants and refugees. I am more than eager to possibly have some more awareness raised within my own university, by partnering with Counterpoints Arts and other organisations of whom I spoke to during the day.

Please do let me know what you’re planning to do during Refugee Week 2017, and how I can get involved!

Save the all important dates in your diaries: 19th – 25th June

Today, we commence in celebrating their contributions through #OneDayWithoutUs.

Show your support for migrants who contribute vastly within our communities in any way that you can. Some will be holding hands at 1pm to show solidarity; others will be walking out of their workplace for an hour (or even the whole day!) and equally some will simply be wearing a badge. Anything is welcome, but please do be active in whatever you do, and share what you get up to!


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