Developing a culture of welcome (draft)

City of Sanctuary is based on the vision of a network of towns and cities permeated by a culture of hospitality, where people seeking sanctuary from violence and persecution in their own countries can find welcome, support, and understanding, be included in local activities and have their contribution to the community recognised and celebrated.

The City of Sanctuary process involves independent local groups working towards this vision in different ways depending on local circumstances.

1. Ways forward for local groups

There is no single formula for developing a successful and effective City of Sanctuary local group. Local circumstances vary and solutions which work in one area may not be appropriate or feasible in another. Numbers of asylum seekers and refugees vary hugely from one location to another. While progress on developing a culture of welcome can only be achieved by City of Sanctuary working with and through local groups and organisations, each local area is faced with a different mix and has to adapt accordingly.

In general terms local groups should work towards the following:

  1. Resolutions of support from a significant and representative proportion of local groups and organisations. These should include a commitment to welcoming and including people seeking sanctuary in the activities of the group, and to making practical efforts to build relationships between those seeking sanctuary and local people.
  2. Encouraging supporting organisations ( whether formally pledged or not ) to turn their commitment into actions that will make a difference.
  3. The support and involvement of local refugee communities, and participation by people seeking sanctuary and refugees in the local City of Sanctuary group, including representation on its steering group or committee.
  4. Sustained engagement with the local authority or authorities (which may include but should go beyond a resolution of support).
  5. A strategy, agreed by the main supporting organisations, for how the city or town is to continue working towards greater inclusion of people seeking sanctuary and refugees, as well as greater public awareness and support for them, through a range of initiatives from the following list ( or similar ):
    • Workshops or talks for schools on sanctuary issues
    • Engagement with further and higher education
    • Other awareness raising events or activities
    • Drop-in sessions for people seeking sanctuary
    • Social and cultural events where people seeking sanctuary and local people interact
    • Musical and drama activities which include refugees
    • Opportunities for English tuition
    • Interfaith events promoting sanctuary and hospitality
    • Community conflict resolution services for areas experiencing tension over new arrivals
    • Work with local media to publicise positive stories about sanctuary seekers
    • Positive programmes for new arrivals
    • Refugee community involvement in festivals and cultural events
    • Programme of events and activities for Refugee Week
    • Programmes for employment training and voluntary work.
    • Contributing towards building local networks amongst groups and agencies representing and working with sanctuary seekers.
    • A commitment to self-evaluation through a regular review process which seeks as far as possible the views and suggestions of people seeking sanctuary and refugees.

Any new group which wishes to operate under the title City of Sanctuary needs to show that it is working towards these action points and is committed to activities similar to those in the list above, possibly through or in conjunction with other local groups and organisations.

2. The Sanctuary Award

We have many expressions of Sanctuary, schools, health centres, universities, businesses, theatres, sports clubs and churches of sanctuary. Sanctuary Awards are used in some cities to help motivate and recognize work done in these Streams of Sanctuary. The process is normally decided and run by local groups.

A Sanctuary Award is given to an organisation which demonstrates that it is committed to living and spreading the core sanctuary values and that it has consistently put these values into practice in significant and measurable ways.

The core values can be summarized as follows:

  1. Learn about what it means to be seeking sanctuary; and be actively involved in awareness raising.
  2. Embed – take positive action to make welcome and inclusion part of the values of your organisation or community, to support sanctuary seekers and refugees, and to include them in your activities.
  3. Share your vision and achievements; let others know about the positive contribution refugees make to our society and the benefits of a welcoming culture to everyone.
    This award can be made to:

    • cities
    • towns
    • organisations
    • businesses
    • community groups
    • places of worship and faith-based groups
    • schools
    • health service providers
    • sports facilities
    • theatres and concert halls
    • art galleries and libraries

An award to an organisation may be made by application or by nomination. In the case of an award to a place, the local City of Sanctuary group may apply on its behalf. A Sanctuary Award to a place is equivalent to ‘recognition’ of that place as a City of Sanctuary (or Town of Sanctuary etc.)

Proposed Process

The following process is the suggested way to go about receiving a formal award.

  • Conduct a self-evaluation using criteria about how well it has put the above principles into practice
  • Listen to sanctuary seekers and their views on how the group is impacting their lives
  • Consult other groups which have won the award
  • Contact the evaluators responsible for evaluating in their area
  • Submit a report with evidence that the criteria have been met
  • Participate in an appraisal

Appraisal committees will be appointed locally and regionally (depending on the nature of the award), but ultimately accountable to a small national Appraisal Committee on the board of trustees of the City of Sanctuary national charity.

The award will be made at an appropriate ceremony and marked with a certificate of achievement.

More specific criteria are available on awards which are already ‘live’ within the movement, including:

  • schools of sanctuary (see separate document)
  • maternity services of sanctuary (see separate document)

As follow up to the award, the successful group or organisation will:

  • Spread the word about sanctuary within peer and other available circles
  • Participate in reviews of the award status every three years.

3. Becoming a City of Sanctuary

Trustees have recently resolvedto move from being dispersed groups to a cohesive network with a focus on both local and national culture change where interdependent local groups develop local responses to local challenges, and join together to affirm and achieve some common national goals”.

In this context, the work of the national charity and its small team is to support, encourage, resource, advise or give guidelines when asked, affirm, listen, enable networking, link up cities and streams, communicate and facilitate communication, empower, applaud and celebrate, encourage locally grown initiatives, provide training when requested, learn as we go along and share learning, and so on.

In this spirit, we propose re-framing the process and criteria for “becoming a City of Sanctuary” in terms of principles and guidelines which cities are encouraged to interpret and adapt locally.  These guidelines should be seen as another way for the national charity to serve and resource the network, and not at all a question of central control of the process. Moreover, the changing nature of our network with a mix of rural villages and very big cities means that it is not possible to have a ‘one size fits all’ set of criteria or requirements.

We already have the expectation that a group which calls itself a City of Sanctuary Group will be working towards our vision through certain specified kinds of activity: generating practical support from a wide range of local organisations and individuals; bringing those seeking sanctuary together with other local people; involving people seeking sanctuary in their activities and organisation; engaging with the local council; all within a locally defined strategy for improving welcome.  While we all agree on the principles that guide us, how to interpret these principles, and which activities to concentrate on within a local strategy, are matters of local choice, with regard to local circumstances and sensibilities, availability of resources, etc.

Many local groups are enthused by the idea of becoming a City of Sanctuary, and work towards this goal as a step on the way to realizing our vision in their city.  We expect them to set their own targets and criteria to be met before that aim is achieved.  We also continue to hope that local councils will not declare their city to be a ‘City of Sanctuary’ without local grassroots support.

However, we will leave it to those involved locally in each city to manage the process and to decide when and how to call their city a ‘City of Sanctuary’.  Beyond publishing principles and guidelines, and offering resources such as certificates, the national charity and national team will play a role only if requested to do so.  If  wanted, a team member, regional coordinator or trustee will be available to lend a hand with the process, following the guidelines above. In any case we will include in the guidelines the suggestion for a network-style and relationship-based conversation with at least one other local group, in the expectation that such a conversation will lead to a mutually beneficial sharing of good practice.

We hope this proposal will recognise more clearly that the big work is always done within each city, with the regional and national teams being available to support, encourage, network and guide when needed.