Migration Fund: our new shared vision, criteria and processes

Published: 9 April 2024 
Author: Letícia Ishibashi 
Four young women are on a stage, all smiling and laughing. A young girl is stood up in front, holding a microphone and smiling, wearing a t-shirt that says brighter futures
Praxis – Brighter Futures. Photo credit: Becky Bailey

Over the last couple weeks, our Head of Programme – Migration, Letícia Ishibashi has been sharing some updates related to the new iteration of our Migration Fund. In this blog, she explains what our new vision means for our grant-making criteria and processes as we reopen for applications today.

Over the last year, PHF’s migration team has delivered a wide consultation with those working in the migration and related fields to build a shared vision for the future, identify opportunities, challenges, and ways in which funders like us can best support the field to progress towards this vision.

During this consultation, we also explored what it means to be an anti-racist funder – a commitment PHF has made in 2020 – and the changes required to align our funding criteria and process with this longer-term shared vision. As we reopen for applications today, this blog outlines the changes we are making to what and how we will fund going forward.

Our new shared vision for the future

Through our consultation, we have landed on a new shared vision for our Migration Fund: a world in which everyone is free to move, and no one is forced to move. For us, this means a world where respect, care and interdependence underpin our relationships with one another; differences of opinion and perspectives provide opportunity for reflection and growth, and shared learning allows us to both shape our future actions and to stop us from deepening and consolidating harm. We view our funding as a contribution to bringing about this future, knowing that it can only be achieved through collective and collaborative effort between individuals, organisations, movements, funders and beyond.

This longer-term shared vision has expanded our definition of systemic change’. Previously, our grant-making was primarily focused on work that fosters positive changes to the UK’s immigration system, so that those who move to the UK experience a simpler, fairer, just, and human rights-based system. However, the more we investigated what justice’ and fairness’ mean in the context of migration, the clearer it became that we must consider why our immigration system was created and who is affected by it.

Considering immigration systems are built on and help reinforce systemic forms of oppression, they effectively act as an exclusionary tool to define who does and does not belong’ in our communities. Our new approach to systemic change’ focuses on dismantling harmful systems so that we can build new ones that are underpinned by justice, respect, solidarity, and freedom so that everyone can decide where they want to live and enjoy fulfilling lives wherever they are.

Our updated funding criteria

Building on this new shared vision, the Fund’s criteria will focus on both how organisations work, and what they seek to achieve. We have added a focus on the how’ after acknowledging that the strength in our movement is not solely made up of the issues we seek to change, but also the ways in which we relate to one another.

Within this context, we want to support organisations that are working towards:

  • embedding anti-racist practice across their organisation and work.
  • adopting an organisational culture that centres care and wellbeing.
  • shifting power to migrants and diaspora communities so their interests, perspectives and contributions are centred across the organisation’s work.
  • building solidarity and collaboration across communities, while working towards transformational change that benefits us all.
  • unlearning and challenging the harm, inequity, and oppression within their organisational structures and work.
  • learning, reflecting and being responsive to change.

These principles and practices were designed together with the field and aim to strengthen our relationships with one another and those working in intersecting social justice fields. We recognise that this is an area with few absolutes and where we all have to continue to learn and grow. We are interested in seeing the steps organisations are taking to embed these practices in their work, and how they are progressing towards these aims. To achieve this, our new application process includes questions about each of the above, which will be considered alongside the change they are seeking to make.

Needless to say, our team – and PHF more broadly – is also working to embed these commitments into our work. For the first time, PHF’s migration team is fully made up of people who have migrated to the UK and/​or are members of diaspora communities. While this has been vital in guiding the direction of our work, we know representation alone is not a solution to the systemic issues migrant and diaspora groups experience.

We see our role as asking questions and helping to engender learning not as having all the answers or imposing a view on those we support. Dismantling harmful systems requires ongoing (un)learning and practice, so we will be working alongside the field to strengthen our own understanding of how the above relates to our work as a grant-maker and field builder. To ensure accountability, we will be transparent about our choices, progress, and challenges as we continue to work towards these shared aims

In terms of what we are seeking to fund, we have maintained many of our previous priorities but have sharpened our focus to support work that helps us achieve one or a range of the below:

  • build a society based on respect, care, and interdependence by dismantling the hostile environment and other harmful laws, policies and practices that negatively affect migrants and diaspora communities.
  • contextualise and tackle root causes of injustice migrants face, building on lessons from our past to dismantle wider systems of oppression and connect with other social justice issues.
  • build collective power within migrant communities through an intersectional lens so they can shape decisions that affect them and create momentum for transformational and positive change.
  • foster solidarity between communities, leading to greater understanding and helping to overcome division.
  • strengthen infrastructure for the migrant justice and related fields, including through supporting greater connection, learning and exchange.
  • explore alternative futures built on self-determination, justice, acknowledgment and repair for the harms of the past, and where all of us are free to choose where we live.

Those that have been previously funded by PHF may notice a few changes in how we talk about migration – more specifically the explicit mention of diaspora communities in our priorities. This is our way of acknowledging that our immigration system affects a wide range of people, from those who have recently moved all the way to those who were born here or are citizens. Part of this change reflects our aim to support those who are fostering greater connection and collaboration between migrant and racial justice movements, acknowledging the disproportionate negative impact of the current system on racialised communities.

Changes to how we fund

We have listened to the field’s feedback and will be introducing grants of up to five years. This aims to provide organisations with more stability and capacity to plan longer-term. We will continue to encourage core funding, while also being open to funding dedicated to specific projects or for partnerships.

During our consultation, we heard concerns about funding equity in the field. As a result, we have evaluated our average grant sizes and will be capping our grant-making at £60,000 per year for grants of three to four years, and at £50,000 per year for five-year grants. We hope this will allow us to better distribute our resources across the field, while also providing longer-term stability to organisations. However, we are still open to considering larger grants for partnerships to ensure all partners are fairly compensated for their contributions.

Another way we have responded to these concerns was by committing to prioritise applications from organisations led by migrants and diaspora communities; historically underfunded groups and regions; with annual turnover under £500,000; and/​or that have less access to funding from other sources. We will also maintain our commitment to fund up to 50% of the annual income of migrant and diaspora-led organisations with an annual turnover of up to £120,000 to take accountability for our previous under-resourcing of these groups.

Changes to our application process

In the last few years, we introduced optional enquiry calls to speak to potential applicants about their work, fit with our criteria and answer questions they had about our process. Many applicants shared how useful this offer had been to them. Enquiry calls especially benefited first time applicants and smaller organisations, allowing them to ask for what they needed as opposed to what they thought we were looking for. We also noticed that applications following an enquiry call were much stronger and better aligned with our priorities.

Building on the success of this model, we are introducing mandatory enquiry calls for all applicants so we can better understand their work and advise on the application process. Alongside this, we are introducing a shorter process by moving from a three-stage to a two-stage system. Following the enquiry call, only those who demonstrate a clear alignment with the Fund’s criteria will be invited to submit a written application. We hope this will ensure that those with a lower likelihood of success do not spend time making an application, as we know how much work goes into this. We will also continue to offer follow up calls to organisations who need more support before applying, or whose circumstances have changed since we initially spoke.

Changes to our decision-making process

During our consultation, we spoke to many people who were concerned that grant-making can feel opaque, undemocratic, and unaccountable to those who will experience the impact of funding decisions. Over the last year we have met with funders who have introduced different approaches to their grant-making to respond to these concerns.

Building on their lessons, we are introducing an Advisory Group made up of six people with complementary skills, knowledge, and experience to help us review and shortlist applications to take to our panel – made up of external advisors and PHF trustees – for a final decision. To accommodate these changes, we will move from five decision-making points per year to three. We will keep this under review and will aim to operate flexibly depending on the needs of the field.

Our aim is for this Advisory Group to support us to make better informed shortlisting decisions, provide input and feedback to our migration strategy, helping us identify gaps in our portfolio, opportunities and be more responsive to the needs of the field. Advisors will also help expand PHF’s network of organisations and initiatives, so we can consider funding and/​or collaboration with those who we are not currently aware of.

We are now finalising appointments and hope to start working with the Advisory Group in the summer. Once this new process is in place, we will share further information about it, how we will work together and lessons from this work.

What next?

The Migration Fund reopens for applications today – Tuesday, 9 April 2024. Organisations are welcome to submit requests for an enquiry call to speak to our team about an application. For those wanting to speak about a renewal application, please submit an enquiry call request and someone from our team will be in touch.

As we have paused applications for two months while we updated our system and website, we expect to see a higher volume of requests than usual. We will respond to all enquiry call requests, but it may take us longer to get back to everyone depending on the number of requests we receive – thank you for your understanding.

We are really looking forward to reopening for applications and being in touch with many of you to work towards a world in which everyone is free to move, and no one is forced to move.

Find out more about PHF’s migration funding history and learning, and what our shared vision means.

Read a summary of the findings from our consultation with the migration field in this short report.

Letícia Ishibashi
Head of Programme – Migration