Over the last two members’ meetings at Detention Forum, we have been having a discussion about our ultimate goal in the context of our new theory of change.

Some members welcomed the chance to focus on a bigger change objective; while others were concerned that this will dilute the focus, which we have had on particular policy changes.

Our purpose in prompting this discussion was not to suggest that it becomes in itself one of our key priority areas. We still think that we need to focus on the particular ‘wedges’ or policy/ practice changes that we want to see. But we were posing the question whether our communications should focus more on our overall goal?

So, we say that we ‘challenge the use of immigration detention in the UK.’ We use that line in a lot of our communications to explain the Forum to people outside. But we wonder whether we need to add why we want to challenge the use of detention in our general communications? We challenge this practice because ‘we don’t believe immigration detention is the answer, for anyone;’ this powerful line was agreed years ago, and is proudly displayed on the home page of our website

So, our general communications message for the Forum going forward might be:

            We challenge the use of immigration detention in the UK

            Because we don’t believe immigration detention is the answer, for anyone

We think the art of the powerful and impactful campaign is the ability to focus on a particular issue (with a clear problem and solution) in a very pragmatic way, but also to be able to communicate about the overall change we want to see.

We are interested in how we have been criticised in the past for our pragmatic focus on a time limit by some people with lived experience, as it was seen as being the end in itself. But we never focused on the need for a time limit as the end, but as a means to the end.

We are also interested in how some of our members put their energies into demonstrating against immigration detention. We are keen that they see a home in the Forum; although we may not all agree with this approach as being the best to achieve change.

So, while it is vital to develop specific theories of change to build momentum on our key issues, it will also be helpful to explore how we might link that work with our general communications about the ultimate change we want to see.

Can we strive to be seen to be politically pragmatic driving through tangible policy changes to impact the number of people in detention (through the time limit and work on alternatives), but also to be seen to be ultimately ambitious about the change we want to see? It should not be either/ or, but both of these options.

We’ll be running a webinar shortly for members on an introduction to strategic communications as a way of continuing this discussion. And we are forming a new working group to help us to think through some of these issues. Watch this space!