Several minds are better than one

British Refugee Council stands up for the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum – exploring the issues that affect them, informing the public, and working for fairer government policy.

WRKWLL were delighted to be recruited by British Refugee Council to support them through some important organisational change. WRKWLL’s Pete Nash and RC’s Karen Pink (Head of People & Culture) met to discuss their ongoing collaboration.


In early 2023, British Refugee Council had some strategic changes on the horizon. There was an awareness that improved organisational systems and structures were needed, and would lead to better methods of delivering their core work. It was recognised that the changes could be carried out most effectively with the support of a third party, at which point, the collaboration with WRKWLL began.

The work consisted of four, interconnected elements:

  • Staff engagement survey
  • Audit of existing recruitment and selection practices, leading to best-possible inclusive and accessible processes
  • Research to better understand the impediments to career progression for people with lived experience of the asylum protection system, and development of a pilot programme to overcome the barriers
  • Thorough and inclusive contextual analysis, leading to bespoke leadership behaviour framework

The key products and outcomes from these are included below:

Staff engagement survey:

  • 79% completion rate from across the organisation
  • Key organisational strengths identified (e.g. high levels of pride and belief in the shared purpose of the organisation, and commitment to organisational values).
  • Key areas of focus highlighted by the findings, used to inform the design and implementation of the follow-on projects
  • Qualitative feedback, used to help ensure staff commitment to the organisational change processes

Audit of recruitment and selection leading to inclusive and accessible best-practice processes

- Creation of a Refugee Council inclusive recruitment toolkit

  • Recruitment and selection training
  • Guides for hiring managers
  • Guides for candidates
  • Communication templates
  • Inclusive recruitment organisational policies

- Implementation of new inclusive recruitment processes

Research to better understand the barriers to career progression for people with lived experience of the asylum protection system

  • Sector wide engagement (multiple surveys, extensive internal and external interviews of those with expertise of the sector, Lived experience focus groups)
    Establishment of independent Lived Experience working groups to co-create and guide the work
    Publication of research report to articulate key findings
    Design and development of pilot programme to support career development to begin in Autumn 24

Leadership development programme

  • Co-creation of Leadership Development Framework
  • 360 Degree Feedback Process design, implementation and analysis
  • Baseline Leadership competency analysis
  • Bespoke modular Leadership Fundamentals training programme (online and in-person blending facilitation of coaching, action learning and four seasons profiling)

“When we have the face-to-face meetings, the staff know there is a shared understanding in the room and that they’re going to learn something from WRKWLL and their peers, and therefore be really happy to engage with it”.

The co-creative approach:

From the beginning and throughout, it was important to RC that WRKWLL’s support fitted within their strong organisational values, and have RC’s ethos of “done with”, not ”done to”, at the forefront of the work.

In the words of Refugee Council’s Karen Pink, as the work progressed from phase to phase, “I never felt I had opinions imposed on me, but more like ‘how do you feel about this’, ‘what do you think about doing it this way’, which meant we could do the co-creation in a meaningful way, and not lose anyone along the way”.

What resonated for Karen throughout was WRKWLL’s understanding of the sector, and ability to “get to the essence” of what was needed. What is more, it was felt that WRKWLL knew the financial pressures within the sector, which brought a realism to their work and recommendations.

Another factor which drove the success of the projects, was the “vast amount of expertise and knowledge WRKWLL can tap into”, so that different minds could focus on the diverse aspects of the work as it progressed and reached completion. “Having all those people with different expertise talking to each other, and fitting their work together, led to the overall success.”

WRKWLL’s collaboration with RC has been multifaceted and interacted with many teams and areas of work. Karen remarked that WRKWLL “has been excellent at keeping a thread between all facets of organisational development work. It is obvious that the project team consult closely together, and each piece of work feeds into adjoining work being carried out, taking into account the nuance and detail of what has come before and during.”

“They didn’t just take something off a shelf and say ‘this is what you need to be a good manager”, they took time to understand what would work for our organisation”.

Whilst the completion of the organisational change work has allowed RC to operate more effectively, the engagement of the staff along the way, and the resulting ownership of the changes and products (such as the Leadership Framework and Lived Experience Report), has had additional added cultural benefit.

“People genuinely felt their voices being heard, and what’s come out of the change work is exactly what the organisation wanted and needs, and they [the staff] can genuinely see that they have shaped this process”.

WRKWLL’s collaboration with the Refugee Council continues.
Read the Lived Experience Career development report, commission by the Refugee Council for the UK’s Refugee and asylum seeker sector.

“It was El’s (WRKWLL consultant) personality which really engaged the staff … She was so flexible, she wasn’t imposing anything, she would say “how about this?”, talked openly about the pros and cons, she addressed where there were issues, allowing alternatives for the tricky bits. Having El really helped people believe that their thoughts and feelings were being acknowledged”.