“Beneficiaries” and “cash machines”

The fundamental ethos of diaspora engagement needs to be transformed: organisations need to work with diaspora as more equal partners, share funds, trust, and responsibilities based on the skill sets, experience, expertise, and access that each bring. Seeing beyond the “traditional” skill sets and embracing the added value of lived experiences enhances impact. 

There is a huge unexplored potential for innovation through collaboration between diasporas and “traditional” development and humanitarian actors. It is simple on the surface, but is a sophisticated solution to complex and deeply rooted issues, including colonial power dynamics of “us” and “them”. 

The current pandemic has exacerbated these challenges and it’s clear that “business as usual” is no longer fit for purpose. However, there are opportunities to better engage with diasporas: 

  • Treat diasporas as equal partners: Diaspora engagement should be two-way, with partnerships built on foundations of trust, communication, respect and reciprocity. Seek to build a long-lasting partnership with diaspora organisations.
  • Consider multigenerational engagement: Ensure engagement is not limited to the first-generation diaspora but also considers the second and subsequent generations’ needs and ambitions. 
  • Protect vulnerable migrant and diaspora communities: Recognise the diversity of diaspora communities, whether based on gender, age, income, education, and origin countries. Some can provide assistance, whether financial or based on skills, but some are also vulnerable
  • Embrace evidence-based engagement: There is a need for continued action research as diasporas are not static, and their motivations to engage and how varies considerably, such as origin and settlement country’s context.