Project Type: Staff Optimisation
Region: London & South East
Open communication about the challenges ahead has brought greater understanding for the Kent Refugee Action Network

Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) is the largest non-statutory provider of services to young refugees and asylum seekers in East Kent. Established in 1999 following a sudden influx of migrants through Dover, the charity gives young people the confidence, skills and information they need to enhance their educational prospects and aid their integration into the local community.

As well as a Drop In Service, KRAN runs the Supporting Refugee Youth Project, a mentoring and befriending scheme providing friendship for socially isolated young migrants which aims to ease their integration into local community life. The Riverside Project offers a daily routine of activities in a classroom environment, with lessons in literacy and maths, life skills, sports and art activities, as well as accredited courses in subjects such as IT and catering. The Outreach Project at The Shed offers similar sessions to young people living in other areas of Kent.  One young asylum seeker comments: “I’m very pleased because the teachers helped me at everything. Thanks for all the teachers at Riverside and The Shed.”

However, the various projects had developed separately in their own right and Chair of Trustees, Ann Whitbourn, recognised that the staff and management committee were keen to present a unified approach. She therefore contacted The Cranfield Trust for help in facilitating a series of meetings to foster agreement on the future structure of the organisation 

Cranfield Trust Project Manager, Roger Watkins, approached volunteer Mike Pearson, knowing that his extensive experience of teambuilding and organisational structure would make him a good fit for the project. Mike therefore explored how the charity's services were provided in order to balance the demands of the different projects. He then facilitated meetings with trustees and staff, enabling the differing perspectives to be brought together to ensure a cohesive framework for future development. 

Ann explains: “We have been enabled to see what we need to do to make KRAN the unified organisation that we wish it to be and accordingly have set up a six month plan. The most valuable contribution was to have someone from outside the organisation look at us and help us to understand that our problems were real but also enable us to see what we had to do to move forward. Mike helped us to realise that change is necessary and the decisions we come to at the end of the next six months may be difficult but are acceptable if they enable us to meet the needs of the young people with whom we work more effectively.”

As a result of the project, KRAN anticipate that improved communications between the projects will allow beneficiaries to move more easily between them in order to access advice and help. They are now looking to extend the work of its Drop In Service, having identified this as the lynch pin connecting the areas of education and mentoring. This in turn should lead to greater liaison with external organisations, enabling KRAN to forge links with the wider community and so provide more opportunities for the young people they support.

Within the organisation itself this sense of unity has brought results, as Ann says: “The staff are more focused on the importance of having a strategic direction and want to be involved in its planning and implementation. They are all committed to the planned strategic development workshops and the trustees have become more actively involved.  A member of staff has taken on the responsibility and been given extra hours and training in order to improve the systems for the collection of data and the development of other evaluation tools.”

This is all good news for the charity and, with this cohesive approach in place, KRAN feel confident that they are now working efficiently to engage with their beneficiaries. Summing up, volunteer Mike Pearson commented:

“This illustrates how a small charity with few resources can grow as a result of a Cranfield Trust project into a more effective and outgoing organisation.” 


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