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The Lead AchieVe Aspire (LAVA) project to support leaders with lived experience thanks to National Lottery funding

Migrant Centre NI Lead AchieVAspire (LAVA) project based in Northern Ireland is celebrating today after being awarded almost £50,000 in National Lottery funding to put people with lived experience in the lead to influence wider societal change and build a network to share good practice and support emerging leaders to influence change.

The new grant from the UK’s biggest funder of community activity will see Migrant Centre NI working in partnership with Trade Unions, local business community, health sector, local councils, and education sector to identify and recruit potential new and emergency leaders from BAME backgrounds.

Migrant Centre NI will develop and deliver a leadership programme and opportunities for these recruits to engage with each other, existing leaders in the wider society, within NI and beyond, in order to generate new and innovate ideas to bring about positive change. Underpinning this work will be the lived experience of the some of the key members of the board, the organisation and their support, which will be key to opening up new networks and opportunities for these new leaders.

Pamela Dooley, MCNI Chairperson, said: “We are delighted to be able to deliver this project with the support of the National Lottery Community Fund. Migrant Centre will have a key worker to develop a bespoke pilot project recruiting and involving people from BAME backgrounds with experience who might lack the knowledge or capacity to lead the change based on what they’ve lived through. We want them to develop their skills and use their experiences to lead the so much needed change and to make the voices of the most marginalised in our society heard.”

The grant is part of The National Lottery Community Fund’s £800,000 Lived Experience Leaders Pilot Programme, an initiative which aims to better embed ‘experts by experience’ in all aspects of an organisation’s operations – and enable the Fund and the wider sector to continue testing and learning about how people with first-hand experience can become leaders and how funders can support them.

Joe Ferns, UK Knowledge and Portfolio Director at The National Lottery Community Fund said:

“Thanks to National Lottery players, people with lived experience will use their unique expertise to lead social change and help their communities to thrive. We know that supporting those with first-hand experience to become leaders is a key enabler for civil society to do more, help more people and for our sector to have a greater impact.”

This pilot programme, which was developed through workshops across the UK involving more than 70 lived experience leaders, is a core part of The National Lottery Community Fund’s ‘people in the lead’ strategy.

Today’s announcement is also a key part of The National Lottery Community Fund’s commitment to enabling civil society to be fit for the future – helping organisations and the social sector create opportunities for people with first-hand experience to be at the forefront of decision making.

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The Belonging Project

The Belonging Project is a multimedia photography project promoting good relations coupled with OCN accredited workshops that facilitate discussions about identity, migrant experiences and community in a non threatening and safe environment.

Through this project we also provide OCN accredited training for facilitators. 

To learn more about the project visit

or watch the video

The Voices for Change Project

Was a three year project funded through Comic Relief under the Fair Society theme. This project was addressing racial inequality in Northern Ireland through active citizenship and political participation of the BME communities. Evidence based research shows that ethnic minorities were at risk of in-work and child poverty due to low grade and low paid employment, despite high qualifications and skills. Access to public services are still a big issue for the new migrant community. BME people have experienced racism as service users, employees and pupils. The main outcomes of the project were to ensure people from marginalised groups engage with and influence decision-makers and ultimately hold them to account, they are subject to less discrimination from public attitudes, law, policy and services as well as BME people from vulnerable groups work collectively to have their voices heard.

The Development Worker has worked with 28 BME groups across Northern Ireland.

Travellers and the Troubles

This project which began in August 2018 and activities were ongoing until March 2019.

It involved the establishment of 6 Traveller focus groups reflecting the largest and most active Traveller locations. Selection of participants came from the Travellers themselves, by co-opting on the members of the community with most interest and relevance to the topic. These groups met separately to examine their own experiences of the Troubles, including the lasting effects of division and racism against the Traveller community in NI today.

All these stories will be written up into a research report, including comparative chapters on different experiences based on location, age, gender and other identity issues.

The second element of the project was continual capacity building of these 6 focus groups. Not only have they learnt about the research project, including research methodologies and tools, and their own and others’ experiences of the Troubles and the legacy of the conflict, they have also undertaken capacity building training and personal development training to enable them to form constituted Travellers projects should they so choose. This included undertaking community development training in topics such as governance, committee skills, office bearers’ roles and responsibilities, child protection etc.

It included personal development training in topics such as presentation skills, public speaking, essential skills etc. (activities on-going)
The third strand of the project was to promote reconciliation and good relations between the Traveller community and the two traditional communities, as well as other BME groups.

The main purpose of the project was be to gain a deeper understanding of all these issues within the Traveller community and between Travellers and the two main settled communities.

Project was funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs Ireland – Reconciliation Fund.

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