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Acting fast and funding flexibly to help tackle the refugee crisis

Photo credit: Refugee Action

Words by Nick Crofts, CEO of the Co-op Foundation 

In July this year, we pledged to be a flexible funder by signing up to eight grant making commitments co-ordinated by IVAR. This built on our learning as a funder during Covid. 

I’m delighted that today, we’ve made good on one of these commitments by responding flexibly and at haste to the Afghan Refugee crisis with a £250,000 grant to our new partners, Refugee Action

Our grant award came just a week after we began conversations about how we could support refugees fleeing the military withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is our largest single grant to date and we hope the beginning of the UK’s wider and ongoing response to a deeply troubling situation. 

Refugee Action are one of many charities working to support refugees in the UK. You can support too by donating to local or national charities working in your area. 

Our grant 

We’re passionate about empowering our partners to use funds in a way that helps them to have the most impact. Refugee Action are the experts on the ground and a truly collaborative partner that works with a network of 150 charities around the UK. This is aligned to our values and co-operative ways of working. 

Our grant will help these charities in the short term but also support the team to make longer-term changes to the refugee protection system by putting lived experience at the centre of support. Specifically our funding will help Refugee Action to:

  • Provide direct support and advice to people who’ve fled to the UK from Afghanistan and other countries through its own front-line services and in collaboration with a nationwide network of community organisations.  
  • Build public support to help campaign for a more sustainable, compassionate and welcoming refugee protection system.  
  • Empower refugees and people in the asylum system to influence the issues that matter to them. 

Good luck to the team. We look forward to working with you and learning more about how we can support your efforts. 

Just the start 

The scenes in Kabul had a real impact on public opinion, and we believe there is now an opportunity for funders and charities to work co-operatively to make a difference. 

That’s why we’re acting alongside the Co-op as a catalyst for people who want to respond to the crisis and we’re calling for a national collaborative effort of wider support for the reform of the refugee protection system. 

I firmly believe that we’re stronger when we work together and I’m proud to see the Co-op already contributing on the ground through its vision of Co-operating for a Fairer World. 

Co-op Members have raised over £200,000 for local groups working with refugees in recent years through the Local Community Fund, while the Co-op Academies Trust already offers places to recent migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum. The Trust has recently written to all Directors of Education where Co-op Academy schools are located to indicate its willingness to take additional children from the newly arrived Afghan community.  

And finally many of the 1,000 Co-op Member Pioneers across the UK are connected to groups working with refugees. 

Read more about the Co-op’s community work

How you can help 

I know many of you will have seen the distressing images of the Afghan crisis on TV and you will have been touched to help out in any way you can. 

There are lots of charities you can support, including Refugee Action. Here’s a list of Disasters and Emergency Committee Members who have active live appeals: 

Sign up to our newsletter below to find out first when new funds are launched. Follow us on Twitter to hear updates on our funding for Refugee Action and other partners. 


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