Community, Diaspora and Immigration

Diaspora groups: how to be seen and heard

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In 'Realising the Development Potential of Diasporas', a book published in 2011, its authors write: "Increasing attention is being given in both public and private forums to the issue of how the growing diasporas from the developing world could promote development in their homelands. Indeed, diaspora involvement in development opportunities in the homeland has increased significantly during the past decade."

It's a fact the international development community and policymakers – both in host countries and countries of origin – are waking up to. But the debate has often been limited to capitalising on remittances and much of the literature focuses on how other organisations can benefit from diaspora groups, rarely on capacity building for these collectives which are often informally organised, staffed by volunteers and ill-equipped to make the kind of impact that matches their commitment to the home nations.

Many diaspora networks struggle to gain recognition as development actors (pdf) or to secure the funding needed to sustain their projects, as this article on the Rwanda Diaspora Global Network points out. While some development actors, such as the Jethro Institute for Good Governance, are beginning to recognise and fill the capacity gaps, could the development community, host or countries of origin be doing more?

On Thursday 25 April, our live chat panel will debate the following questions: how should diaspora groups organise themselves to maximise their impact? How can they get better at securing grants, finding partners or working with governments? And, just as importantly, how do they forge an identity for themselves as an integral part of the development landscape?

Join us online from 1 to 3pm BST to debate the issues and share your views.

The live chat is not video or audio-enabled but will take place in the comments section (below). To join the panel or simply give your views ahead of the chat, email Follow our tweets using the hashtag #globaldevlive


Hazami Barmada, president & CEO, Al-Mubadarah: Arab empowerment initiative, Washington, DC, US. @hazamibarmada

Hazami is an independent consultant specialising in developing culturally-relative strategies for management, business development and public relations. She works with professional diaspora networks to develop strategies for technical assistance and knowledge transfer programmes.

Abdi Ismail, managing director, Istagsom, Sheffield, UK

Abdi specialises in helping grassroots Somali community businesses in the UK with strategic planning, financing and commercial development.

Semhar Araia, founder and executive director, Diaspora African women's network, Minneapolis, USA. @Semhar

Semhar is lawyer and policy advocate by training, and specialises in US-Africa foreign policy, diaspora engagement, international development and conflict resolution. Semhar is a White House champion of change and African Union diaspora awardee.

Onyekachi Wambu, director of policy and engagement, African foundation for development, London, UK

Onyekachi is a specialist in African leadership and development. A former journalist, Onyekachi was editor of the Voice newspaper and senior producer at the BBC. His latest publications are about leadership for change in Africa and black culture in Britain.

Daniela Gjuroska-Gogarty, head of department, International Organisation for Migration, Nuremberg, Germany

Daniela has recently focused on a project providing temporary assignment opportunities for qualified professionals from the countries of the western Balkans. She also works to develop various activities to engage different Balkan diaspora groups.

Claudette Caroline Carr, executive director, Jethro Institute for Good Governance, London, UK. @Jigginstitute

Claudette specialises in promoting social justice and good community governance through civic education. She collaborates with diaspora organisations, and helps them harness local knowledge and make the best use of the resources available to them.

Sebastiana Etzo, independent consultant and researcher, Centre of African Studies, University of London, London, UK

Sebastiana studies African diaspora populations, African cities, and issues of citizenship and democracy in relation to changes in the labour market. Sebastiana is a co-founder of the consultancy firm Africa in perspective.

Yolanda Chakava, founding trustee, Haki Water, Nairobi, Kenya. @yolandachakava

Yolanda is the founder of Haki Water, a diaspora-led, UK registered charity focused on conducting research and developing innovative solutions to promote sustainable water management in developing countries, starting in Kenya. A qualified chartered civil engineer, Yolanda is the recipient of the RIBA ICE Bursary for 2010.

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