AVID Training
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We are excited to announce Gee Manoharan as the new Co-Director for Policy and Influencing at AVID.

This is a significant development for AVID and one which will make us stronger at a time when we are embarking on a new strategy at the same time as people affected by immigration detention and members of the AVID network face significant challenges. Gee brings to the role seven years of experience of working at AVID, both in a membership support and policy capacity, as well as prior experience of establishing a visitor group in Northern Ireland and community organising in Sri Lanka. In addition, the transition to co-leadership marks AVIDs commitment to the vital need for leadership from people who have experience of immigration detention if we are to successfully challenge the obscured and bureaucratized immigration detention system.

“The journey from detainee to Co-Director has been a profound blend of adversity and empowerment. In the dark depths of detention, I found resilience. Today, as Co-Director at AVID, I bring that resilience to light, illuminating the path toward change,” said Gee Manoharan.

“I am excited to take this next step with AVID, becoming a part of the team as Co-Director. This is going to be an exhilarating journey into the unknown, a resounding call to action. AVID's bold step towards co-leadership is an ode to the power of personal experience and a testament to the conviction that meaningful change finds its roots in those who've lived it."  Continued Gee. "We're not merely dismantling barriers; we're forging pathways of inclusivity and hope, connecting the heart of our mission with the head of our strategy. I extend my heartfelt appreciations to the team and board for their unwavering support"

       A New Structure

Gee will act as Co-Director for Policy and Influencing alongside the current Director, Miranda Reilly, who will now be Co-Director for Membership and Operations. They will provide joint leadership and strategic direction to AVID, working closely with the Board of Trustees and the AVID team to work towards our mission. Miranda will lead on operations, fundraising, finance, and oversee our capacity building work with members. Gee will direct AVID's influencing, policy and advovacy work, whilst forging new ways to embed  the leadership of individuals who've lived the harsh realities of detention into the very fabric of AVID's mission.

       Reason for Change

Central to AVID’s strategy is to shift power to people with lived-experience of detention to lead and set the direction to AVID. In the current moment, we must contend with detention expansion to unprecedented levels and an increasing use of quasi-detention, a reversal in the government commitment to alternatives to detention, and an increasingly hostile political and divisive social environment. To face these challenges will require different ways of working and a proactive approach. The leadership of people who have first-hand experience of the system that we are seeking to change is vital to ensure that change happens in a way responsive to the problem, mission-driven and sustainable. The move to a co-leadership structure is an integral, but by no means the only, shift to embed meaningful lived-experience leadership into the way that we work.

The move to co-leadership is not only an exercise in breaking down barriers to power, it is augmented by well-recognised benefits of co-leadership models. These benefits are especially pertinent given the demanding nature of the sector which we work in which lends to a high risk of burnout in a single leadership model.

These benefits include:

  •                Increased sustainability and resilience in leadership teams
  •                Diversity of ideas
  •                Increased confidence and support system in decision-making
  •                Increased collaboration and power-sharing
  •                Increased transparency on decision-making
  •                Can encourage different types of leaders who fall outside of the traditional leader stereotype

Miranda Reilly, AVID Co-Director commented, "When I joined AVID, in April of last year, it was my first time in a Director role. I have learnt huge amounts in that time and thought a lot about what makes a good leader, at times struggling with the weight of this responsibility to people in detention, our members and to the AVID team. What has made it easier has been the support from the team, our trustees and members. This has shown me that leadership can come in many forms and is not confined to one role. The move to co-leadership brings a different kind of responsibility – to one another and to the team - but it is a move that I believe can better enable and recognise leadership in its different forms. I am confident that this transition to Co-Directorship will better ensure that we maintain clear-sightedness of our mission and how we can get there. I am looking forward to facing the new opportunities and challenges that it will bring.”

Our current Chair has been with AVID through so many challenges and changes, "Having been a trustee of AVID for over 10 years and now its current chair, I believe that this is an amazing opportunity for us as an organisation to make a meaningful contribution to breaking down barriers to power for those with lived experience of immigration detention." said Carolina Albuerne, Chair, AVID Board of Trustees. "We are taking this next step with intention and recognising that this is a process where we need to learn and share with others on this journey. It has never been more important to show how human centred leadership focused on our mission and those we serve can be an effective tool for change in tackling racism and barriers to power. I could not be more grateful and proud of the passionate, innovative and courageous AVID team”

       What Next?

We recognise that to realise the full potential of this shift and the benefits of co-leadership will require time and ongoing effort. The new structure coming into force is very much the start and we would like to invite our members and stakeholders on the next steps of this journey in the hope that our approach can provide an opportunity for learning for others in our network and the wider sector.

During the transition process which involved extensive consultation with our board of trustees, input from the team and the external support from an HR consultant, we discussed the principles by which we would like to lead as well as the opportunities and risks. We hope to lead with courage and curiosity, using this opportunity to grow as a team and develop improved ways of communicating, strengthen accountability to our mission and to one another and build a culture of belonging at AVID.

We will be documenting our journey using Weekly Notes and invite you to follow us, ask questions and join us as we embark on this new phase at AVID!

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