Cities of Refuge – Athens

November 26, 2018 by · Comments Off on Cities of Refuge – Athens 

Just last week I was in Athens as part of the LSE City of Refuge project team, where we repeated the process begun in London in July and continued in Berlin in October, to engage with refugees, or newcomers, and the citizen actors who welcome and support them. This involves building links with local organisations and activists, as well as the newcomers themselves, to hear their stories and to invite them into a process where we can learn from their experiences.

Much as in London and Berlin, I have supported and helped supervise facilitating the workshops I devised. These are conducted in the languages of the newcomers (mainly Arabic & Turkish) and the local citizen actors (Greek & English) and were all held in the multicultural 87th Elementary School of Athens in the Gazi district. This meant a partial re-configuration due to the wider mix of languages – with Myria Georgiou leading the Greek-speaking group, alongside her assistant PhD student, Afroditi-Maria Koulaxi and Dr Vivi Theodoropoulou. Meanwhile Deena Dajani and I led the English-focused group while local activist and teacher, Natasa Vourna, provided Turkish-language facilitation for the Kurdish newcomers’ group. Deena also led the Arabic-speaking group in the second session. As before Marcia Chandra has been a key part of the workshops as her series of portraits accompanying the project develops in each site.

The images of the worksheets below demonstrate, again, the strong levels of engagement and enthusiasm which all the participants brought to this process, capturing and sharing their thoughts, emotions and experiences. Many deeply affecting stories emerged: of difficult journeys across time and space, of acceptance and rejections, of exile and new homes. The range of places that people had originated from was also wider than we had encountered in London or Berlin, with new and different themes emerging which resonated but also struck different notes. One of the key differences was the international cast of citizen actors who had come to Greece to help support the steady stream of refugees. There was also a sense that the situation was more complex than we had previously encountered – against the backdrop of the continuing economic problems experienced in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, and the strong presence of international aid agencies in coping with the scale of the humanitarian emergency of people fleeing war and terror in the region. There seemed more fluidity in terms of what it meant for people to be ‘settled’ in Greece, and a multi-varied strata of access and opportunity depending on who you were and where you came from.

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The project will now go into an analysis and writing up stage, with outcomes due in the Spring – including an exhibition of Marcia’s portraits and stories. Combined with the detailed interviews this should prove to be a powerful examination of what it is like both to experience being a newcomer and to be part of the fabric of support that welcomes and supports them across the three cities, hopefully revealing insights that could strengthen international links between citizens and improve policies.

Cities of Refuge – Berlin

October 22, 2018 by · Comments Off on Cities of Refuge – Berlin 

Just over a week ago I was in Berlin as part of the LSE City of Refuge project team, where we repeated the process begun in London in July to engage with refugees, or newcomers, and the citizen actors who welcome and support them.

This involves building links with local organisations and activists, as well as the newcomers themselves, to hear their stories and to invite them into a process where we can learn from their experiences. My role has been to devise and supervise the facilitation of workshops, which have been conducted mainly in the languages of the newcomers (Arabic) and the local citizen actors (German). In Berlin this has meant stepping back whilst Dr Deena Dajani (Project Research Officer) and Kristina Kolbe (PhD student and Research Assistant) take on the active role of facilitators and mediators of the activities in the workshops. Project leads Professor Myria Georgiou and Dr Suzanne Hall were also on hand to participate in the workshops, alongside artist Marcia Chandra who is creating a series of portraits to accompany the project.

The centre of of engagement process was Refugio.berlin, an organisation in the district of Neukölln that supports a mix of locals and newcomers with accommodation and other services. A number of residents there took part in the workshops, as well as others from across Berlin. Once again, we had a series of fantastic workshops with highly engaged participants who responded with great enthusiasm and energy to the questions being asked and the formats (worksheets and stickers) for capturing their thoughts, emotions and experiences. Some key themes emerged that mirrored the experiences we encountered in London – e.g. time, the weight of bureaucracy, language etc – but there were some marked differences too. The citizen actors displayed a much stronger sense of coherence and capability than in London, perhaps enabled by the much greater resources made available by the German government. The huge difference in scale of the acceptance of refugees between the UK (about 20,00 people) and Germany (around 1 million) was visible too, both in terms of the coordination and funding between state and non-state organisations, and in the expectations of integration into German life and culture.

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Next month we will be heading to repeat these workshops and activities once more in Athens.

Cities of Refuge

July 16, 2018 by · Comments Off on Cities of Refuge 

Proboscis is one of the partners in a new project, Resilient Communities, Resilient Cities? Digital makings of the city of refuge, led by Professor Myria Georgiou of the Media & Communications Dept at London School of Economics. The project seeks to:

examine the role of digital communication in the making of cities of refuge. More particularly, it focusses on urban communities’ digital responses to sudden, unplanned and/or unwelcome change resulting from irregular migration into the city. The project zooms into urban neighbourhoods that receive large number of refugees and migrants. It examines how urban communities mobilise digital communication to respond to disruption and develop capacities to manage change. From the development of local networks in support of refugees, to local training into digital skills, cities’ resilience is tested in the capacity to sustain inclusive, integrated and prospering communities.

Our role is to design the engagement activities and direct workshop facilitation with the various groups taking part. The project will work with communities in 3 sites: London, Athens & Berlin over the next 6 months.

On Saturday we delivered the first workshop and engagement activities at the Chesnuts Community Centre in Harringay, working with a group of Syrian and Iraqi refugees to explore their needs, the resources they have access to as well as the barriers and obstacles they face in their new situation here in London. Drawing upon our previous experience of working with vulnerable communities in challenging circumstances we created a simple way for participants to discuss these issues and to begin mapping out and exploring connections between services, places, people, technologies and systems. We also provided ways for participants to reflect on how they perceive the relative values (in terms of safety and utility) of these things and some measure of where the things they value most sit in terms of emotional and physical proximity or distance.

The workshop was conducted in Arabic and the participants split into two groups, each with an Arabic speaking co-facilitator – Dr Deena Dajani & Haneen Naamneh – from the LSE. We used worksheets and stickers with familiar symbols, from app icons to common services, features and resources, to help make the process fun and visual as well as dynamic and open. It was particularly gratifying to see how enthusiastic the participants were to engage in these ways, and to observe how this kind of ‘asset mapping’ across individual experiences enables people to identify key areas of confidence as well as the gaps where things don’t work so well, don’t feel safe or where trust is uncertain. At the end of what became a long session, it was also great to hear how much the participants had valued this opportunity to come together and discuss things collaboratively. Despite having faced many challenges and obstacles on their respective journeys to this point, there was a palpable energy in the room of optimism and determination to make a new sense of home.

We will be working next with local Harringay residents who have been part of the community welcoming these new arrivals to explore these issues from their perspectives too, and a following workshop will happen later in the summer bring together a mixed group of different locals and new arrivals. In the Autumn we will adapt the process to deliver to similar groups in Berlin (Neuköln) and then Athens (Victoria).

DodoLab PEI

August 28, 2009 by · Comments Off on DodoLab PEI 

Alice Angus and Giles Lane are currently participating in the latest DodoLab in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada where we are working alongside Andrew Hunter (Chief DodoLabster), Barb Hobot, Laura Knapp and Lisa Hirmer, as well as a group of students from Mount Allison University led by Dr Shauna McCabe.

DodoLab PEI is being hosted by the Confederation Centre Art Gallery and is exploring a number of issues related to green space in the city, notably the Experimental Farm there.

DodoLab eBooks & StoryCubes on Diffusion

DodoLab Montréal

May 18, 2009 by · Comments Off on DodoLab Montréal 

DodoLab is a collaboration between Render, Proboscis and the Musagetes Foundation – a dynamic and experimental co-creative lab for engaging participants in events and communities to challenge accepted ideas and develop insights into contexts, processes and situations.

The first DodoLab was held in Montréal in May 2009 at the 5th World Environmental Education Congress – a creative intervention in the exhibition hall and out and about in Montréal itself. Led by Andrew Hunter of Render, the DodoLab team created a series of projects engaging the congress delegates in questioning concepts of sustainability and environmental education with a focus on resilience and adaptability. Giles Lane devised and a facilitated a mapping and StoryCube activity engaging several hundred delegates in annotating a world map with their location and connections to other places, and completing a StoryCube about their ideas on sustainability and resilience.