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Liberating Knowledge Structures

Liberating Knowledge Structures is a framework that taps into the assets of refugee communities to creatively identify and address problems.

Photo of Femi Vance
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This learning framework includes three elements: Reflection, Awareness, and Liberating Structures. The Reflection component asks refugees to reflect on their experiences. Intentional activities draw from community members’ own knowledge to create conversations, consciousness and restorative practices around the socio-cultural contexts of their current environment. Activities also position refugees as centers of knowledge and establish the empowering climate needed in the upcoming phases. Module: Turning Points Timeline The Awareness component engages community members in several resource mapping activities to answer questions such as What resources do I have available? What power do I have? What do I want to accomplish? Modules: Community Resource Mapping, Power Mapping, Expert Brief During the Liberating Knowledge Structures component community members collectively identify and tackle shared challenges with an explicit intent to learn and grow from one another. The modules ask members to draw on the resources identified in the Awareness component to work towards sustainable growth. Modules: KWL, Root Cause, Collective Solutions


Liberating Knowledge Structures is a framework that supports the informal exchange of knowledge that is geared towards action and empowerment. It benefits all refugee community members. The design of the framework addresses the need for loose, replicable, situated, and experiential community-based learning.


We’d like feedback from anyone with experience working in a variety of different refugee community settings. We are especially interested in thoughts on the feasibility, replicability, and sustainability of our idea.

SKILL SHARE (optional)

Our team has experience in qualitative and quantitative research design, international comparative education, international gender education initiatives, teaching in formal and informal settings, informal learning, program design and evaluation, impact evaluations, and marginalized communities. We could use help from experts on refugee settings and non-governmental organizations.


We work in the United States.


  • Yes, I have implementation capacity and am interested in and able to make this idea real in my community.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Shane Zhao

Interesting idea Femi! Can you share with you a bit more about how this approach can cater to the unique needs and contexts of refugee communities?

Photo of Linda Lu

Hi Shane,

Thanks for your comment! I am a part of the Liberating Knowledge Structures team and thought I would tackle your question.

Our idea is a facilitating framework, rather than a formalized schooling structure or institutionalized curricula. This frameworks hopes to tap into local community experiences in order to create collective knowledge and sees this as foundational for expanded learning. Because it is a framework and not a formalized curricula it is more adaptable to each refugee community's distinct political, historical and cultural factors affecting them. it is important to us to create a learning structure designed with that context in mind

The three components - Reflection, Awareness, and Liberating Knowledge - are designed to pull situated knowledges in order to facilitate experiential community-based learning. During Reflection, community members are asked to reflect on "what happened?" There is a Turning Points Timeline, which asks individuals or partners to record and log what has happened to them and plot the events on a timeline. Reflective activities such as this position, and hopefully empower, the community and their experiences as the centers of knowledge and establish a climate of reflection and inquiry needed in the upcoming phases.

In order for refugee communities to exchange knowledge or negotiate power there must first be an understanding of the resources at your fingertips.The Awareness has some activities such as community resource mapping, asset mapping, and power mapping, which asks community members to physically map out what resources are available in order to share with one another (i.e. where are hospitals or available healthcare, where is the an available local potable water source, what boundaries are safe to travel to).

Liberating Knowledges is the component that takes what the community knows and manifests it into stating "This is what I can do." Intentional activities are designed to work with community members to utilize what they know in order to work towards solutions.

The framework itself is very conceptual, but the intentional activities and modules are all concrete activities that have been proven within other expanded learning communities (international community-based organizations, after-school programs).

The framework caters to the unique needs of refugee communities because it is not a preexisting curricula or formalized schooling technologies. Often formalized concepts of schooling are embedded with assumptions and expectations of outcomes, which can end up being irrelevant or disconnected to experiences of local communities, particularly refugee communities. Here we hope to create a more pedagogically versatile structure (somewhat utilizing Frieran critical pedagogical concepts) wherein activities pull and center the knowledge of the community in order to let those communities self-determine what they would like to learn and change.

I'm not sure if that long-winded response answers your question. It is a bit conceptual right now and we hope to explore and refine this idea as we continue on.