Migrants of Circumstance
An open source knowledge sharing platform that has been designed alongside Syrian refugees in Lebanon, for the past 8 months.
On May 1st, 2015 we began the first trial run of the system in Plage Nour, an informal Syrian refugee settlement in the North of Lebanon. The classes offered were facilitated by Syrians in the community, to others in the community and beyond- workshops like gold leafing, Arabic, maths, and art therapy. In this short film, follow Yousef (5) and his family as they engage themselves in the workshops, classes and safe spaces offered in their own community.
The video from the kickstarter page, which raised roughly £2000 to be used for material, space and equipment investment inside the settlement.
EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA
UNHCR has stated that only 20% of Syrian refugee children are in school, in Lebanon. In my visits to the country over the past year, that was made evident- many kids are on the streets and are left exploited and abused. Lack of work opportunities and insufficient funding from the international community has marginalised the people into extreme poverty. Although these problems are prevalent, they are only a few in a sea of many.
This project aims to address those specific needs- sustainable access to both education and income. The way it works is that once a settlement has agreed on the curriculum and framework, a campaign is launched to raise funds for the system 'jumpstarter'. This amount theoretically jumpstarts the system which gradually becomes self sustaining through public workshops and events, at a fee the community members retain. So two parts make up this framework- workshops facilitated by refugees for refugees for free (based on what skills they are able to share), and workshops facilitated by refugees to the public at a cost.
For youth specifically, safe spaces and skill building curricular frameworks are encouraged to produce Agents of Social Transformation.
The system diagram- the framework
All migrants of circumstance benefit from the system. It is an intrinsically socially integrated and culturally contingent process of operation and thus is inherent in responding to the needs of its users. Specifically, for Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, this idea offers opportunities for socio-economic sustainability, and a framework of educational stimulation.
For a film showing the system in practice and its effect, see the film above or on the website at www.migrantsofcircumstance.com
For six weeks in May and June, I ran a trial implementation of the system in a community in the North of Lebanon. The purpose of the trial run was to assess how well the framework would work. Of course ideally there would be a longer trial, running anywhere from three to six months, however due to constantly changing circumstances, the community leader suggested to run it for a much smaller time as to test its initial effects and response. During these six weeks, various community members led classes and workshops falling under the various curricular umbrellas.
Please check above in the full idea explanation for the details of the trial run, including the specific classes and workshops implemented.
Ahmad in one of the art therapy workshops
From a Safe Space on mothers in exile
From the first Arabic class
This entire process has been designed alongside the community members of Plage Nour, and we've been in constant and continuous contact over every decision made, including the wording and makeup of the curriculum which I first wrote as a draft then circulated around the settlement asking for changes, additions, and notes.
As I'm a design student, I have had the constant support and mentorship of my tutors, who have experience in socially responsive design practices. They have specifically suggested components of the system like incentives for teachers and facilitator template packs, both of which I've developed and implemented in the trial.
I've also met with members of UNHCR in the early stages of my research to discuss methodology of aid and lack of proportional distribution. I've met with the head of Ana Aqra, an NGO working to enhance literacy in migrant communities- we are now working together on how to incorporate their practice into the system. These have all informed both the design and implementation processes.
Since beginning the initial implementation phase of this idea, I've received some, but limited, feedback from the users of the system. This is partially due to Ramadan which began after the trial ended. Due to word limitations, I'll break down their feedback into points:
-Economic Viability- revenue generation has been limited due to lack of public engagement- iterations to the system are needed to increase opportunities for economic sustainabilty
HOW IS THIS IDEA DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOUR ORGANIZATION (OR OTHER ORGANIZATIONS) IS ALREADY DOING?
To my knowledge, no organisation is currently implementing a system of community-wide, social and economic sustainability through education in any refugee setting. There are similar programs, like UNHCR's vocational training program, but none are designed to formulate socio-economically sustainable communities, only individuals. And even in those situations, the individuals are taught a skill, but have no immediate outlet to channel that skill. This system provides opportunities and platforms to both learn, teach, and apply, and offers immediate benefits, in the form of payment for services, vocational skills, and creative and cultural stimulation.
HOW WOULD YOU USE AMPLIFY FUNDING AND DESIGN SUPPORT?
Given IDEO's history in supporting socially responsive service design projects, the knowledge and experience accumulated over those projects will be a core backbone to my design process and progression. After the trial runs, my plan is to expand the project to a finalised framework, curriculum, and manifesto and present it as a universally accessible open source design that anyone can utilise to implement an informal knowledge sharing platform in their communities. This is where amplify's funding and support is highly needed, in order to formulate a culturally and socially appropriate methodology of going about this plan into full scale implementation.
HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF THE CHALLENGE?
The Amplify design principals are largely similar to my own, outlined in my manifesto which can be found on the project's website www.migrantsofcircumstance.com . This project came about after an extensive cultural and social inventory in which both lack of sustainable income and education were identified as key vernacular issues. The system is designed to be wholly sustainable, through encouraging engagement and cultural exchange with the host community, and develops alongside the migrants' circumstances. It is a framework, and is suggestive and evolutionary by nature. And by offering Safe Spaces, the system becomes universally inclusive of all marginalised groups within the community.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS FROM THE AMPLIFY TEAM
We've just finished running a 6 week trial with the basis of testing the system in terms of general engagement, social integration, and immediate effect on the ground. Since they began their workshops, it's been difficult to keep up attendance- refugee life is very fluid and at times they are on site, other times they have a job to go to. We've learned to make the structure of workshops fluid as well, and some act like frameworks in themselves. For example, the gold leafing workshops initially ran twice a week, running an hour each. Now they run on Sundays for three hours at a time, and work as a gradual progression. First week was material make up and contemporary application. Second week was initial application on smooth surfaces. Third was on curved surfaces. But through all of these, we made the materials and equipment readily available at all times so that anyone can practice at a time of their choosing. This is just a small example, we've been improving the structure day by day. I'm meeting with the head of community later this week through Skype to discuss the successes and the areas of improvement as to be ready for our second implementation, beginning August 1st. Since beginning working in the community, I've been putting together a small manifesto of what I've learned as a designer. This can be found on my website, (http://www.migrantsofcircumstance.com under the 'framework' page) but my hope is by the end of summer and by the end of the second implementation trial to develop a more comprehensive manifesto on designing for society, in exile.
I see this project existing as an open source design for setting up platforms of knowledge exchange and skill sharing in refugee settings, or anywhere a community is systematically denied access to education. So I don't see it as technical, but rather informal and socially and culturally integrated.
In terms of financial inputs, these are only a one-off. This idea acts as a system enabler, utilising the external financial input and advisory panel as a 'jumpstart'. The 2,000 pounds that were raised through Kickstarter were used for initial investments in materials, equipment, and payment for workshop facilitators (all of whom are from within the community). After this, the community is encouraged to push for cross cultural engagement and exchange, through making the workshops open to the public, and exhibiting the objects made and skills learned... (no characters left, please see comment below)
SKILL SHARE (optional)
For this project to come to life and continue as a self sustaining entity, we need two main things from the public. The first is the system jumpstart- a certain amount of money is needed to start up. That's being raised through the kickstarter page : https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1400585589/migrants-of-circumstance . The second is a network of NGO partners to aid in infrastructure support.
I am a designer, and so my skills are largely based in that- graphics, video, making, systems.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF
I am a BA Design student at Goldsmiths University of London in the UK, but originally from Beirut, Lebanon. This idea began as my final year project and thesis and has developed into this live project. While am not affiliated with organisations, I have secured the advisory of local NGOs & schools.
IS THIS AN IDEA THAT YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION WOULD LIKE TO TAKE FORWARD?
Yes, I have implementation capacity and am interested in and able to make this idea real in my community.