Meeting the needs of the target community- both myself and the Syrian refugee community I am working with, through 'focus group'- type meetings and conversations, have identified two underlying problems that then formulate their other, smaller immediate issues. Those being lack of sustainable access to income and education. In my visits and discussions to other communities outside this specific one in the North (Plage Nour), they too expressed a need for education and some sort of steady, sustainable source of income. This is where this project came from- the immediate needs of the community. Yes, they also specified a need for immediate cash and food and medicine, but thousands of NGOs are operating on this basis. I wanted to instead offer a system of social empowerment and innovation that would provide these things, but through a framework of knowledge exchange.
Connecting to broader community- at the beginning of this project, I went about formulating a socially sustainable system- that is, being able to develop and operate without the continuous need for external funding and facilitation. This then developed into the need for external (public) engagement in order to culturally and economically sustain the system. This is now done with integrated classes and workshops for both Lebanese and Syrians, and open days (mentioned in an earlier comment) to engage the host community on the ground. Linking it to formal education is something we have not thought through, at the moment only providing formal educational institutions in the advisory panel to inform the development of the curriculum and the make up of the system in action. Situating the system in a formal education setting from the beginning, however, made it difficult to secure trained teachers or approved curriculum to begin the classes as soon as they did. The idea was to supplement formal education through an alternative. In the curriculum which I've uploaded as a supporting document, I explain why the 'normal' institutionalised system of education may not work as well as an informal community centric model for circumstantial migrant children.
Quality of facilitators/ content- I've tried very hard this year to act as a framework advisor, rather than attempt to run every detail of the system on the ground- this was to allow and familiarise the community to run their own model of education, following my framework and curriculum. Having said that, to ensure both quality of facilitators and content, at the end of every workshop the students/pupils are given a feedback form to be filled out and privately given to the head facilitator (or settlement focal leader). This is to then inform future workshops or even future facilitators. This is largely the case with Trade-based classes. With others such as Art Therapy and Safe Space, the network of advisors act as facilitator trainers and give them the initial skills and knowledge necessary to run these workshops. With proper assistance, I'd like to set up program scrutiny panels to oversee the development of each workshop as well as a development committee to assess the successes and failures of each workshop area. This is, of course, to be done after proper establishment and finalising the details and implementing the curriculum and framework as standardised methods of operating within this 'system.'
Target demographics- Initially, this project was centred around the needs of migrant children, and their lack of access to education. However, whilst observing the need for education and skill building among all ages and sexes, I found no need to identify a specific subset of the demographics as they face these limitations and intersectional oppression as a collective- adults needed education as well as income, children needed education as well as income, teenagers needed education as well as income. And all these interrelate. This is not a system for a specific individual, but rather for a collective of individuals who share experience and who share circumstance.
Hi! I'm trying to add some of the feedback I've gotten, but there is very limited space.
Here is a small breakdown of some of the feedback I've received from quick chats to some of the community members. Because of Ramadan, they have been largely unresponsive and feedback has been limited so I will be meeting with them in full after the holidays.
-Economic Viability- revenue generation has been limited due to lack of public engagement- iterations to the system are needed to increase opportunities for economic sustainability. We now need to work out a way to enhance and develop methodologies of income generation separate from our current plan, which is done through cross cultural engagement and enrichment workshops with the host community.
-Expanding the areas being taught: This came from women who would like to engage in more hands on workshops that they can then see immediate benefit for. They have requested to be taught hairdressing and makeup as this is largely a profitable business in Lebanon. But because this project is rooted in community based education, meaning members of the community are teaching others in the community, we may have to expand this idea to allow for external facilitators to train others in the community. This is what they have requested, and I'd like to integrate this into the advisory panel that acts as 'mentors'; we would expand this to not only include NGOs and Schools but skill based organisations that work in these fields of interest.
-Assessment reports for the children: a parent made a comment about seeing progress reports for the children to assess their learning development. As this was intended to be a largely introverted process of individual development, the idea of rigidly assessing the children seems out of place, to me at least. So, the next step here is to work with the community to develop methods of assessment beyond traditional institutionalised practices.
Hello! Apologies for my late replies, I've been traveling with no internet access and didn't even know I made it to the refinement list! Was a great email to come back to.
So 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 in local fairs, farmer's markets, and so on. In the same gold leafing workshop mentioned above, half the students are Lebanese from the local surrounding communities, who pay a small fee that gets fed back into the system and re-invested in various things. The idea is that while external funding is needed to get system started, through public engagement with the host community, that system slowly becomes economically self sustaining, on top of its social sustainability. One of the commentators below suggested having free workshops to the local community- I fed that back to the community leader, and they successfully hosted an 'open-day', of sorts, where people from the local communities came and visited the different workshops that were being put on. Some of these were cooking, story telling, and so on.
My overall idea is to provide all the tools and frameworks necessary for the people living in these otherwise educationally unstimulated pockets of informal refugee communities to be able to transform them into cultural centres for free education and innovation.