W1 Day 1 - Setting the scene

The first day of the workshop started in the Arts Tower of the Sheffield School of Architecture with a recap on the aims of the project and an activity to discuss the expectations of all the partners for the workshop followed by an workshop in the afternoon to explore how we define inclusion.

Managing expectations

This exercise revealed that although the participants come from a range of different disciplines with different levels of experience on the topic of refugees, there was a synergy in the expectations for the workshop. There were three key areas which emerged: firstly at the project level it was seen an important opportunity to "get to know the team", "learn from partner organisations" and have "a common understanding of our goals". Secondly it was identified that there was the need to develop a common understanding about the concepts we are addressing in the project for example the is a need to, “discuss ‘our’ audiences” and “develop a common ground to move forward (concepts, principles, objectives)” and linked to the diversity of the group, "to combine different competencies/knowledge/languages on complex issues". The third area was regarding engaged learning. There was a desire to, “reflect on how we share, experience and produce knowledge” and in particular how we will approach this with refugees – how can we make “refugees integral to teaching practice”, what are the “opportunities to work in collaboration with refugee/migrant groups?”.

Who are we talking about in this project?

We know that the project will focus on urban areas in Europe, however it is also important for us as a group to determine who is the focus of this project as we this has often been unclear. Dr Nishat Awan from SSoA helped facilitate this workshop highlighting the differences between the different definitions such as the fact that being a refugee and asylum seeker entail completely different issues in people’s lives and completely different legal statuses. Others highlighted the fact that there may be practical justifications for excluding certain groups, such as ‘migrants’, from the project so that it doesn’t become too inclusive. There was also a concern about using labels to categorise people and the also the pejorative implications that are tied to many of them.

As a result we decided that it would be useful to step back and before choosing the labels we want to use we could look at the characteristics of the target group that we want to be working with. This was the list of characteristics:

  • “Someone without citizenship rights

  • Currently cash poor (later removed)

  • Little contact to local communities

  • Lack of access to public services

  • Without right to (formal) work

  • Stigmatisation / discrimination / race - (changed to “negative perceptions and representations - ‘othering’”)

  • Limbo status

  • Vulnerable to exploitation

  • alone / ‘solo’ situation - without social supports, on journey/at destination

  • Post-traumatic condition

  • Disempowered

  • Lack of voice and influence / invisible

  • Not allowed to move - can’t exercise agency / blockage of journey “

One concern about this list of characteristics was that it was portraying refugees and asylum seekers as having little or no agency.

Defining inclusion

The next activity focused on trying to come up with a common understanding of 'inclusion' for the project. There was some questioning of the term as too fluid and the idea that inclusion is not balanced, as it reinforces the binaries between being inside and outside and the concept of the 'other' whereas 'interaction' is more of a two-way relationship that involved agencies on both 'sides'. We started by splitting into small groups and coming up with key words that describe inclusion. We than collected all the keywords and started clustering them into themes.

We then worked in small groups to write up each cluster into a sentence to form our initial different dimensions of inclusion:

"Inclusion is...

  1. A continuous process creating the conditions for empowering all to exercise their agency, in order to achieve self realisation and belonging through active participation, work…

  2. Having the possibility to choose, having the possibility to be part of

  3. Inclusion is achieved at the local level through proximity and connectedness and access to both formal and informal networks (of support and mutual help) in everyday life

  4. Interaction between different communities to create mutual knowledge in order to achieve reciprocity, equality and a pluralistic society

  5. The right to have a voice and influence on decisions that affect you"

We then looked at what was missing and whether all the characteristics of the audience have been addressed. Points missing:

  • Post-traumatic condition

  • Negative perceptions

  • Limbo status

To close we decided to revisit this working definition at the end of the workshop to see whether things have changed as a result of the learning that will take place throughout the week. We also wanted to continue discussions about the spatial scales of inclusion that we will be focusing on.