how it started?
how it started?
Having developed a general interest in urban design and strategy in order to inspire integrated societies, it made sense to get a deeper understanding of the current mass migration that's happening in Europe. Berlin clearly seemed to be the most sought after place for refuge, which is why I moved there with this initial research question:
Martijn De Waal
As one of my first inspirations, this book talks about how humans have always tried to design cities, such that they inspire friction and tolerance between the various different cultural groups that inhabit them. He supports this with case studies dating back to the 17th century, all the way till the 21st century. The questions posed about the future of our kind in this accelerating information age were specifically interesting.
Regarded by many as the father of 'social innovation', Ezio Manzini provides an indepth understanding of this design approach. He talks about how co-design and networked grassroot organisations can provide sustainable solutions for many of the social and environmental challenges we are facing. Once again, he supports his philosophy with compelling case studies.
It didn't take long to notice that innumerable initiatives in Berlin are working extensively to help integrate the newcomers into their new lives. For the sake of simplicity, I broadly classified these efforts into 5 categories:
Bi'bak, Sharehaus Refugio, Multaka
One approach adopted by several initiatives is 'creating an instance of Syria (or Iraq, Afghanistan etc) in Berlin'. They do this by organizing traditional dinners, concerts, exhibitions etc that represent these nations.
The negative— It doesn't necessarily inspire cross cultural interactions.
Give Something Back to Berlin, Sharehaus Refugio
The idea here is to create an environment wherein people from different cultures can meet, interact, build tolerance and expand their network. They enable this through co-housing projects, meetups, pop-up art events etc.
But, this doesn't work very well for the folks with language barriers.
Singa, Give Something Back to Berlin, Uber Den Tellerand
Language cafes and tandems are widespread and frequent. It provides several opportunities for the newcomers to learn or brush up their English and German
One opinion is that its stressful.
Refugee Academy, Kiron, Redi School
Practical education for the newcomers, in order to hone existing skills, and prepare them for the German job market.
However, knowledge of English or German is usually needed as a pre-requisite.
Re:start, Workeer, Migrant Hire
Some initiatives are attempting to create a portal to connect employers with potential refugee employees. They provide legal advice, CV building guidance and essentially act as informed mediators between the two parties.
The problem is, many of the newcomers do not have legal work permits yet.
Regular involvement in volunteering activities for Give Something Back to Berlin, Refugee Academy etc, allowed me to meet innumerable individuals directly or indirectly related to the so-called refugee crisis. Again, they could be broadly categorised into, the refugees:
...and the heads of initiatives / seasoned volunteers (SME)
Sometimes having a chat with a person isn't insightful enough, in terms of understanding their aspirations and motivations as human beings. Which is why, I adopted a few different approaches to dig deeper, and get a genuine understanding of my target groups.
I used a rough framework of possible enquiries in order to push this research in a meaningful direction. I asked the refugees about their:
...and for the SMEs I had the following questions:
The refugees come from several different countries, cultures, social and financial backgrounds.
Smartphone usage is extensive amongst the refugee community. WhatsApp is widely used, but for many, thats the extent of their smartphone usage.
Creating a familiar cultural environment, be it Syrians, Iraqis, Afghanis etc, it definitely ensures greater participation.
Facebook events and in-camp posters are popularly used by initiatives to communicate their activities.
Inspite of the huge scale of integration programmes, this information doesn't seem to reach a majority of the people.
The legitimacy of these initiatives is doubted my many, keeping them from participating.
The SMEs unanimously agree that engaging more refugees is a challenge. Information dispensation mechanisms lack the human-touch, which may be responsible for this problem.
Usually closed female activities are organised in order to engage this group, but otherwise, its difficult to get their participation.
It became clear from the research that there are a lot of initiatives in Berlin that are working in various different spaces in order to help the newcomers integrate into the society. However having said that, it is also apparent that the current system isn't perfect. Which is why, the idea was to identify these holes in the system, and devise a solution to fill in the missing pieces.
To give some structure to the information overload that came out of the research, I created 4 broad achetypes of the research group and mapped them along a journey map, to discover genuine opportunities for intervention.
This archetype has by far been the most successful at integrating here in Berlin. What makes individuals in this group similar is the fact that all of them are open-minded, realise the importance of networking, meeting people, having self driven initiatives and motivations, grabbing on to opportunities etc. Using these qualities they have managed to build a network of friends and colleagues, which keeps them busy in their everyday lives, and definitely well integrated, socially at least.
This group usually hails from the cities. They are well educated, well exposed to different cultures, and hence very open minded. They also come across as highly motivated individuals who are looking to sort out their work or educational lives, here in Europe, and have a plan as to how they could achieve that. However, this group also faces some language barriers, though they are working hard on fixing that problem ASAP.
This group usually comes from modest educational and economic backgrounds. They also usually come from the villages and the relatively rural areas, and havn’t had much exposure to urban lifestyles and western culture. However, they are curious individuals with an open mind and spirit, in terms of going out and experiencing new people and cultures. Their practical approach makes them open to mingling, however they have some language barriers as well, making communication and sharing difficult, which holds them back at times.
This group of individuals are the most culture shocked. They are very vulnerable and reserved and show no motivation to go out, mingle and accept this new culture. They are generally close minded towards western culture and have huge language barriers as well.
The journey map plots out the behaviour of the 4 archetypes from the point of 'discovery' of the integration activities, all the way till their 'participation' in said activities. It helped critically assess their behaviours and reservations, with the end goal of identifying key project opportunities.
Event discovery must be unified, personalized and effortless.
A role model figure can insipre greater engagement.
A workshop toolkit enabling non-verbal participation, collaboration and sharing.
A personalized recommendation system that facilitates continued engagement.
All the opportunities are held together by 1 common need— information dispensation. These could be the basis of different touchpoint that constitute a single systemic solution. Based on that, I defined the re:boot project as:
And finally, to get a bird's eye view of how this entire system would work, here is a map illustrating how the key touchpoints ( in red ) connect with each other to form a self sustaining information delivery system.