3 RESEARCH AXIS

Literature Review

State of the Art

User Research


 

LITERATURE REVIEW

The City as Interface

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.

Design, When Everybody Designs

Ezio Manzini

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.


 

STATE OF THE ART

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:

 

Creating a Familiar Environment

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.

 Fattoush performing at Sharehaus Refugio

Fattoush performing at Sharehaus Refugio

Cross Cultural Networking

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.

 Pop-up Open Art Shelter at Heisenheide park

Pop-up Open Art Shelter at Heisenheide park

Language Skills

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.

 GSBTB Sprache Cafe in session

GSBTB Sprache Cafe in session

Empowerment through Education

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.

 Redi School in session

Redi School in session

Job Market Absorption

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.

 workeer.de

workeer.de


 

USER RESEARCH | people

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:

 
 Bashar | 39 years

Bashar | 39 years

 Qayum | 25 years

Qayum | 25 years

 Tarek | 29 years

Tarek | 29 years

...and the heads of initiatives / seasoned volunteers (SME)

 Sinead | 26 years

Sinead | 26 years

 Helen | 47 years

Helen | 47 years

 Teekay | 49 years

Teekay | 49 years

 

USER RESEARCH | METHODS

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.

 
 One On One Interviews

One On One Interviews

 Hands On Activities

Hands On Activities

 Shadowing at refugee camps and events

Shadowing at refugee camps and events

 

USER RESEARCH | enquiries

I used a rough framework of possible enquiries in order to push this research in a meaningful direction. I asked the refugees about their:

 

Ownership towards Berlin

Aspirations for the Future

Technological Literacy

...and for the SMEs I had the following questions:

Motivations

Challenges Faced

Communication Strategies


 

research insights

Varied Backgrounds

The refugees come from several different countries, cultures, social and financial backgrounds.

Phone = WhatsApp

Smartphone usage is extensive amongst the refugee community. WhatsApp is widely used, but for many, thats the extent of their smartphone usage.

'By Syrian for Syrian'

Creating a familiar cultural environment, be it Syrians, Iraqis, Afghanis etc, it definitely ensures greater participation.

Posters and Facebook

Facebook events and in-camp posters are popularly used by initiatives to communicate their activities.

Discovery is a Problem

Inspite of the huge scale of integration programmes, this information doesn't seem to reach a majority of the people.

Scepticism

The legitimacy of these initiatives is doubted my many, keeping them from participating.

Information needs a 'face'

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.

Female Participation is Rare

Usually closed female activities are organised in order to engage this group, but otherwise, its difficult to get their participation.