3 RESEARCH AXIS
State of the Art
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
...and the heads of initiatives / seasoned volunteers (SME)
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.
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
...and for the SMEs I had the following questions:
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.
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.