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Involving migrants in EU projects

WE-Hope project is about reasserting the value of memories, especially the painful ones. The ambition of the project is to connect people through shared memories of people who survived World War II and migrants seeking safety in Europe. Like WE-Hope, some EU projects are aiming to create more inclusion in the cultural field and to involve socially fragile communities by reasserting the value of people’s stories and using co-creation methodologies.

Among those projects, MEMEX (funded by H2020 programme) promotes social cohesion through collaborative, heritage-related tools that provide inclusive access to tangible and intangible cultural heritage and, at the same time, facilitate encounters, discussions and interactions between communities at risk of social exclusion.

The project is coordinated by IIT (Italy) and brings together technical and social/cultural partners from Europe.

MEMEX project image
© MEMEX project

The project deploys three pilots: Paris, Barcelona and Lisbon. Two of them tackle directly the question of involving migrants into the co-creation process. Since being involved in cultural projects is a big concern for migrants, that it is about trust, it requires a long-term partnership with stakeholders like other NGOs. Each pilot has developed strong partnerships with local stakeholders(1) in order to implement MEMEX activities of co-creation at the very local level. Two consortium partners – Interarts in charge of Barcelona Pilot and Mapa das Ideias in charge of Lisbon Pilot – share in this article some of the strategies they identified to reach migrants (or second and third generation migrants):

The first key in the MEMEX project was to establish local partnerships. First, we must acknowledge that communities at risk of social exclusion do not only endure individual pressures, but also structural pressures. This analysis must be answered by building strong cooperation between institutions to respond to the needs of migrants in various dimensions (cultural, social, financial, legal, etc.) Institutions are crucial because without them it is hard to set-up a safe space for participation. But when the trust between communities and institutions is broken or damaged, find community leaders and engage them as a proxy, either turning them into allies or even hiring them as part of the staff or as part of a social/cultural healing process.

It is also important to adapt the schedule: migrants are often wrapped in predatory or fragile labour practices, in which their ability to participate in actions within typical work hours may be compromised. Adapting to the possibilities of migrants is fundamental especially if the work implies a degree of collaboration among participants, in which schedules should be coordinated with all of them.

The third strategic issue is to compensate accordingly: in some contexts, migrants do not feel encouraged to participate in the societies they move to, and often only have superficial participation, economic issues remain the main drive for their move. Acknowledging the intrinsic value of their participation in cultural or social activities can be an important way to reach them by adapting to their values or expectations. Besides being a demonstrative way to teach that cultural participation has value, the recognition and gratitude for the time they give to the project is also a recognition of their worth.

All those strategies reveal that the process of co-creation itself is at least as important, if not more important than the result produced. Involving migrants into co-creation activities cannot happen without a flexible methodology, that come together with the concept of audience development (Relevant link to find), also one of the priorities of the Creative Europe programme is an essential part of MEMEX methodology, that all the Consortium partners in charge of the implementation of the pilots put into practice within the relationship with the communities they work with.

This article was written by Michael Culture Association, Mapa das Ideias and Interarts, partners of the MEMEX project. MCA is also a partner of WE-Hope project.

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