By Julia Ertl, May 10th 2019
My last week of action research here in Lesvos, Greece started today! My action research focuses on the question: How can refugees visiting and working in the community center ‘One Happy Family’ feel more included and comfortable at the center?
After spending the first couple of months exploring the diverse groups that visit the center, it became clear that being part of the community was very important for everyone.
‘Community’ here means: respect, meeting people from different countries and making friends. It also became clear that three aspects could be improved to strengthen the community feeling even more: cultural understanding, physical contact and physical space.
And it was definitely a fun challenge trying to find the best format to do a focus group, with the following conditions: maximum 1 hour workshop time (challenging!), leading discussions with translation into 4 different languages (another challenge!) while covering all different levels of understanding. Through trial and error, creativity and lots of brainstorming, and after hundreds of observations, many formal and informal interviews, 60 surveys distributed, a photovoice exercise, and multiple other tools I am so excited to see that finally, the first initiatives are starting!
For the theme ‘cultural understanding’, a cultural exchange workshop is in the making. Additionally, a food recommendation box has been made, for people to give suggestions about what small changes could be added to the dishes served for lunch.
Regarding space, a very engaged women’s group is working towards creating a bigger area for women to relax, eat and chat.
Tomorrow we have another meeting, this time with those responsible for the women’s center and the coordination team – curious to see what comes out of that!
Also within the coordination team you can see a shift in mindset, adapting their approach to leading more interactive meetings, by asking more for everyone’s opinions and where everyone feels more comfortable to share the changes they wish for.
Hopefully this new approach will become the norm by systematizing it, so that these initiatives, such as the food recommendation box, will not be individual cases, but will lead to a path in which everyone’s opinion is considered and put into action as much as possible. I am looking forward to following their journey and developments over the next couple of months!
For now, I am so excited for this last week, rounding everything up, having the last meetings, officially handing over the projects and making people feel proud of their achievements so far! This will be fun! 🙂
Check out more project information about this action research The Socially Inclusive Community Center and about action researcher Julia Ertl!