Hi, I am Chiara Gunella, and I am writing to you as a member of the MUME team.
MUME – the Museu Memorial de l’Exili which translated means “the Exile Memorial Museum” in Catalan – i s one of the 4 cultural institutions in the SO-CLOSE project located at La Jonquera. La Jonquera is a symbolical place for migration: a lot of people crossed this border to reach France around 1939, after the Civil war, to escape from the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. This exile is commonly known as the Republican exile.
In this article, we will introduce you to what we learned from the experience of Co-Creation during the 4 Focus groups (FGs) we conducted here in Catalunya with refugees, policymakers, cultural institutions, academics, and NGOs. The FGs aimed to understand the vision and experience of our participants on a) social cohesion and cultural heritage and; b) project core themes and co-creation methods and tools.
What emerged from our FGs is a co-created recipe for co-creation that can be useful for those who are working with refugees, or collaborating in projects where intercultural dialogue and interactions are the core of their investigation.
Here is the recipe:
( as you know recipes are different, and any person can find his/her perfect ingredient to make co-creation works. This is our suggestion, :))
- With instead of for. We often speak, write or think about projects for migrants, forgetting that they are the “experts by experience”. One of the points that emerged from the FGs is to change this perspective and to work with them while planning or creating projects, especially the ones in which they are the protagonists.
- Amplifying voices instead of giving voices. Migrants already have voices and it’s important to recognize and emphasize that. What we do in projects and research is to amplify their messages and experiences to a broader/different audience? It’s a little swift suggested by our participants that permits us to recognize and highlight the agency of migrants.
- Interaction instead of integration. Another element that our participants frequently shared with us is the value they and their culture can bring to our society. They translated this into the idea of interaction. Interaction is not just fitting into a new community but creating new spaces and new cultures with locals. Of course, it’s difficult but it’s an interesting change of perspective from “you have to integrate into this country” to “let’s see what we can create if our cultures meet”.
- From the perfect migrant to the human being. Another aspect that was raised during the FGs was the high level of expectation that people have on migrants. They are often expected to be perfect and act perfectly in the new environment. They claimed to be recognized as human beings that, as such, can make mistakes, can change their mind, and can “just be”.
- Am I victimizing or infantilizing the person? Any time we are publishing an article, a picture, or a tweet on social media regarding migrants is important to answer this question. Are we influenced by our biases? Are we recognizing the agency of migrants and the complexity of migration? To do so it’s important to check our ideas and values with those who experienced migration. For our participants, it was really important to underline the need to change the single story about migration and work on diverse narratives.
- Check your privilege. Any time we formulate a project or research is important to recognize and critically analyse our discourse and our position in society taking always into account that our gender, religion, sexual orientation, skin colour, abilism, country of origin, age, and much more are elements that intersects and influences our credibility and actions. From the focus groups it emerged the urgency to talk about privilege, and to work on the deconstruction of certain power dynamics.
- Use cultural relativism. Our ideas, our beliefs, and concepts are not universal. There are different ways of perceiving dialogue, inclusion, family, heritage, culture, or memory. While working with migrants from different cultural and social backgrounds is important to take that into account. As emerged from our FGs we should not assume meanings, but try to work in intercultural and diverse teams where concepts, theories, and ideology are discussed and questioned.
Co-creation permitted our team to a) learn from the real experiences of our participants; b) challenge our perspectives and c) critically analyse our discourse about migration.
What did we co-created? Our tools!