Global Challenges Research Fund and Collaborative Research event blog

Global Challenges Research Fund and Collaborative Research event blog

Boingboing blogs from… Norwich & London!

Global Challenges Research Fund and Collaborative Research: “A Connected Communities International Symposium“, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council international development summit: “Mobilising Global Voices” – 6 & 7 June 2017

By Lisa Buttery, Boingboinger

Earlier this month on 6 & 7 June 2017 I traveled with Angie and Scott to some research events as part of our Patterns of Resilience to Drought project. Our first stop was in Norwich at the University of East Anglia (UEA) for the “Global Challenges Research Fund and Collaborative Research: A Connected Communities International Symposium”. This was a pre-event additional to the AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council) summit taking place in London the following day. We were all excited to learn about the work that is being done in other collaborative research projects taking place around the world. As Boingboing’s artist in residence I was particularly excited to hear about the different kinds of arts practices that are going on in these projects. Among all the brilliant projects that presented, there were two that particularly stood out for me.

The first is a project called “STREVA” which stands for “STrengthening REsilience in Volcanic Areas”. Their project shares lots of similarities with our own, both focusing on resilience to natural hazards and working with various disciplines and communities. STREVA is investigating historical responses to severe natural threat, dealing with crises and recovery by exploring both cultural and scientific experiences of volcanoes, and analyzing artistic expressions such as songs, oral traditions, histories and literature. We enjoyed meeting Jenni and Wendy from UEA and hearing about their fantastic work with communities living in areas affected directly by volcanic activity. They had some gorgeous illustrations of volcanoes in their presentation too!

The second project is one called “Refugee Hosts”. It is a project investigating local responses to Syrian refugees, and aims to improve understanding of the challenges and opportunities that arise in local responses to displacement, both for refugees from Syria and from members of the communities hosting them in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. We listened to a powerful reading by Refugee Hosts Writer in Residence Yousif M. Qasmiyeh of his poem “Writing the Camp”. This project’s website really intrigued us and it has a great creative archive documenting the project and research that is taking place. I love meeting fellow community partners and hearing firsthand about the projects they are working on, and what they are taking from them, so when for whatever reasons community partners aren’t present, it’s great to be able to hear their voices or see their artwork.

We gave a short presentation about our own project in South Africa researching young people’s resilience to drought. Despite visa complications, and with thanks to the power of modern technology, our talented South African colleague Selogadi Mampane spoke about her role in our project facilitating our young South African co-researchers to develop image theatre performances exploring their experiences of drought. I spoke about the art workshops that our colleagues from the University of Pretoria facilitated in April 2017, and Angie touched on our research questions and some of the complexities of working in such a collaborative way.

After they day had come to an end, we hurried through the rain to the station to catch our train to London. The next morning, after a good night’s rest, we wandered in the sunshine along to the British Library to attend the AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council) international development summit: “Mobilising Global Voices”. This was another interesting day; it was great to hear about lots of different approaches to mobilizing community voices and we saw some fantastic presentations from a wide variety of projects. An introduction from Baroness Valerie Amos was thought provoking and powerful. She spoke of challenges not being solved by leaders who blame others, the need to become better and smarter at linking our work together, the need for new kinds of collaborative responses and deep cultural listening. She also talked about resilience and challenged inappropriate expectations for people to be resilient in the face of horrific situations, about drought becoming more common and allowing people less and less time to recover. She spoke of the need for researchers to focus less on research and more on transformations.

I watched an incredible film called “Village Tales” about child marriage in India, and amongst learning about many more exciting projects that I don’t have enough time to write about today I was particularly interested in the ongoing conversations that took place about partnership, power, money and the complexities of working together across different communities and organisations. It seems that there are a wide variety of attitudes and approaches to working together throughout the different projects, and some of us found ourselves asking questions about whose voices these “global voices” are? It’s great to see community members’ art on a screen or hear their voices through speakers, and many academics spoke passionately about their partners having such incredible, powerful stories to tell and knowledge to share, but I can’t help but question where they are and what they themselves might have said about the projects if they had had the chance to. I enjoyed my trips to Norwich and London. It’s exciting to get to attend these sorts of events and take part in conversations about global research with communities and I hope that this is just the beginning of us starting to hear louder, stronger voices from all sorts of communities, and for real and positive transformations to take place.

Our participation in these events was supported by funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Thanks so much to colleagues there who worked so hard to make it all happen.

Coding our research data in Leandra blog

We began the task of coding all the data. Coding is the process of finding and grouping mentions of specific words and phrases, into common themes across lots of data. In this case it’s the group of transcripts that altogether add up to over 200 pages of data.

Image film-making workshop in Leandra blog

On Day 2 in Leandra, South Africa, as part of our Resilience to Drought project, Simon supports an image film-making workshop with young co-researchers exploring drought, led by Selogadi Mampane

Collaborative arts workshop in Leandra blog

If you’ve been following our Drought Resilience project you’ll know we’ve been in South Africa working with young co-researchers from Leandra. Naz supports the research process in a collaborative arts workshop, lead by Selogadi.

Arts activist approach Resilience Forum blog

Selogadi Mampane travelled all the way from Pretoria to give the Resilience Forum a live preview of her arts activist approach for young people, which is being used as part of the Patterns of Resilience to Drought project taking place in South Africa.

Co-researching drought in South Africa blog

People from the University of Pretoria, University of Brighton, Boingboing and Khulisa are collaborating on a project: Patterns of Resilience to Drought, exploring community resilience to drought in South Africa from historical and contextual perspectives.

Cultural awareness training blog

The Cultural Awareness session was an opportunity to have an open discussion about some of the issues that come up around cultural awareness. Like an iceberg, a lot of what makes up culture are things that we often cannot see or are below the surface.

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