Visual Tools

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Migreat! Handbook – Creative approaches to changing the narratives on migration through visual tools

The group of the MiGreat! Project created various visual tools focusing on the narratives of migration. Some of these visual tools already feature  in previous blog posts. This time we would like to share a different outcome, focusing on the process of creating a visual tool: The MiGreat! Handbook. This handbook is about collaboratively working with migrants to develop visual media (short films, posters, etc.) that challenge negative narratives about migration. We believe that visual tools can be an effective means of communicating messages, especially with the growing influence of social media in shaping public opinion. In the handbook we lay out steps and examples that aim to support practitioners to find new ways to free the participants’ creativity, and to actively seek alternative narratives. It is not our intention to set out rules to follow but rather to share our experiences and invite other practitioners to experiment, adapt and improve on the participatory approaches we have presented here.

In this article we would like to share with you the main steps of creating a visual tool, based on our experiences, and also the final outcomes, the visual tools of EFA (London), Nyitott Kör (Hungary), Giolli Cooperative (Italy) and ELAN (France). This is our handbook at a glance how we organised the various steps and approached the process of creating. In the handbook you can read in more detail the description of these steps and also some personal experiences from the partners of the MiGreat! Project.

Posters based on the message: “The migration process is not simple and each journey is unique”. Each poster contains a QR code linked to an audio of the person sharing their story.

What we did: Overview

This overview leads you through a series of steps to develop a participant-led visual tool. It goes through getting a group together, exploring what narratives are out there in society, deciding what narrative you want to focus on and what kind of visual tool you’d like to develop.

To develop our counter-narrative tools, we followed these steps:

  1. Get a group together

Giolli Cooperative on their experiences of initiating the project:“We carried out the meetings in Italian but allowed for linguistic inclusion, as far as was possible. We took care to contact each participant individually, introducing ourselves (if they did not already know us), introducing the Migreat! project and proposing the activity. We welcomed their questions and reassured them about the open atmosphere they would find. We asked for their preferences and availability in terms of times, days and methods: three of the four focus groups took place online, only one in person, in a city park.”

Short videos (2-4 minutes each) representing real stories of people who have been negatively stereotyped or experienced a discriminatory act. The stories are all connected.

2. Explore narratives

Samira, a practitioner from Hungary: “It was not an easy process, because the dominant narratives are not a past story for the Hungarian context, but they are present in the everyday, and I felt that participants needed to distance themselves from these thoughts. They wanted to live their lives, concentrate on practical things, like work and study, and not think too much about the local society’s negative attitudes, because the whole thing was still kind of a trauma for them.”

 ‘Armin’s Dream’ and ‘He could thrive’, which humanise their refugee protagonists living in camps in Hungary. The basic idea and concept of the visual tools were devised by the Drama Deutsch group.

3. Choose your narrative

Example from EFA London’s digital jamboard exploring possible ideas for a campaign video. At this point EFA participants  had already chosen their audience, possible campaign allies, people who support and perhaps already take action on migrants’ rights but might not know much about English classes for migrants (ESOL).  The group considered the questions: ‘what do we want our audience to feel?’, ‘what do we want them to do?’, ‘what do we want to show?’

 ‘Armin’s Dream’ and ‘He could thrive’, which humanise their refugee protagonists living in camps in Hungary. The basic idea and concept of the visual tools were devised by the Drama Deutsch group.
Nyitott Kör involved an Iranian artist, Abouzar Soltani in the participant group, who as a refugee lived in a camp with his son.

4. Make a visual tool

“The biggest challenge was deciding the content and format for the video, given that everyone had slightly different ideas and so much to say. EFA hired a videomaker to help facilitate some scripting sessions and then a videographer to film. A core group of four participants wrote the script with the support of their teacher and the filmmaker, and all four are featured in the video, expressing how they feel about learning English in the UK and what they feel needs to change. The video is influential in its authenticity. It was created by ESOL students to talk about language learning, which is one of the major issues facing migrants and refugees in the UK (and across Europe).”

A campaign video based on the message ‘It’s difficult to learn English, the government should give us more help’ which shares the stories of four English language learners in London.

Reading the MiGreat! Handbook you can get more information and practical tips regarding the process of creating a visual tool. You will find activities and ideas to help you along the journey of clarifying your group’s chosen migration narrative(s) and creating tools collaboratively.  

Further reading:

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