Arts for Advocacy: Creative Engagement with Forced Displacement in Morocco

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Social and Political Science


This project will develop innovative, interdisciplinary, and participatory arts-based methods to facilitate creative engagement with forced displacement in Morocco. Morocco has become a country of transit and immigration, notably for sub-Saharan migrants fleeing persecution and poverty and for those fleeing conflict and persecution in Syria. Morocco is a strategic partner for the EU in the 'management' of trans-Mediterranean migration. Nevertheless, Morocco has featured little in recent depictions of the 'migration crisis' and has been overlooked by research. In this context, interculturality, migrants' rights, violence, and racism in Morocco urgently require new modes of critical engagement for research oriented towards the generation of new knowledge for policy-making and advocacy alike.

Researchers, practitioners, and activists support the emergent deployment of arts-based methods as social research tools to engage with displaced communities, pointing to the positive contribution and transformative power of creative arts for research and advocacy on forced displacement. However, this growing emphasis on participatory and interdisciplinary arts-based methods is usually limited to the 'global north'. In contrast, this project will adapt this methodological approach in Morocco. Four research questions drive this project:

1. To what extent and how can engagement with creative arts generate fresh insights on displacement in Morocco?
2. To what extent and how can arts-based methods enhance traditional social research on forced displacement?
3. How can engagement with arts disrupt power relations and enable co-production of participatory methods?
4. How can creative participatory methods generate synergies between research, advocacy, and capacity building?

Our four Project Partners are 1) an NGO supporting forced migrants in Morocco (GADEM), 2) a forced migrants' association in Rabat (ALECMA), 3) an artists' collective in Morocco (DABATEATR), and 4) a UK-based refugee, asylum and migration network (GRAMNet). Our Project Partners in Morocco are invested in fostering critical engagement and improving political discourse and social acceptance in Morocco. Research activities co-designed and co-delivered in Morocco in collaboration with our Project Partners include a seminar for practitioners working on forced displacement, creative arts-based workshops for members of the 'displaced' and 'host' communities, and transnational knowledge exchange forums for practitioners. Project objectives are:

1. To deploy creative arts-based methods to generate fresh empirical and theoretical insights on displacement and migration in Morocco as a case study, and to evaluate the potential for application in other ODA contexts;
2. To co-design participatory activities to enhance the capacity of NGOs supporting displaced communities in Morocco to pursue sustainable engagement, research, and advocacy programmes;
3. To enhance the capacity of grassroots migrants' associations to engage, mobilise, and support migrants;
4. To build relationships, develop partnerships, and exchange best practice transnationally between Morocco and the UK and across academia and the third sector working on forced displacement.

Led by Dr Laura Jeffery (University of Edinburgh), the team consists of researchers from across the humanities and social sciences with experiences in forced displacement, arts-based methods, NGO partnership, knowledge exchange, and capacity building within and beyond the Moroccan context. Through its inclusion of migrants and practitioners in the research process and in the development of research methods, this study builds the research and advocacy capacity of Project Partners. By deploying a multidisciplinary approach, and devising an innovative, participatory method, the project will have economic and societal impacts within and beyond the project's life cycle.

Planned Impact

This project aims to have first and foremost a direct impact on the lives of those affected by forced displacement in Morocco. It will develop and deploy innovative methods to respond to the current migration crisis and influence working practices at organisational levels. The project will foster dialogue and knowledge exchange between displaced people, activists, practitioners, academics, and policy makers, impacting upon the following groups:

1. DISPLACED PEOPLE AND THE WIDER PUBLIC. The project will generate positive societal impacts by developing new modes of creative engagement to support displaced populations.
a) Participants from 'displaced' and 'host' populations will benefit from the creative workshops to overcome currently tense and fraught interethnic relations and enhance social cohesion in Morocco.
b) Access to the project's non-academic outputs (such as the 'Arts for Advocacy' training toolkit) will enhance quality of life, cultural enrichment, and increased awareness of the current challenges.
c) Project outreach channels such as website, blog, and social media will improve understanding of issues affecting displaced communities among practitioners and civic society.
d) Migrant'Scène festival (Morocco) and exhibition and dissemination events for Refugee Week (UK) will foster community participation and engagement.

2. THIRD-SECTOR ORGANISATIONS, PROFESSIONALS, AND PRACTITIONERS WORKING ON FORCED DISPLACEMENT in Morocco and the UK. The project's innovative methods will enhance the impact and effectiveness of support structures for displaced populations:
a) The research capacity and skills of Project Partners will be enhanced through co-design and co-delivery of the project.
b) Participants will gain transferable skills in community engagement and advocacy through participation in seminar and workshops.
c) The capacity and skills of the NGO sector in Morocco will benefit from knowledge exchange events by learning about working practices deployed efectively in other ethnographic contexts to support forcibly displaced communities.
d) The enhanced research capacity of Moroccan NGOs will enable them to attract future research and development and engender community regeneration.
e) The transnational knowledge exchange of best practice will improve the organisational culture and practices of the NGO sector and enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of organisations.
f) Long-lasting relationships amongst Project Partners will be fostered through the project's multilingual and interactive website which will showcase findings and our 'Arts for Advocacy' best practice video toolkit.

3. POLICY MAKERS. The project addresses key policy issues. Project outputs (reports, academic publications, the toolkit, and other transferable resources) will be made accessible to research users, lobbyist organisations, and policy makers including (but not exclusively): Centre National des Droits de l'Homme (CNDH), Observatoire Nationale de la Migration (ONM), Réseau euro-méditerranéen des droits de l'Homme (REMDH), Migreurop, European Commission Migration and Home Affairs Department, and European Union External Action Service.
a) Increased access to user-informed research co-developed by practitioners, academics and participants will directly influence policy development at national level.
b) Morocco's recent 'Stratégie Nationale d'Immigration et d'Asile' (National Strategy for Immigration and Asylum) (2014) includes 'Education and Culture' and 'Professional Development' among eleven programmes for action. 'Arts for Advocacy' will generate new insights and knowledge to address these key concerns through its use of creative practices for capacity building.
c) Enhanced engagement with transnational practitioners based in Morocco and the UK will enable policy makers and NGOs with a lobbying remit to gain insights into best practice on forced displacement and influence future policies.


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