Building Resilience Wellbeing and Cohesion in Displaced Societies Using Digital Heritage

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bradford
Department Name: Sch of Life Sciences

Abstract

This project's overall objectives are: (i) to engage with the refugee (primarily Syrian) and mixed communities in and around Azraq in Jordan to enable them to discuss and use the digital heritage technologies and capacities developed in our AHRC-funded projects for their own well-being, including building mutual confidence and community cohesion, and (ii) to learn from the experience to develop approaches and good practices for wider uses of digital heritage resources to the benefit of refugee, displaced and conflict-affected communities in other regions.
The project builds on the successes of the AHRC-funded Augmenting Jordanian Heritage (AJH) and Fragmented Heritage (Curious Travellers element) Projects, as well as drawing on aspects of the AHRC-funded Continuing Bonds Project. The follow-on funding reaches new audiences, namely refugee and communities in the Azraq region of Jordan, with an additional focus on the role of heritage in peacebuilding, thus representing a new interdisciplinary collaboration between archaeology, digital heritage, peace studies and international development, working with local partners in Jordan. The project aims to use heritage as a further key tool in an innovative and creative way, to enhance a sense of place, explore the role and value of digital heritage in identity, community development and wellbeing in contexts of displaced and conflict-affected communities.,
The project combines several recently established bodies of knowledge and practice from the areas of peace studies & international development, and archaeology & heritage, from which the CoI OG and PI, CoI AW and CoI KC have strong experience. Local community involvement will be embedded in the project from the outset, with our Jordanian collaborators involved in all stages of the project as they have been from inception. Members of this project team have substantial experience of conflict and conflict sensitive analyses and community building processes (CoI OG) and archaeological and heritage research in Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East, including some field experience (PI; CoI KC). Our local partners are Jordan Heritage and Wafr Al Waqt, both local NGOs with track record of activities and engagement with local and refugee communities on issues of diverse tangible and intangible heritages. These local partners have fully contributed to, the development of this proposal; and the project will enhance their capacity for follow-on activities after the project ends.

Five face-to-face project events are planned (4 in Jordan, 1 in the UK), to prepare the project, build capacity of local patterns, and to monitor, review and evaluate the project progress and process. A series of three community workshops will be established and facilitate processes of community engagement in and around Azraq on the relevance and values of diverse cultural heritages, and to guide and use digital heritage assets that are either already generated or will be created for this project. The project team will also meet at least monthly (via Skype), and more regularly when needed. The outputs include creation and use of the digital assets customized to community priorities and needs; establishment and conflict-sensitive facilitation of community dialogue and building processes; capacity-building; and evaluation and development and dissemination of targeted whitepapers for NGO, government and international use, based on the lessons learned and methodology we will develop through the project, and articles aimed at lay audiences (in English and Arabic).

The project aims directly and primarily address UK Aid / ODA priorities. They further address identified strategic development goals and established United Nations regional response plans (United Nations, 2014) and to proposed policies for the use of heritage in sustainable development (UNESCO, 2015) each of which link directly to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations, 2015).

Planned Impact

The project will engage with and benefit refugee and displaced communities and individuals and to enable them to discuss and use digital heritage for community confidence-building, cohesion and psycho-social wellbeing; and further to evaluate and learn lessons from project implementation in Jordan to develop good practices and effective approaches for similar uses of digital heritage elsewhere in the world. There will be an impact on community-building and uses of digital heritage for such purposes in and around Azraq and follow-on activities in Jordan by our collaborators. We expect a broader impact to contribute to the countries from which they are currently displaced (particularly Syria), as well as to the areas where they currently located. This specifically means those within the Azraq camp in northern Jordan which hosts over 35,000 individuals displaced from various regions of Syria. Azraq is a nearby township which has also seen an influx of Syrians since the crisis. The evaluation, preparation and dissemination of 'whitepapers' clarifying approaches and good practices for such uses of digital heritage by displaced and conflict affected communities will provide wider benefits by promoting and enabling appropriate, conflict and gender-sensitive, uses of digital heritage assets to other refugee, displaced and conflict affected communities in other regions of the world.

The fragmented heritage project's 'curious travellers' initiative has developed a widely applicable methodology for building interactive 3d models and environments of remote locations and features using web scraped and donated photography. It provides a framework for individuals to create a tailored experience of landscapes, buildings, monuments, or objects that are inaccessible to them due to displacement and possibly destruction. Such an experience feeds into personal resilience and wellbeing building. Improvements in wellbeing of communities within camps is a significant impact driven by this research. This includes individuals but particularly benefits communities by helping them to develop confidence and cohesion as well as improve heritage education, in contexts where communities are inevitably diverse and challenged by social, political,ethnic, gender and other divisions. It offers the possibility not only for community dialogue but also to reconnect with cultural values and lost identities through providing an environment through which people can visualise the spaces which they value or from which they have been derived. It offers the possibility to help younger individuals who have only fragmentary and negative memories of the past living situations to connect with the legacy of their community. Improvement of wellbeing can not be understated as an important mechanism in sustainable development. The offer of reconnecting with heritage can provide a sense of belonging and offer an experience of inclusion and illustrate the potential for future prosperity.

The creation of digital assets of specific heritage locations will highlight these as places of interest in the wider international community. In the least they become targets for international conservation efforts and national heritage assets and they have the potential for being centers for sustainable tourism and the economic benefits that arise surrounding this. Keeping local history and the legacy of culture and important buildings on the minds of the communities that will return. It will create a sense of ownership in helping the recovery of the locations and, owing to the accuracy of some of the digital models produced within the project, can provide a visual framework from which to reconstruct buildings and monuments which have been destroyed. Stated efforts are a source of reducing tensions within townships that have been impacted by incoming displaced people. It will help identify common goals that will lead to common local initiative that will drive sustainability within the area.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The project set out to test the potential for heritage, specifically digital heritage (things like VR experiences of places of interest), to be used within the context of improving community spirit and well-being. Feedback from workshops and cultural event activities carried out within this project have clearly indicated that the approaches taken have considerable potential within this setting. Feedback from the displaced and mixed communities with which we have worked has been overwhelmingly positive. Initial indicators from external monitoring also show an impact with reporting of growth and changes in social networks and an increase and further desire for further communal social events.

The work has also built a good relationship with the UNHCR community protection working group with a view to incorporating methods tested in this project into policy for program delivery initiatives.
Exploitation Route The program of work can be taken forward by integrating the process tested through the work into program delivery portfolios within refugee camps beyond the camp community in which this work was tested. Early indicators suggest the work has utility in building social cohesion and personal resilience in this high risk populations and so a program of work designed around the project methodology would be useful to those creating support structures in emerging refugee crisis and in established facilities where indicators are showing poor social cohesion and, for example, high levels of suicide and domestic violence. The work also has applications in mixed communities by the same mechanism formulated within closed camp settings. It can be seen as an additional tool for those engaged in refugee integration and reducing social tensions in mixed communities.

Outside of these applications it likely has an application in team building processes and celebrations of diversity.

In academia the work can be taken forward with research around effective program organisation for delivery within established refugee integration processes. It can also be expanded on in two clear directions - heritage applications within mental health and psychosocial support settings and use of immersive digital tools (virtual, mixed, and augmented reality in healthcare applications.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy

URL http://brad.ac.uk/BReaTHe
 
Description Mercy Corps 
Organisation Mercy Corps
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Our team have brought the aims and workshop structure of the project to help build on the ISHRAK psycho-social support programme within the Azraq camp. This includes engaging with refugees and providing virtual reality experiences and discussions around heritage and has built upon the exisiting activity base within the MC programme structure. We have also provided content and activities for an MC stakeholder event by showcasing our work as part of the UKaid and DFID stands at the Royal Highland show. At the event we setup a virtual realitly experiece for the public and stakeholders to see how public funding contributes towards positive experiences in refugee communities.
Collaborator Contribution The partner has provided substantial in-kind contributions in facilitating activities. There are currently two areas in which this is clear 1) In Jordan the Mercy Corps Jordan office have facilitated access to the Azraq Refugee camp by dealing with permit, approval, ethical considerations. Transportation, equipment logistics, staffing and support during workshops, and continued evaluation of activities. 2) Through the UK office, arranging and facilitating the showcasing of our project work at the prestigious Royal Highland Show in June 2019.
Impact Fill in later
Start Year 2019
 
Description BReaTHe project Twitter (https://twitter.com/breatheheritage) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Use of twitter for public engagement with our research. The project has reteweeted relevant tweets from UNHCR MercyCorps academics and the third sector. We have also tweeted about project activities at workshops, events and while on fieldwork in the refugee camps: impression counts
118 June 2019
1600 July 2019
523 August 2019
1500 September 2019 (Were at Talking Peace festival September 19th)
566 Oct 2019
427 Nov 2019
643 Dec 2019 (Karina Croucher spoke about the project at TAG 19th Dec 2019)
81 Jan 2020
82 Feb 2020
76 Mar 2020
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
URL https://twitter.com/breatheheritage
 
Description Bradford Science Festival (18-21 July 2019) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The BReaTHe project presented a research showcase to highlight activities of the university of Bradford engaging in the use of science and technology for the benefit of displaced people. The team took questions and had good discussions with members of the public about the research activities. Individuals reported a change in perception of how universities can contribute to social problems and how a subject like archaeology has benefits beyond those that are usually more obvious.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Highland Show BBC radio interview (19/6/2019) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Was interviewed on BBC radio Scotland on the subject of using heritage and virtual reality in refugee camps. This was to highlight the upcoming highland show and activities that were available at the show, which included a showcase of the BReaTHe project work and the activities of Mercy Corps as a global organisation working in the international aid community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Highland Show UKGov-Mercy Corps (20 Jun 2019 - 23 Jun 2019) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The BReaTHe project presented a showcase of activities that were ongoing within the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan in collaboration with Mercy Corps. This showcase took place as part of the UK governments activities as an illustration of how UKAid money is utilised globally. The event footfall was above 500. A direct experience of virtual reality was provided to over 100 individuals during the three day event. This included David Mundell, WS (at the time MP and Secretary of State for Scotland) and Lord Ian Duncan (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) each of which engaged in positive discussions around the applications of our research findings and activities. The general public reported changed perceptions of the activities of university academics and the ways in which the government spends funds on foreign aid.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description International Conference on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Crisis Situations (7-8th October 2019) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation hosted an international conference in Amsterdam on 7 and 8 October 2019 to promote Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) as an integral part of the humanitarian response in crisis and emergency situations. The BReaTHe project with MercyCorps showcased our work in the Azraq refugee camp and talked about the use of technology and heritage as a device in psychosocial support programming.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.government.nl/ministries/ministry-of-foreign-affairs/events/mental-health-and-psychosoci...
 
Description UNHCR Jordan (18th Nov 2019) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The activity involved feeding back project activities and early outcomes to UNHCR Jordan as part of engaging with wider discussions of how this work could feed into psychosocial programming. The project has been well received in this setting and an outcome for this has been plans for future activities and introduction to special interest groups within the UNHCR organisation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019