GCRF_NF100 PPE & Refugees: dealing with a crisis by building livelihoods

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield


In March 2020 we were contacted by UNHCR for help with PPE in the Zaatari refugee camp, using digital printing and sewing capabilities here at our UK Universities and in the camp. Our immediate response means that this work has already started. In both the UK and Jordan we have made prototypes of masks, shields and gowns and there have been co-created innovations in both design and joining technologies. With Agile Response funds we will run an interdisciplinary co-production project, comprising a socio-technical part focused on designing PPE for production in refugee camps and the host community, and socio-behavioural part, understanding how the availability of PPE affects people's attitudes and behaviours around risk, and so enables them to address health threats. Digital manufacturing and digital data gathering will be central, enabling real-time collaboration even without face-to-face contact.
In Jordan - and other lower/middle income countries - there was very limited availability of PPE at the beginning of the pandemic in refugee camps, and UNHCR was only able to source materials for clinical needs. Whilst Jordan has done extraordinarily well in suppressing transmission of the virus, recording 11 deaths from 1100 cases, it has been at only been achieved through the result of a very severe economic and social lockdown and stringent defense laws being invoked. The UNHCR is preparing for Covid19 to a dramatic impact when it comes into densely populated camps, causing community transmission, as lock down is eased. There is a pressing need for supplies of PPE compliant with Jordanian (and other country) standards, yet with limited buying power neither the UN agency nor the government is well-placed to compete globally for supplies. The development need is thus for sustainable local manufacture, using a reliable supply of locally available, low-cost materials to produce PPE appropriate to refugees' needs. Simultaneously, the project will tackle the problem of plastic waste, (including discarded PPE), open employment opportunities in small-scale manufacturing, and build resilience within the camp community by reinforcing a sense of collective agency and capacity. The direct benefits of this research will accrue to the substantial refugee populations in Jordan, with outcomes also applicable to other low resource economies hosting displaced people.
Building on existing technical prototyping activities, the project will increase knowledge on successfully producing PPE in the refugee context. The central innovation is to a) co-create the design, manufacture and distribution process with the refugees as partners and thus empowered agents, and b) to thus calibrate the process and outputs to the specific conditions in the camp. The refugee-led social research will address broader questions, currently insufficiently addressed in the literature, of the effects of PPE uptake on refugees' sense of agency, ability and willingness to play a role in preventing and treating COVID-19.
We can move swiftly, as we have engineering and social science PDRAs from the UKRI #redefiningsingleuse grant ready and keen to go. In Jordan, UNHCR and Al Albayt University will train participatory action researchers (PARs) to engage in the design, manufacturing, and implementation of comprehensive reusable PPE (initially masks, shields and gowns, moving on to innovations in gloves and hand sanitiser). The University of Petra will use semi-structured interviews and PARs to understand the social/spatial aspect of PPE-associated behaviour in the confined environment of the camp.
Description Staff were deployed and designed the training programme detailed in the original plan, though there were delays due to Covid restrictions and other issues including changes to key UNHCR and AABU staff. PARs were recruited from the camp and surrounding communities in Mafraq (the region surrounding the camp). They completed the general training, then advanced training courses in the three workgroup areas: Technical, Digital and Social.
Developing circumstances, along with the PARs' inputs, influenced the initial research questions, and the Social PARs worked with their trainers and mentors, developing questionnaires and interviews to reflect the communities' needs.
In response to IT literacy training needs identified in the communities, a training programme was developed for PARs to provide to fellow residents (train the trainer model).
AABU donated a large building, sited on campus, in which we set up an innovation centre to complement the one at Zaatari Camp. The centre provides space and equipment for sewing and embroidery, hydroponics, 3d printing and soap and sanitiser manufacturing. AABU was not able to provide sufficient resources to fully commission the centre but we were still able to use the centre for the majority of its purposes. There are plans in progress by AABU to provide a computer room for digital learning, a reading area for the social group and a shared design space for co-production between groups.
The hydroponics facility was fully commissioned to provide training and horticulture using three types of hydroponics system. PARs and community members are being trained to make their own home based growing system and will, ultimately, learn commercial scale growing to gain employment on farms. This adds to the training capabilities for AABU in this crucial industry in Jordan.
An early example of the co-creation process was linked to the production of masks: instruction leaflets and videos were made demonstrating simple to produce masks. Co-creation ensured that materials are relevant, targeted and appropriate to the audience.
Exploitation Route Useful for other workers in the participatory action research area
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://youtu.be/_hna4xMXLwo
Description PARs trained in AABU and UNHCR facilities; both refugees and community members The need for training in the camp and surrounding communities was demonstrated through the more than four thousand applicants for the PAR positions. Of these 63 were selected to become PARs of their existing basic skill levels which can be enhanced through our training. Included in this group were Syrian refugees and Jordanian citizens with a balance of genders (37 female, 26 male). They received thirty hours of general training designed to bring the cohort together followed by advanced training in their specific disciplines (19 technical, 30 social and 14 digital). Training design was for online as well as face to face delivery, and both forms were used in response to constraints from both the pandemic and caused by permit issues. During the course of the project the permit system for access to Zaatari camp was changed, making it significantly more difficult for trainers to access the camp. Following their advanced training the groups worked to identify community needs which became the focus of Participatory Action Research projects. In these we examined the problem and built interdisciplinary teams to help find solutions, such as for self-help to repair caravans; and websites for the online sale of products designed and produced in the camp. Initially, to better understand the social science context, we carried out a study mapping the themes explored in previous social science research in Zaatari Camp. The social work group generated a roadmap for the PAR social research training course listing the themes and learning outcomes for the two training phases. A number of training formats were used, designed around specific group dynamics and including exercises to facilitate knowledge exchange on the themes covered. Through both phases, social PARs were encouraged to take part with leading roles and many volunteered to assist and contribute in monitoring and delivery. For example one of the social PARs assisted in designing the feedback sessions we ran every morning of the general training. Based on her own training as a social scientist, another social PAR delivered a social methods session, in the advanced training. One day in the general training was dedicated to practising fieldwork, based on the research questions that they brainstormed, after which they completed a reflexive questionnaire. The general training was followed by six reading group sessions, with each Working Group taking charge of two sessions. The Social Working Group assigned reading to the PARs on spatial politics and pandemic geographies, with the Social lead moderating one session and a PAR volunteer moderating the second session. Advanced training sessions built on the themes and skills of the General training. These sessions were conducted with social PARs in Zaatari camp (virtually only) and PARs in Mafraq (virtually and in person) in parallel, due to difficulties in acquiring permits for the trainers to access the camp and Covid outbreaks. The Advanced Training enabled SocialPARs to act as social researchers. Accordingly, they were asked to suggest a number of questions that they would like to explore through the process of the research. Working in groups (3 groups in Zaatari and 4 groups in Mafraq), social PARs suggested main research questions that explore behaviours and livelihoods related to COVID-19 situations. As a result, we facilitated 7 small research projects throughout the Advanced Training. Each training took a deep dive into a step of the research process, refining research questions, designing qualitative and quantitative methods, conducting literature reviews, navigating the 'field', and writing ethnographic description. Advanced training sessions were supplemented with regular writing workshops led by Jordanian journalist Lina Shannak. These workshops developed PARs' skills in reflecting on their field sites and writing 'thick' descriptive analysis of their interviews and observations. We also supported the PARs in the preparation of ethics applications for each of the 7 small research projects. We meticulously evaluated each application until we felt that the groups were ready to begin fieldwork. From these applications, we prepared a handout for each research project in Zaatari, including interview and survey questions, data collection methods, and detailed fieldwork plans, to be approved by the UNHCR in the camp. The UNHCR took several weeks to review this documentation and initially rejected the research questions. After meeting with the UNHCR, the Social Working Group leads worked with the PARs to reformulate their research questions and resubmit to the UNHCR. Because we experienced significant delays in being granted official permissions by the UNHCR and by the Mafraq governorates for the PARs to carry out their research, the PARs had only a matter of days to collect data. These delays and unclear and inconsistent communication from the UNHCR affected our PARs' morale, who were ready and eager to carry out their research. While the volume of data was limited by the delays in receiving permission, the process is well documented and we are preparing papers, co-authored with the participants, on the participatory process. In order to maintain the PARs morale while waiting for permissions the Social Working Group leads met with the PARs individually, and in their 7 groups, to check in and offer space for feedback. These meetings were very helpful in monitoring PARs' commitment and enabling PARs to critique the training process thus far. The Social Working Group leads found that the PARs were still generally very excited to carry out their research, and were happy with new skills they had built through the Advanced training. The leads also incorporated PARs' feedback into remaining training sessions and workshops. In the final two months of the project we held three workshops, that brought together all three working groups, and this greatly boosted morale among the PARs. PARs from Zaatari Camp were able to join the Mafraq PARs, in person for the first time in the project, for these 'cross-group workshops'. The three cross-group workshops were participatory; with each workshop involving PARs in increasingly more sophisticated and responsible management and facilitation roles. The final workshop was organised and run entirely by the PARs, supported by the Social and Digital Working Group leads. In the workshops, PARs formed six groups, with each consisting of members from the Social, Technical, and Digital working groups. They collaborated to identify issues facing their communities and brainstorm solutions combining social research, and digital and technical innovation. These six projects were developed further in each workshop, building on research themes explored throughout the Advanced training. Some of the groups took the initiative to continue their cross-group projects beyond the conclusion of the PPE & Refugees project, which demonstrates the local demand for this kind of participatory action research . During the first two quarters research was carried out into mask design and performance, and guides into making and using masks were produced. We prototyped 3 new masks, which now have Jordanian Governmental approval for National use and produced a video on making 'The People's Mask': a two layer face mask produced without sewing. In Sheffield we developed a mask testing kit which uses widely available, low cost items. This tests the effectiveness of the mask in reducing aerosols from exhaled breath and the breathability of the mask. The blueprint was passed to AABU university so they could duplicate it for use by the PARs. During the initial year of the project we were approached by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who were investigating the impact of including small toys in soaps to encourage hand washing and improve hygiene for children. They ordered soaps from a group that we have been working with at the Zaatari Camp in conjunction with Kima (a local soap manufacturer). The innovation centre at AABU has been set up but not fully commissioned. Practical activities at the innovation centre at AABU include liquid soap and sanitiser development and production; textile training including but not limited to Covid PPE; and hydroponics. The centre will integrate the other project disciplines, having a digital training classroom and a participatory social research study space (PaSR-Hub). The focus on textile training evolved towards giving guidance for home based mask production and general textile manufacture. There is reduced focus on large scale mask production and on developing new mask designs. The Innovation Centre Hydroponics Facility has been fully commissioned and allows us to build on the success of ongoing domestic scale hydroponics work in Zaatari Camp, bringing it to the communities outside camp and giving the PARs a platform to build experience in both domestic and commercial scale hydroponics. It has the potential to address livelihood issues and resilience to food scarcity while improving wellbeing through enhancing the local environment. It also reduces water use in food production. The facility gives the capacity for training and growing using the following hydroponics systems: Deep water culture system for growing leafy greens Cocopeat bag system which can be used to grow fruit vegetables like tomato, cucumber, pepper, etc. Nutrient film technique system which can be used to grow leafy greens, strawberries and herbs. We are working on standardising the growing conditions for different crops to achieve best outcomes and, once trained, the PARs will be working in and running the greenhouse. PARs and refugees are learning how to make their own, very low cost, home based system to produce some of their food requirements and save money. After a few seasons they will learn to run and use hydroponics, for growing different crops, and they can use these skills to start their own business or to work in farms that use hydroponics. For AABU this will help them to learn and test the technique, train their staff, and achieve some returns from the facility to help build more systems in the future. Further hydroponics work was carried out with PARs and refugees including training 1,327 refugees, of which half were female, building 32 domestic hydroponics systems and providing materials for 600 home based systems. To continue our work at the innovation centre, £10,000 has been obtained. This will be used to continue the service provision of the centre, to the PARs. The digital group determined that there is a need for basic digital training in the communities so they designed a training programme that the digital PARs can deliver. In response to the need for digital training indicated by UNHCR, the digital PARs undertook a training needs assessment with members of the local community. This consisted of a survey that achieved 103 responses. These were analysed and a tailor-made digital literacy offer was designed. As a result remote training materials were developed, including explanations on how to further learning platforms in Arabic and English. During the March workshops the Digital PARs prepared research questions, proposals, and discussed the research ideas with other PARs. Some of the Digital PARs are preparing a follow on survey for refugees on digital literacy and the lead is following up with UNHCR for approval to continue this research. The Digital group benefited from two coaching sessions from an employability trainer in digital online work, Ibrahim Al-Jabour. He explained the opportunities of digital work, the different opportunities for workers with different digital skills, and discussed contract negotiation and how to avoid exploitation as a digital gig worker. Mr Al-Jabour is offering 1-to-1 advice sessions for those interested in the digital group. The Jordanian Digital lead is also working on a pilot study for refugees and hosting communities and planning a workshop at AABU to explore further opportunities for research with refugees. New channels for refugee groups to act as suppliers to commercial organisations In conjunction with Givaudan (global flavour and fragrance developer) we have been exploring business models for refugees, to be able to be paid directly for their products, for the first time (playing a part in the UNHCR transition from aid to economic independence). Helen Storey has been working with a group of female refugees making soap and perfumes. The group (Made in Zaatari) is going into partnership with JOHUD locally, with its soap making activities, to create a sustainable business model going forward. The UNHCR has now agreed a new partnership, for the sale of embroidery work in Zaatari, with Turquoise Mountain.
First Year Of Impact 2022
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Description Building Livelihoods with Refugees and Host Communities
Amount £72,182 (GBP)
Organisation University of Sheffield 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2022 
End 03/2023
Description Al al Byat University 
Organisation Al al-Bayt University
Country Jordan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution They were a full project partner
Collaborator Contribution They were a full project partner
Impact None yet
Start Year 2019
Description Jordan University of Science & Technology 
Organisation Jordan University of Science and Technology
Country Jordan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provided local expertise on hydroponics
Collaborator Contribution Provided local expertise on hydroponics
Impact None yet
Start Year 2018
Description Petra University 
Organisation Petra University
Country Jordan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The were a full partner
Collaborator Contribution The were a full partner
Impact There are papers in preparation
Start Year 2019
Description GCSE Science Live 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 3000 GCSE Science students
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://sciencelive.org.uk/gcse/event_categories/sheffield/