Including participants perspectives to foster co-creation

How can digital technologies be creatively and effectively used to promote social inclusion of newcomers in their host society? That’s what dr. Amanda Alencar, Camila Sarria-Sanz MA and Jaber Mawazini MA are studying within the Translocal Lives Research Project. The project is coming to an end, and we’ve asked Amanda about the process so far and what’s coming up. “It is all about co-creation with the participants, which makes the process very flexible and meaningful.” 

Your project consists of different phases. Can you tell us a bit more about the way the project is structured?  

The digital participatory filmmaking project was structured into three phases. Phase 1 included interview meetings with participants about their personal stories, everyday lives and communication practices. Subsequently, they were invited to take part in the digital place-makers program, which was phase 2 of this project. In the second phase, participants wrote and produced short films in which they shared their perspectives on belonging and being a migrant in Rotterdam and the Netherlands. In the end, video elicitation interviews with participants were conducted to discuss further their perspectives on their digital stories and experiences during this process. 
Our project is all about co-creation with the participants, which makes the process very flexible. This type of research is very demanding but also so rewarding. It’s about not imposing your view as a researcher but about being open to participants’ perspectives throughout the entire process. And open for constant changes throughout the process. 

In the first phase of the study, you interviewed 15 refugees about their everyday lives, place-making and social media. How were they selected?   

Many people were eager to participate in the project, but we only had 15 spots. We have prioritized diversity in all aspects. In the end a nice group was selected; very diverse in terms of age, gender, nationality, ethnicity and educational background, with different motivations to participate. Half the group has lived in the Netherlands for less than 1,5 years. The other half has lived here for 4 to 5 years, so they are already more adapted and had very different views on belonging and feeling at home.  

You have now just completed the second phase of the project, called the Digital Place-makers Program. How did it go?  

The program took the participants in a journey to explore not only their creative side, but also to learn how to express their relation to the city in an audio-visual format. The first weeks of the program we focused on finding out what topics were important for each participant, and how film could be used to highlight their take on place-making.  

After that, together with media artist Emma Verhoeven, we have dived into the technical aspect, learning different tools to film and edit. Something very interesting is that even when each participant has his or her own take on place-making, we could definitely see some main topics in the films: challenges and resilience, motivations and contribution, memories and connection to home, and finally, relation to the city. 

To what extent is this project impact-oriented?  

This project certainly is impact oriented. The outcomes of the workshops provide us with very concrete material and outcomes to push for more inclusive representations of the aspirations and place-making experiences of participants. It is so important to integrate the perspectives of newcomers more into policy and practices. It is about fostering sustainable and ethical initiatives and digital practices in this area. At the same time, the workshops also had an impact on the confidence and well-being of newcomers. Many expressed that the workshops have played a key role in their personal development, I would say.

Are there any exciting activities coming up?  

Definitely! To disseminate the results of this program, we have organized two events this December, the month of the International Migration Day. First, an expert meeting in which participants will lead a discussion with various stakeholders about their short films, highlighting their findings and their experience during the program. Second, a screening night at Kino Cinema where we will gather to watch all the short films and share a Q&A with the group. Soon the short films will be available on our website as well! In both events we will showcase a short documentary film about the process, created and produced by Emma Verhoeven, the media artists and filmmaker in our team. 

Besides these events, we are currently working on a field guide with the tools used during the process and key lessons learned from the co-participatory approach of this project. We hope that this material will be ready very soon! 


Associate professor
Camila Sarria-Sanz MA
Jaber Mawazini MA
More information

Vital Cities and Citizens  

With the Erasmus Initiative Vital Cities and Citizens, Erasmus University Rotterdam wants to help improve the quality of life in cities. In vital cities, the population can achieve their life goals through education, useful work and participation in public life. The vital city is a platform for creativity and diversity, a safe meeting place for different social groups. The researchers involved focus on one of the four sub-themes:  

  • Inclusive Cities and Diversity  

  • Resilient Cities and People  

  • Smart Cities and Communities   

  • Sustainable and Just Cities  

VCC is a collaboration between Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB), Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC) and International Institute of Social Studies (ISS).  

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