Practicing Hospitality: Intimacy, Conflict, Method.*

In November 2013 The Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management hosted Professor Alison Phipps, OBE, from Glasgow University, Scotland, where she is Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies; and Co-Convener of Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network, as a Distinguished Visiting Professor. In 2012, for her external contributions, Professor Phipps was awarded an OBE for services to Education, and Intercultural and Interreligious Relations. Having Professor Phipps a guest at the University of Waikato Management School was both a privilege and an honour and those who were lucky to spend time with Alison were in awe of her achievements and down-to-earth giving nature.

During Alison’s visit she gave numerous seminars and lectures connected to thinking with the deep, philosophical and theological roots of hospitality, and its ontological resonances in her own context.Part of Alison’s visit was to conduct collaborative research with Prof Alison McIntosh, and Dr Cheryl Cockburn-Wootten from Waikato Management School in the research project: Practicing Hospitality: Intimacy, Conflict, Method. Professor McIntosh recently defined ‘critical hospitality’ as a concept inclusive of vulnerable populations in a special issue of the journal Hospitality & Society on ‘Critical Hospitality & Work’ (McIntosh & Harris 2012). Aligned with this, Dr Cockburn-Wootten’s existing data on New Zealand community social workers was re-examined to explore the role of advocacy, vulnerability and social work as a form of hospitality. These advocacy practices involve the social worker moving between the public institution and the private realm of their client’s home. In addition, both the community social worker and their clients are viewed as marginalized groups.

Alison McIntosh, Alison Phipps, Cheryl Cockburn-Wootten

Alison McIntosh, Alison Phipps, Cheryl Cockburn-Wootten

In short, this project brought together critical scholars in the fields of hospitality, tourism studies and management and intercultural communication, not to gather more data, but to take time to examine extant data from Palestine, New Zealand, Sudan and Scotland, produced in contexts of violence, vulnerability, persecution and marginalisation, for patterns and contributions which challenge the dominant discourse of hospitality management and practice, and allow for a sharing of effective practice in advocacy.

The Project Rationale

Hospitality is the bedrock of the management of tourism and travel. Hospitality has a long established conceptual career within the context of Management Studies serving the hospitality industry. In this context its application is largely functional and empirical studies focus on improving the experiences of the hospitality experienced by guests, or on developing new training routines for those engaged in ‘hospitality delivery’. As such, the focus of hospitality studies to date has largely considered elite populations with income, such as tourists or business travelers, to enable the consumption of a wide range of hospitality experiences. Consequently, existing research has helped to tailor and to quantify that focus. However,the dominance of the focus on elite forms of travel has meant that the deeper historical and cultural aspects of hospitality practices have been omitted from hospitality management and tourism theories.

At the other end of this spectrum, the team came to this work as critical scholars, concerned for the rights of hosts, as much as guests, and working beyond a literature that divides the world into mere binary notions of tourists and non-tourists, hosts and guests, service providers and customers, producers and consumers (Alneng 2002). Consequently, there is a theoretical and methodological impasse in the field of hospitality studies. There is compelling support for the urgent need for comparative critical research to contribute to new perspectives of hospitality practices. This served as the rationale for the featured research project.

The Research Project

The project considered the theory, methods and practices of hospitality by drawing together three distinct sets of empirical ethnographic data which had never before been considered comparatively for their theoretical and methodological innovation. It was based on the insight gained from the work of Scott’s Hidden Transcripts which clearly showed how groups in contexts of domination and marginality had far clearer understandings of practices and structures than those in dominant and elite in large institutions. Scott’s research argues that, within tourism and hospitality studies, the practices of understandings of vulnerable and marginal groups with regard to hospitality can throw new light on the concept of hospitality and extend its theoretical research. All this accords with some of the conceptual work on hospitality by traditional theorists such as Derrida, Ricoeur and Levinas which Professor Phipps has reviewed and applied extensively to her work in advocacy, through her auto- ethnographic research on hospitality practices with asylum seekers and refugees in Scotland, Sudan and Palestine, and through her capstone postgraduate course, Critical Perspectives on Insecurities & Vulnerabilities; distinctive contributions that brought new and important expertise to the project.

A reflection from Prof Alison Phipps.

My colleagues were full of surprise and even some joviality at the thought of me spending a month as a guest in Aotearoa New Zealand. Friends and families thought the appellation ‘Distinguished’ which went with the invitation and the funded scheme was most amusing and before I’d even left I was in that liminal phase of joviality as a ‘body in transition’, asked if I’d be sporting side burns, or a grey beard, and elbow patches. The word ‘Distinguished’ in popular imagination is clearly highly gendered. The usual sets of comments ‘Oh, that’ll just be a holiday then’ came my way, not as accusations but as the common assumptions about academic life and any form of academic travel. Well, maybe it was a ‘holi-day’ of sorts. Tourism literature is full of reflections on the tourist inversion – older folk seeking rejuvenation, people in noisy lines of work seeking silence, those on low income seeking a bit of luxury – and certainly my time with you as WMS Tourism and Hospitality Management colleagues was an inversion. I went from winter to spring, from north to south, from relentless busyness to days where I could read, write, think in peace up on level 4, which I have not known for some time. I also left behind much that has been of great difficulty personally as I’ve struggled with the secondary and post trauma of severe racist attacks.

In my role in Glasgow I usually have to supply an electronic or physical signature about 5 times a week for various purposes, in work. In WMS I never once signed my name. Another world is indeed possible and this is one of the stories I have brought back home with me, changed by seeing other ways of ‘managing’ things academic.

And maybe the time to meet entirely new people as well as catching up with old friends at weekends was also something of a holi-day. I certainly was immensely privileged to spend a weekend with the Tuhoe in Te Urewera and doing the Tongario Crossing with colleagues from AUT, or vising colleagues from Victoria down in Wellington – unforgettable moments, sunsets, laughter, intense conversations about the things of life that matter and matter deeply. That, was in the off hours. In the on hours, the work with Alison McIntosh and Cheryl Cockburn-Wootten was intellectually stimulating and the openness to ideas and intense, serious and purposeful conversations which took place between us as colleagues were what for me, at least, ‘distinguished’ the visit in that full sense of the word. As they caught something of an understanding of ways the network I am part of in Glasgow had managed to work with hospitality to the most vulnerable of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, the visit become its own koru and the visit become something of an adventure into many unknowns: Waikato Migrant Resource Centre hosted a Ketso workshop and suddenly it felt as though a whole new world was opening out, then again with Wellington Migrant Centre, and then again in Auckland with Transforming Cities. In between times I gave a series of seminars and lectures connected to thinking with the deep, philosophical and theological roots of hospitality, and its ontological resonances in my own context.

Ketso© participatory research method

Ketso© participatory research method

I think – people tell me – that sometimes I work at rather an intense pace. Certainly a pace developed through my time with WMS, but not so much so that I didn’t also feel the kindlings of colleagueships and friendships of the kind that a longer trip such as this one, affords. In hospitality is both the host and the guest. At times I was both but mostly, as one who runs her home as something of a house of hospitality, I was practising being a guest. And this too was an inversion. There was simplicity to the domestic ways the motel cared for me as a longer term resident; there was the lovely indulgence of meals and coffees where new conversations and friendships and professional projects began. Early morning there were times of silence which were truly for myself and in the evenings I could use a gym without juggling many domestic commitments and attend to the body, as well as to the soul. For these times I am profoundly grateful and for the opportunity for healing and restoration they allowed as part of the rhythm of the work.

I may not have felt at all ‘distinguished’ in the ways we had joked about before I left, but the welcome, introduction, the Maaori greeting and honour given me by Ash in my first seminar quietened that rather childlike humour and stripped me back to being equal, not distinguished in any pompous way, and then with flowers and a flow of warmth, distinguished me as a human being amongst strangers and made me at home. The pineapple lumps and thoughtful wee gifts which staff and students dropped in to my office, and the generous loaning of gloves and hats for tramping all showed me how academic hospitality can bring all manner of surprises and possibilities.

The journey is always elliptical and 5 weeks later I am not the same person I was. I am changed by the people I have met, the conversations and imaginings and the readings I have done in a different office, with another view of the world – carved with spirits. Hospitality – both its thinking and speaking in seminars and lectures and in conversations and quiet offices – and in practice, on Victoria Street and up in the gardens, and as I travelled the North Island – has changed in depth and content for me. For the time this represented, and the chance to reflect more personally on this rather than just through the many bullet points on the list Alison and I drew up of what we’d actually accomplished together in that time – I am truly grateful.

Thank you to you all.

 

 

*This article was originally published by Waikato Management School 

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Sexual Migration and the ESOL Classroom (University of Leeds)

cropped-queering-education

By Ibrar Bhatt, School of Education, University of Leeds

In November 2012 there was an interesting and lively debate on an ESOL Research mailing list about LGBT issues in ESOL classrooms. It seems that recent legislative changes, such as the 2010 Equality Act and subsequent revisions to the Ofsted framework, have brought to the fore issues such as sexual orientation, civil partnerships and gender reassignment and how they impact on ESOL provision. In order to undertake more research, provide a forum for the discussion of these issues, and ultimately to take the debate of the ESOL Research list further, we are thrilled to have secured funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to hold a series of 6 seminars. The seminar series aims to explore the wide ranging challenges faced by ESOL practitioners in ensuring that the protected characteristics outlined in the 2010 Equality Act (specifically, sexual orientation, civil partnership status and gender reassignment) are appropriately addressed.

The first of this seminar series was held at the Institute of Education in London, and opened the debate by examining the nature of the evolving legal frameworks regulating the lives of those identifying themselves as LGBT and the resulting challenge for ESOL provisions.

The second in the series will be held at the University of Leeds on 29th March 2014.  It will address phenomena of sexual migration, will explore the complex trajectories of sexual migrants and asylum seekers, and consider how these complex identities impact on ESOL provisions as they respond to evolving legal frameworks.

Speakers and sessions for the seminar are as follows:

1) Holly R. Cashman (University of New Hampshire, USA) Queer Latinidad in the US: Identities, communities and language practices

2) Richard Mole (School of Slavonic and East European Studies, UCL) Russian LGBT migrants in Berlin: between the ethno-national and the queer diasporas

3) S. Chelvan (Barrister, No5 Chambers) How can I prove who I am? Examining the barriers and hurdles which face the LGBTI refugee

4) Calo Giametta (Aix-Marseille Université) Sexuality as a rights-claiming object and the politics of humanitarianism

5) Workshop groups on LGBTQ migration stories in the ESOL classroom: what are the issues? (With follow up feedback session with John Gray)

The seminar is free, but places are limited. ESOL practitioners, research students and LGBT activists can apply for funding to attend. For more information contact Ibrar Bhatt (edib@leeds.ac.uk) or Mike Baynham (M.Baynham@education.leeds.ac.uk).

To reserve a place or apply for funding to attend, please complete a booking form and send to Ibrar Bhatt (edib@leeds.ac.uk). For further information and updates, please check the series website. The seminar series aims to bring together researchers, activists, and practitioners from a range of disciplines and areas of professional activity with a view to exploring its themes from a multiplicity of perspectives.

This is a unique opportunity to engage and interact with researchers, practitioners and activists working at the intersections of LGBTQ issues in education. Please complete a booking form and join us.

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Refugee Boy

Theatre that breaks your heart and makes it anew.

by Alison Phipps, Co convener: GRAMNet.
 

Its nearly 10pm and the post show discussion of Refugee Boy, the play which premiered in Glasgow at The Citizen’s Theatre last night (Wednesday 12th March 2014) is nearly over. Questions have ranged across the political change theatre can make, the inaudibility of children’s voices in bureaucratic systems and the intriguing nature of the suitcase-play ground set. I’m beginning to relax – the moment when you think you may have reached the natural end of the discussion, when a young girl in the audience, on the front row, puts her hand up to ask a question.

“What can I do to campaign about refugee issues?”

And there it is. The answer to all our theorising about whether or not theatre has the power to make any difference in our lives or our political orderings. Clear as a bell, heard by everyone, theatre – this wonderful play by Benjamin Zephaniah, and its fresh and pacey adaptation for stage by Lemn Sissay, this imaginative, youthful production by Gail McIntyre – it has already made a change. When I was fourteen my mother took me to my first ‘grown up’ theatre production. It was Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, performed at The Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield by the Young Vic. They had cast the Capulets as ‘White’ actors and the Montagues as ‘Black’ actors and the resonances with the riots in Manchester’s Moss Side together with the Apartheid struggle in South Africa were unmistakeable. It was a piece of theatre which changed the direction my life took in many ways; an absolutely foundational moment of revelation of politics and theatre and poetry.

Repressive regimes begin their censorships and culls with political opponents and poets. It’s not the economists, the statisticians, the marketing experts, policy makers or pie chart designers who are deemed dangerous. It’s those who take a stand and those who, following the words of the poet R.S. Thomas, have a way with words which ‘enters the intellect by way of the heart.’

The German theatre maker Brecht in his discussion of what he termed Epic Theatre, wrote of two different effects of theatre and of watching suffering on stage, summarised as follows:

“The pain of this person overwhelms me, because there is no way out for them.”
 
“The pain of this person overwhelms me, because there is a way out for them.”1

It is the latter form of theatre which Brecht tried to make with his many experimental forms. The tradition of Applied Theatre and of political theatre owes much to his work. It acts in the world with theatre simply because it believes theatre can change people.

Refugee Boy the book, the play script and the production have rightly been acclaimed. As we discuss the content together during the post-show discussion there are representatives from the Scottish Refugee Council, Aberlour Trust who support a programme of guardianship for young unaccompanied minors like Alem, the ‘Refugee Boy’ in the play. Two members of the cast who have clearly come to think long and hard about answers to the question posed have joined on stage, together with a young person of refugee background and the director Gail McIntyre. Joyce MacMillan, theatre critic for The Scotsman, hosts the discussion with gentle, thoughtful and intelligent questions.

For once, I’m on stage as ‘myself’, not primarily in my academic role, though having worked in and made theatre at many points in my life, and having a lively academic interest in the field I’m never quite sure what this means. Part of what the show performed was the story of fostering and some of the moments of catharsis and critique were the excruciatingly heart breaking moments of watching Siobhan – the foster mother -, fall apart in private and with her partner as she contemplated the very real possibilities of loss and the unimaginable labyrinthine agony of bureaucratic ways of dealing with raw human lives. Five years ago I’d become such a mother and I had fallen apart in private as Siobhan does. I thought life might end, but it didn’t. I thought it might be too much to bear. In the end it wasn’t (I wrote of the consequences of this academically in ‘Voicing Solidarity’).

Watching Refugee Boy was like watching a documentary of my own recent life. It was difficult but also wonderful to see the truth told, by such an energised cast, and such a lyrical adaptation.

Joyce MacMillan takes a straw poll of the audience, all committed to staying on to hear the discussion and asks how many have had their attitudes changed by watching Refugee Boy or the production which preceded it “The Glasgow Girls”. I know many of those sitting in the audience already have deep understanding of the issues and are unlikely to raise their hands, feeling, perhaps much as I do, that the play is real, and tells the truth about the system and the injustices.

Well over a quarter of the audience nonetheless raise their hands.

And then to hear the girl from the audience ask the question I began with – Yes …

“Thank you – whoever you are – for asking the question. Never stop asking that question.”
 
 
1. “Der Zuschauer des dramatischen Theaters sagt: Ja, das habe ich auch schon gefühlt. – So bin ich. – Das ist natürlich. – Das wird immer so sein. – Das Leid dieses Menschen erschüttert mich, weil es keinen Ausweg für ihn gibt. – Das ist große Kunst: da ist alles selbstverständlich. – Ich weine mit den Weinenden, ich lache mit den Lachenden. / Der Zuschauer des epischen Theaters sagt: Das hätte ich nicht gedacht. – So darf man es nicht machen. – Das ist höchst auffällig, fast nicht zu glauben. – Das muß aufhören. – Das Leid dieses Menschen erschüttert mich, weil es doch einen Ausweg für ihn gäbe. – Ich lache mit den Weinenden, ich weine über den Lachenden” (S. 54f.)
 
 

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Students (and academics) stand up to the encroaching border*

Xenophobic Immigration Bill

The new Immigration Bill, described by one politician as “the most racist piece of legislation that this country has witnessed since the 1960s… aimed at setting up a regime of harassment for migrants”, will affect international students more than any other group as they already make up 75 per cent of those subject to visa controls.

The measures affecting international students contained in the Bill extend beyond the boundaries of university campuses and will severely impact students’ right to public health care and access to accommodation.

The Bill proposes introducing a fee – from £200 for undergraduate student to £3000 for Postgraduate Research Students with a family – to be paid for minor operations carried out by a general practitioner and accident and emergency services.

International students, and migrants in general, are being treated more and more like a burden to British society, constantly in need to be monitored and disciplined. Private landlords are also going to play a part in the new government scheme by being obliged to check their international tenants’ documents prior to signing the contract, effectively taking on the role of unofficial border agents and expanding the Home Office to the whole of society.

These new measures are in addition to the many controls already in place, which include biometrics entry clearance, institutional immigration checks, police registration (for those from over 40 countries), and employer immigration checks (where necessary). These practices, as rightly emphasised by a 2011 cross-university campaign, seem to be addressed to suspects rather that students.

International students are already reporting that they feel unwelcome in the UK, with a “significant number saying they would not recommend to their friends that they come here to attend university”. Further policing of international students is likely to discourage even more from applying to UK universities, which will result in the economic and cultural bankruptcy of British academic institutions.

Standing up with Selfies

“For every international student or staff, there is a UK friend willing to fight”

The government’s increasing attempts to make Britain a hostile environment for international students has provoked a clever, warm and inspiring campaign from students – both British and international – at the University of Sheffield.

To protest the new immigration bill, students and staff at the University of Sheffield and its student union are taking selfies of themselves and an international friend and uploading them online, with the hashtag #StandByMe.

The Guardian newspaper reported: “The aim is to demonstrate the number of international friendships within the university community.

Students will also submit a short description of their relationship, explaining their nationalities, how they first met, and how long they have been friends.

Students at Sheffield say they have already petitioned and sent letters to express their concerns. The University of Sheffield’s student union and international officer even visited parliament on January 30. They now say they need to get creative in order to be heard.”

Campaigning for the rights of international students

It’s been a busy time for Daniel Stevens, the NUS International Students’ Officer.

In an excellent response to sensationalist journalism – in which Panorama seems to delight in indulging, particularly if migrants are the target – Daniel criticised the BBC’s Panorama programme for its presentation of ‘student visa system fraud’.

BBC Panorama aired a segment exposing “student visa system fraud.” The footage showed students being given test answers to English language exams and having “fake sitters” take oral computer-administered exams. It then showed as agents provided students with fraudulent documents.

Now, Panorama should be commended for exposing wrongdoing and this type of activity should be rightfully condemned and rooted out. However, without context or balance, such coverage can tar the image of every single international student in the UK with its sensationalism and dramatics.

I do not believe there is wide scale abuse. I do not believe the system is “riddled” or “rife” with fraud. I believe that this is an extremely sophisticated, complex and costly system that was rightfully uncovered. It’s ridiculous to make the logical conclusion that because this activity/behaviour is happening the wider system is compromised. First, even if a thousand international students were using this system- that’s only 0.3 per cent of the overall total. Second, they would still not be able to work legally. Third, they would still be monitored by their institution. As one VC put it in an interview, international students are monitored in the UK in a way that would make Stalin proud.

This sad truth is that this simply gives more fuel for the Home Secretary to make further political attacks on the education sector. One which is already barely recovering from her previous volleys. Numbers of international students in further education and private providers have dropped by 80 per cent. The sector has basically been wiped out. Numbers in Universities have fallen for the first time in history. A recent NUS survey found that 51 per cent of non-EU students found the UK Government either unwelcoming of very unwelcoming and 19 per cent would not recommend the UK to a friend or relative. The programme is already being used to defend the Government’s overreaching policies.

What we should be focusing on, Daniel argues, is the injustice of sudden, spiralling fees for international students. Each year up to 175,000 international students at UK universities find their fees increase often without notice, reason or support. Without regulation or fixed fees, many international students begin programmes without any idea how much their fees will be each year. Some find themselves unable to continue due to the rising costs each year. Find out more at the NUS website.

Fears about fees are of particular pertinence to Syrian students, for whom “the prospect of staying at university to complete their chosen academic course remains bleak. Despite attempts by the government, universities and other organizations to alleviate some of the unique financial obstacles confronting Syrian students, who are predominantly in England and Scotland, deep fears about the future of financial support are widespread.”

The Independent noted that:

the psychological effects brought on by the unrest at home have severely impacted many students’ ability to remain and study at university. In some cases, Syrian citizens have been forced to abandon their studies altogether due to illness and stress.

Despite efforts to support Syrian students both within the country and abroad by other non-governmental organizations such as Jusoor, the fears faced by Syrian students studying in the United Kingdom are deep-seated. Pressure must be maintained on universities and the government to address these financial and psychological strains in the long-term, as well as for the current academic year.

Academics as border police

It’s not just students speaking out. Concerns have been expressed for some time by many university staff about their role in policing students’ immigration status. Now, more than 160 academics have written to The Guardian to

protest at being used as an extension of the UK border police, after universities have come under more pressure to check the immigration details of students.

The academics, from universities including Oxford, Warwick, Durham and Sheffield, accuse the Home Office immigration agency of “undermining the autonomy and academic freedom of UK universities and trust between academics and their students”.

This is a welcome move, highlighting the encroachment of the border into homes (especially asylum accommodation), hospitals and GPs’ surgeries, schools, universities public transport and even bank branches. We must, together, push back against this encroachment. We must build stronger communities that work together to make migrants safe from detention and deportation, and make the UK a safe and welcoming place for all migrants.


*This article was first published by NCADC/Right To Remain on March 6, 2014.



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Tweeting about Migration and Independence. Welcoming new voices.

by Giuliana Tiripelli*

 

On Friday the 7th of February, I attended the COSLA SMG conference about the Independence Referendum and Migration in Edinburgh. This event involved a number of speakers who provided interesting and innovative insights from different perspectives about migrants in Scotland and the impact the referendum will have on these. I attended as social media co-ordinator for GRAMNet, with the task of participating in the Twitter debate under the #migconf2014.

 

Tweeting is very much a tool used in policy and journalistic circles and is a recent entry in conferencing, but also one that is gaining ground fast. I used it first in last year’s Migrant Voice conference in London, where a big screen projected the tweets behind the speakers, providing, thus, the opportunity for a dynamic and interactive discussion of their arguments. Twitter was similarly used in Edinburgh last week by COSLA SMP. In addition to COSLA SMP (‏@migrationscot), among the organizations tweeting at the conference were the Scottish Refugee Council (@scotrefcouncil), Migrant Voice (‏@MigrantVoiceUK), Politics & International Relations at the University of Edinburgh (@EdinburghPIR), Wales Migration Partnership (@WMPWales), Fife Migrants Forum (@FifeMigrants).

Such uses of Twitter create new spaces for audiences to participate in the discussion whilst allows the conference to achieve a more inclusive debate that involves a greater set of subjects than just the official speakers. But being a relatively new device, some may look at it with suspicion. For example in the academic world researchers value face-to-face exchange and non-mediated communication and yet also conduct much of their work via email and virtual learning platforms. One could draw a parallel here with the experience of migration: anything you don’t know, anything unfamiliar requires us to make an effort against our fear of novelty and difference.

I can provide here one reason why one should try Twitter at conferences. When I tweet about something which is being said, I have to extract and rephrase arguments for a wide audience in ways which can reflect speakers’ viewpoint while I actively listen to everything that is being said. This means that I do not only listen and think about the precise content of the talk, or that my listening is solely shaped by the need to expand my personal knowledge about what is being discussed; but rather that my listening and capturing of meaning is part of a wide dialogue in which I participate. This dialogue involves the speakers, the rest of the audience as well as the members of the public who will read my tweets.

GRAMNet encourages the use of Twitter at conferences and seminars, where appropriate, for two important reasons: a) because it widens the space for debate and makes it a democratic interactive process, as it brings on the same level prestigious speakers and general audience; b) because the medium is also the message and this is not always a bad thing: Twitter only allows you to use 140 characters, which forces users to make a choice and highlight the most important parts of an argument. On Twitter, participation requires us to give up a bit of what we may have in other contexts, i.e. to convey content in a little space, in order to leave space to others, to whom we can listen.

GRAMNet also uses Facebook simultaneously as this is more of a grass roots medium preferred by migrants more generally. In addition, GRAMNet is presently experimenting with new online applications in order to assess how they work and how we can use them best to widen the space for informed debates. One of this is Storify, through which anyone can collect stories composed of any kind of material available online. I thought of using it in order to give you an overview of the debate at the COSLA conference which unfolded online and in parallel with the talks. You can find this overview here. It is made up of the points that the Tweeters liked and debated most among the issues raised by the speakers. As Twitter, Storify is a very democratic medium too, but in another way: it allows the user the choice in terms of how much time they want to spend on it. The user can scroll down quickly, and still get a full sense of the story, or click on each tweet (or each link provided in the icons composing the story) to see who the tweeters (and original sources) are, and you can connect with them via your own Twitter profile. COSLA SMP also provided a Storify for that conference, which is available here.

Thanks to this general overview on Storify, I can focus here exclusively on the arguments that I found innovative, without feeling too embarrassed about leaving some of the important voices of the COSLA SMP conference out. Prof. Christina Boswell presented interesting data in light of which one could critically evaluate the expectations of the Yes and ‘Better Together sides of the present Referendum debate. Her contribution is summarized in these slides which she made available after the conference.

The point I liked the most was the wider rationale of her analysis, and which concerned the idea that migration will bring economic benefits. An idea which is recurrent in the debate about Scottish Independence. She argued that the economic impact of migration “is largely a question for the market”. I really liked the way she demonstrated this, as I think the expected outcomes of progressive policies should be as autonomous as possible from our expectations about market dynamics. These policies should be courageous, able to tell us what is the price we may have to pay in order to actually have a society that can be welcoming and based on Human Rights first and foremost.

Sir Geoff Palmer‘s speech provided the audience with many engaging ideas and was one of the speakers who was most present in tweets. The most inspiring of his points was for me the idea that “Scottish people are big enough to listen to what is true”, which I see as very much linked to the points that Prof. Boswell discussed.

Among the questions raised from the audience, the one that was for me the most important of this conference was that by a francophone migrant who asked MSP Humza Yousaf the following: “Qu’est ce que c’est votre plan B? What is plan B for migrants if the ‘Better Together’ campaign wins the referendum?”. MSP Humza Yousaf replied that in any case the Scottish Government will continue to do whatever it can for them, but he believed that a vote for Independence would be the only way to give Scotland the power it needs to make the difference.

Finally, Prof. Alison Phipps, whose final contribution in some ways links back to, and perhaps inspired, what I said at the beginning of this reflection on the COSLA conference, stressed the points of consensus which the conference had highlighted. 1) A Human Rights Based approach to Migration 2) The central importance of integration in communities, done in participation with many different partners. 3) A sadness that the Scotland Office had not attended or sent representation at short notice and that this diminished the quality and opportunities for practicing debate in this crucial area.

She also spoke about the ways in which we can carry on building the debate about the referendum and migration, which is already an essential brick of a healthy, welcoming society. Therefore she invited all participants at the conference to make of their involvement in this debate first of all an activity of listening, of care and critical respect for public opinion and its beliefs. Listening and whispering, choosing the right rhythm and the right volume for this debate, these are the next steps to take in order to enhance actual dialogue and expand participatory processes, and mark a shift from xenophobia. Because these allow us to find new ways and new spaces to share more and do it better, whatever the outcome of the referendum.

 
*Giuliana Tiripelli is social media coordinator for GRAMNet
 

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A chance to learn and network at GRAMNet event on Feb. 14, 2014

By Dr. Joanne Tippett, Founder of Ketso

Ketso Taster session: Integrating co-production into delivery of strategies and services. There are still some places left on this FREE event, Feb. 14th 10:00 – 13:00, which is being held at the University of Glasgow.  If you would like to join us, please register here!!!

I am really excited to be coming up to Glasgow next week. First, I get a chance to visit one of my favorite cities (it one of the places that every time I visit I think: I could leave Manchester (which I also love) to live here). Even better, I get to meet up with my friends and colleagues in GRAMNet. This time, I am also going to have a chance to meet even more people doing all sorts of interesting work in engagement, equality, change management and learning.

GRAMNet has kindly sponsored a Ketso taster session on Feb. 14. Joe Brady, Head of Integration of the Scottish Refugee Council, is going to talk about how he has been using Ketso to facilitate dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders, from project planning through to developing strategy at the national level.

This will be followed by an interactive session with Ketso to explore the ideas raised – and learn from the people who are attending. There are over 25 people signed up, and they work in a wide range of areas, such as:

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Health improvement

Social Care

Library Development

Offender Learning

Refugee Integration

Equality and Diversity

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English as an Additional Language

Change management in the NHS

Community Development and Planning

Further Education

Higher Education

It looks like we are going to have a lively and interesting dialogue, and it will be great to spend a few hours thinking about new ways of integrating co-production into our way of working.

I am especially keen to hear more from Joe. The last time we met was in June 2013, at a networking session in Glasgow. Then, he talked to me about how Ketso was helping the Scottish Refugee Council see new ideas and develop fresh perspectives. This helped me to crystallize my own understanding of the way the toolkit works (there is nothing like learning from the people who are using and developing and extending your original idea). Joe said this after the session:

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“I feel strongly that our sector, and others, often focus on vulnerability to the neglect of recognizing resilience: Ketso provides a safeguard against this trap.

An example of this that I shared at the networking session have been the Refugees in Scotland’s Communities thematic working groups, where unexpected opportunities and goals were identified e.g. the importance of arts and cultural engagement and the need to develop a national engagement framework for new communities; and the opportunity for enterprise – both private and social enterprise.

I believe if that we had not used Ketso as a participation and engagement tool these may not have been identified or been so prominent.”

I am looking forward to learning more from his experience and reflections since then!

Dr. Joanne Tippett, Lecturer in the School of Environment, Education and Development at The University of Manchester.

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I woke up yesterday morning feeling afraid.*

by Alison Phipps, Co convener: GRAMNet
 

I woke up yesterday morning feeling afraid.

The radio was spluttering on about immigration and a scan of the papers confirmed unimaginative rants in the usual suspects about “people not like us”.

I am afraid because people are being told to fear, blame and hate people I love, need and respect. The toll on them is devastating. Apparently 47% of Yes and No voters, split equally between both camps, fear the possible impact of an “influx” of Eastern Europeans, according to this week’s Social Attitudes Survey.

Well, what a surprise. People are afraid of what the leading politicians in the largest political parties in Westminster are telling them to be afraid of; of what elements of the press are telling them to be afraid of. The report that placed icy fingers of fear around my heart was the one saying this was part of a strategy of “an anti-immigration policy a week”. That’s a lot of nastiness ahead.

There is a very considerable body of research in many different respected academic disciplines, including my own, that demonstrates that, if people are enabled to blame others for their misery or unease or normal fear of uncertainty, then they will indeed do so. Equally, if people are enabled to help others in misery, unease or uncertainty they will also do so.

In every generation, there’s a suspicion of “people not like us”. It’s not because people are at heart naturally racist, ageist, sectarian or classist. It’s because people are naturally cautious about unfamiliar things. If their natural discomforts are indulged by political leaders with no compunction or surveyors coaxing such answers, the percentages will spike.

A diet of dehumanising phrases describing people in non-human terms (swarms, influxes, floods) conjures up natural catastrophe and promotes fear. It’s the ultimate triumph of survey-led politics rather than politics led by courage, reflection and ethics. It frightens me.

The Scottish Parliament has shown it is possible to talk humanely about immigration.

The debate on the Home Office Go Home campaign was exemplary, as have been the positive Scottish Government statements about migrants’ contribution to the economy, social, cultural and family life.

Politicians have a duty to speak out and to be clear that, while immigration needs intelligent discussion and careful consideration, as with any changes to be made in a society, the bloody record of history is far too compelling for race and immigration to be used like this.

Martin Niemöller, the German pastor who spoke out against Hitler and spent seven years of his life in concentration camps, is perhaps best remembered for these words:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out -

Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -

Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

I am afraid of the consequences of abject failure on the part of a political and cultural class in Westminster to speak out on behalf of the most vulnerable.

We need policy making that enables trust and social relationships, intercultural empathy and loving kindness that would allow us to flourish in our diversity. We need initiatives such as The Scottish Refugee Council’s work in Gorbals and Kingsway, with A View From Here celebrating diversity among those who have overcome fear and vulnerability on both sides.

Vulnerability saves us when we don’t let it rule us. Speaking out is necessary. It brought about the end of apartheid and the abolition of slavery. It makes walls fall. Don’t be complicit. Listen to history. This is what I am trying to tell myself, too. Don’t give in to the pedlars of fear. Overcome fear with love and relationship.
 
 
*This article was originally published by the Herald Scotland on Saturday 25 January 2014.
 
 

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