Professor Henrietta Moore writes on prosperity and climate change for Guardian Global Development by Financing Prosperity Network Admin


The Institute for Global Prosperity’s Founder and Director Prof. Henrietta Moore writes about the impact of using prosperity “league tables” that aim to tell us who’s getting it right for their citizens, in the face of global challenges such as climate change, and how different understandings of prosperity give us an alternative way of understanding life for communities across the world.

“But there's a serious problem in seeing our world in this way. There's an uncomfortably close correlation between these supposedly more sophisticated measures and old-fashioned GDP. Perhaps more troubling in the context of a planet threatened by climate change is the reinforcement of a belief that some countries have "made it", while others need to catch up."

“In truth, many of the world’s most “prosperous” countries are its least sustainable. Since the 70s, humanity has been in “ecological overshoot”, with annual demand on resources exceeding what the Earth can regenerate each year. Today, humanity uses the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to provide the resources we use. This applies to the vast majority of today’s wealthy countries.”

Read the full article on the Guardian Global Development Website 

Researchers from RELIEF organise the Workshop: Understanding Prosperity in the Middle East: Concepts, Meanings, Debates by Financing Prosperity Network Admin

Understanding Prosperity in the Middle East: Concepts, Meanings, Debates

30th November 2018

American University of Beirut

Bechtel Building, room 537

Attendance to this workshop is by invitation only

On Friday 30th November researchers from RELIEF will hold the workshop, Understanding Prosperity in the Middle East: Concepts, Meanings, Debates. The purpose of the workshop is to engage academics, NGOs, and policymakers in an Arabic-language discussion about “prosperity” and its meaning and relevance in Lebanon and the wider Middle East region.

Over the past decade, the notion of prosperity has emerged in English-language literature as a powerful critique of theories of progress based on economic growth. Prosperity is a concept that goes beyond standard notions of quality of life and GDP to encompassing key universal domains related to health, healthy environments, power, identity and culture, opportunities and aspirations on an individual and collective basis.

This workshop invites discussion about Arabic-language academic and public debates that resonate, converge, or diverge with the conversation about rethinking prosperity that is taking place in English. It specifically focuses on questions about the cultural, social, political and linguistic dimensions of prosperity with reference to research, policymaking and governance for better quality of life.

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Reflections on the mEducation Alliance Symposium: Using Technology to Scale Support for Teachers and Community Educators in Low-Resource Environments by Financing Prosperity Network Admin

US Institute of Peace, Washington, 6-8 November 2018

Diana Laurillard, Professor of Learning with Digital Technology, UCL, Co-Investigator - Future Education, RELIEF

Dr Eileen Kennedy, Senior Research Associate, UCL - Future Education, RELIEF

The mEducation Alliance is a group of international development organisations, such as the British Council, DFID, IDRC, USAID, UNICEF, FIT-ED, World Bank, and many others. It is “committed to reducing barriers to access appropriate, scalable, and low-cost mobile technologies to help improve learning outcomes in formal and non-formal education across all levels, especially in low-resource and developing country contexts”.

The Symposium focused on teachers and community educators in Low-Resource Environments, and set out to address ‘how technology can provide greater support for their professional development, motivation, networking, and delivery of instruction in traditional and non-traditional educational settings’.

Last year’s Symposium was on “learning@scale”, where we reported on our study of this for the global South. It sparked discussion of one of our proposals: to use digital learning for “scaling up co-design of innovation and knowledge building for teachers”.

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By January 2018, FIT-ED, IDRC, and USAID had organised a meeting of international development agencies to discuss a ‘[Teacher Professional Development] TPD@Scale Coalition’ in Hong Kong, so this year’s Symposium set out to build on that momentum.  

The Symposium participants came from many of the countries in the global South, with especially challenging environments. Some teachers here work with populations who are migrating due to conflict or climate, or in remote and rural locations with traditionally low levels of resource. They often have little training. Technology infrastructure is usually very limited. But participants at this Symposium were reporting on new ways of tackling these problems, using technology to support local organisation solutions, for example:

  • Jigsaw Connect uses mobile phones to connect teachers and coaches across schools in remote areas (see their EdTech Evidence Mapping report);

  • ICEFIL provides a collaborative sharing platform to members to deliver innovative products and services across countries, to scale up innovation. They ask “How well can different African countries align to make accreditation affordable?”;

  • World Learning uses Sabaq in Pakistan to provide tutoring videos alongside teacher training support, contextualised to the locality, funded by DFID, and running in local centres and schools. Families pay a very low fee, to encourage commitment. Centres collect and share data on performance;

  • The Open University provides a YouTube channel for TESS-India, to provide personalised professional learning using tablets and OERs, with organised contact classes in local colleges, working in partnership with State structures, and integrated into a BEd degree programme.

and digital approaches to learning in challenging contexts:

  • Vodaphone’s ‘Instant Classroom’ provides charged tablets in a box, for classrooms without electricity, with UNHCR, for refugees in Kenya, Tanzania and DRC.

  • The Ideas Box is a mobile “pop up” multimedia center and learning hub that provides educational and cultural resources to communities in need, including refugees and displaced persons in camps around the globe, and underserved communities in developed countries.

  • Koombook is a mobile digital library, which recharges via a solar panel and works without internet connection. Its resources are curated locally, or created by teachers.

  • The Open University uses 360mobilevr (360-degree video recording and smartphone-driven mobile VR viewing) to improve the quality of teaching practice, pedagogic understanding, and engagement with professional development, in remote locations.

There were many other examples reported over the three days.

What we learned, was that discussions around teacher professional development include universal themes, whether we speak about the global South or North:

  • teachers lack time to innovate and explore new approaches

  • teacher professional development is only slowly moving away from top-down provision, and towards co-design and collaborative approaches

  • many teachers are ready to embrace digital methods, and have acquired informal digital skills, but are critical of the tools and resources being offered to them

  • digital learning resources in general are didactic, non-adaptive, non-customisable, and there is still a predominance of multiple choice instead of constructivist interactions for learning

  • digital solutions need to be systemic to fulfil their potential – engaging all the local stakeholders in owning the new approaches: teachers, and education leaders and policymakers, and families as well

  • digital tools and resources must be contextualised to the locality to be useful, but most provision is generic and unadaptable by the teachers

  • education leaders and policymakers are neither skilled nor knowledgeable about optimising the range of digital technologies in any educational context.

The themes peculiar to the global South are more likely to relate to technology access, gender and demographic discrimination. The challenges to innovation of languages, pedagogy, assessment and accreditation are universal. Of course, the discriminate use of digital technologies can ameliorate all of these.

The passion for change is clear. There is an increasing recognition that teachers themselves have a lot to contribute to the development of digital education: they are not necessarily opposed to change; they are now more interested in creativity and collaboration through digital means; they are beginning to be trusted to collaborate and be the owners of their own development and innovation.

This was the theme of our own presentation at this year’s Symposium on “TPD@Scale: A ‘local inclusion’ model for education without infrastructure”. The contrast is with the now discredited top-down ‘cascade’ model. For our work in the RELIEF Centre, on the Future Education theme, we are exploring an alternative model we call ‘local inclusion’. The MOOCs we are building, with our partners and contributors in Lebanon, will reflect their needs, and share their methods and successes.

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The MOOC is a social environment, where teachers and community members collaborate and contribute their own solutions. We can then curate the best case studies, and recruit the enthusiastic alumni, to enrich and support the next run of the MOOC. Gradually we hope this iterative approach will become localised to the needs of all participants, wherever they are, and thereby sustainable in the long run.

The TPD@Scale Coalition, supported by the IRDC, DFID and FIT-Ed, now has the forward momentum to consider developing all these ideas from the conference – learning from the local solutions that use digital to go beyond the classroom to state or country level, and from the global solutions that use MOOCs to go beyond country level to find the common themes that bind us all together in ‘using technology to scale support for teachers and community educators in low-resource environments’.

The Silent Room: Beirut's individualised response to the infrastructure crisis by Financing Prosperity Network Admin

At the recent London Design Biennale, the terrace of Somerset House became the setting for Lebanese artist Natalie Harb’s installation The Silent Room, which was shown at Beirut Design Week earlier this year. The wooden construction – painted in a dark blue in London, a light pink in Beirut – allows one visitor at a time to enter a small room with a mattress. The insulation of the structure drowns out the surrounding soundscape of the city. The intent is to offer a space of respite: Harb writes that city-dwellers are ‘subject to a sensory experience’ which ‘can contain elements of overabundance, manipulation, and even violence.’ The Silent Room, then, seeks to limit the impact of such ‘sensorial aggressions’ and provide moment of private calm in overcrowded public settings.

The notion that the city is a place of sensory overload has been part of the urban debate since German sociologist Georg Simmel wrote ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’. While Harb’s installation thus highlights a challenge faced by many cities, her work also points to some issues which are more explicit in Beirut. Noise pollution is a central concern for residents of central Beirut, as we learned from local stakeholders and researchers during a recent workshop on well-being in the Ras Beirut neighbourhood. The event, organised by the RELIEF Centre, was a first step to developing a Prosperity Index for the area that measures precisely such difficult-to-measure aspects of quality of life.

Unlike London, which has numerous parks (despite increasing privatisation of public space), Beirut has few public spaces for recreation. Apart from ever-diminishing spaces along the city’s coast, green spaces are limited to the Sanayeh Garden – a highly landscaped and regulated park opposite the Ministry of Interior – and Horsh Beirut. This triangular park is what remains of Beirut’s pine forests; yet is only open at particular times of day or to people who hold a special permission, and its green space is constantly under threat from real estate development. Thus, Harb’s small-scale, mobile installation offers an interim solution, where a piece of parking lot might be turned into locus of respite.

The Silent Room  on an empty lot in Ras Beirut during Beirut Design Week, June 2018 (C) Hanna Baumann

The Silent Room on an empty lot in Ras Beirut during Beirut Design Week, June 2018 (C) Hanna Baumann

The Silent Room highlights how the insufficient service provision impacts the city’s public sphere and – perhaps inadvertently – calls attention to the way individualised solutions exacerbate this problem. In suggesting ‘silent rooms’ could serve as a solution to noise pollution if placed across the city, Harb’s approach frames the desire for calm as a private, individual need – almost like the need met by public toilets. Yet conceiving of public services in such an individualised manner risks aggravating the problem of the city as a socially and sonically toxic environment. For instance, to make visitors’ stay inside the Beirut Silent Room as comforting as it was intended to be, a generator had to be run to power the air conditioning unit cooling the small room to a bearable temperature. Ironically, then, in creating a restorative interior space, The Silent Room polluted the city outside its walls.

This reflects a broader issue at work in the realm of public services in Beirut, where the individualising approach of using micro-solutions to mitigate the effects of infrastructural crisis has had a detrimental impact on the city as a whole. The most obvious example is the absence of formal public transport (although organisations like The Bus Map Project are seeking to make the informal network more accessible). An excess of cars contributes not only to severe congestion and (noise) pollution but to the lack of pedestrian space. Private generators are used to fill gaps in the public electricity network’s provision as the planned daily cuts last three hours in Beirut, and much longer in other areas. While they may be a useful ad hoc solution to ensure continuous power for a household or apartment building, generators have become permanent fixtures since the end of the civil war. Because of this quasi-institutionalised of the informal localised solution, lobby of generator owners wields significant political clout, to the degree that they are part of the obstacle to creating a functional public network. In addition, generators also use unsustainable fuel, cost more than electricity from the grid, and emit constant noise as well as carcinogenic pollution. The water from the public network is neither sufficient nor potable, so Beirutis must ‘top up’ their water tanks with private water delivery, which depletes groundwater through illegal wells, and by purchasing bottled drinking water, thereby continually contributing to the country’s still-unsolved waste crisis.

We might see this as a tragedy of the urban commons:  to carve out more ‘liveable’ spaces for ourselves in a city of disconnected public networks and lacking public areas, we erode quality of life for the community as a whole. Rather than privatising what should be public goods, there should at least be a debate about how these resources are used and allocated. This a problem shared by most cities, including London, but it is brought into sharp relief through the inequality and patchwork of infrastructural micro-solutions in Beirut. As the IGP’s work on Universal Basic Services has shown, solutions that view infrastructures and the services they enable as commonly held resources, rather than consumer goods with exclusive access, have the potential to improve quality of life and enhance equality for all residents. In this vein, our project Public Services and Vulnerability in the Lebanese Context of Mass Displacement, along with the RELIEF Centre’s research strand ‘The Vital City’, not only examines the harmful effects of individualised solutions, but will also facilitate the co-creation of innovative ways of addressing Lebanon’s infrastructural crisis.

Dr Hanna Baumann is the IGP’s research associate on the British Academy-funded project Public Services and Vulnerability in the Lebanese Context of Mass Displacement.

References and suggestions for further reading:

Baylouny, Anne Marie and Stephen J. Klingseis. ‘Water Thieves or Political Catalysts? Syrian Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon’ Middle East Policy 25(1) Spring 2018: 104-123

Beirut Madinati. Beirut Zone 10, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, American University of Beirut (September 2018)

Human Rights Watch. “As If You’re Inhaling Your Death” The Health Risks of Burning Waste in Lebanon (1 December 2017)

Morsi, Rami Z. et al. "The protracted waste crisis and physical health of workers in Beirut: a comparative cross-sectional study." Environmental Health 16 (1):39 (2017).

Nahnoo. The Horsh Beirut for All Campaign, 2010-2016. Beirut: Heinrich Böll Stiftung.

Nucho, Joanne Randa. Everyday Sectarianism in Urban Lebanon: Infrastructures, Public Services, and Power. Princeton: Princeton University Press (2016)

Saksouk-Sasso, Abir. “Making Spaces for Communal Sovereignty: The Story of Beirut`s Dalieh’ Arab Studies Journal 23(1), Fall 2015: 296-319.

Shayya, Fadi, ed. At the Edge of the City: Reinhabiting Public Space Toward the Recovery of Beirut’s Horsh al-Sanawbar. Beirut: Discursive Formations (2010).

Shihadeh, Alan et al., Effect of distributed electric power generation on household exposure to airborne carcinogens: unintended consequences of supply-side electric power reduction measures in poorly regulated environments (14 December 2012)

Simmel, Georg. “The Metropolis and Mental Life” (1903) in Gary Bridge and Sophie Watson, eds. The Blackwell City Reader. Oxford and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2002.

Social Prosperity Network. Social prosperity for the future: A proposal for Universal Basic Services, UCL Institute for Global Prosperity (2017)

Verdeil, Eric. ‘Beirut. The metropolis of darkness and the politics of urban electricity grid’. Energy, Power and Protest on the Urban Grid. Geographies of the Electric City, edited by Andrès Luque Ayala and Jonathan Silver. London: Routledge (2016), pp.

Researchers from RELIEF organise the Expert Working Group workshop on a Lebanon Prosperity Index by Financing Prosperity Network Admin

Expert Working Group workshop on a Lebanon Prosperity Index

25th September 2018

American University of Beirut

Bechtel Building, room 537

Attendance to this workshop is by invitation only

On Tuesday 25th September researchers from RELIEF will hold the Expert Working Group workshop on a Lebanon Prosperity Index. The purpose of the workshop is to initiate discussion on the opportunities, challenges, and available methods for constructing a prosperity index for Lebanon. The workshop will explore recent research on Ras Beirut, including previous and future quantitative and qualitative research to develop the Prosperity Index in the Lebanese context.

Prosperity is a concept that goes beyond standard notions of quality of life and GDP to encompass key universal domains around health, healthy environments, power, identity and culture, opportunities and aspirations on an individual and collective basis.

Expert Working Group
Expert Working Group 2

Educators for Change: Teacher Professional Development in the context of mass displacement by Financing Prosperity Network Admin

The Future Education research team are running the workshop, Educators for Change, 8-10 August 2018 at the Institute of Education, University College London. This workshop is part of a series organised by the team based around teacher professional development in the context of mass displacement. This particular workshop will discuss the development of a curriculum for the Educators for Change Massive Online Open Course (MOOC), which focuses on this topic. 

Colleagues from the Future Education team will be joined by officials from the Ministry of Education in Lebanon, Lebanese academics and NGO educators to explore how learners and educators in the context of mass displacement and conflict-affected societies in the MENA region, can reshape their educational life for a prosperous future for all.

Find out more about the work of the Future Education team and this workshop through the introductory video below:

IGP Director's Summer List released by Financing Prosperity Network Admin

Professor Henrietta Moore, the Director of the Institute for Global Prosperity, has released a list of the best books, poetry, and documentaries to get into this summer. 

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Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity by Akbar Ahmed 

Dark Mountain: Issue 13

The Future of Work: Robots, AI and Automation by Darren M. West

Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith

Fifty Million Rising by Saadia Zahidi

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi 

Programme Earth by Jennifer Gabrys 

Human Flow by Ai Weiwei

Aleppo: Canon Lens 18-300mm by Dr. Fouad M. Fouad

The Shameful Treatment Of Refugees Shows Why A Rethink Is Required by Financing Prosperity Network Admin

By Professor Henrietta Moore

(this piece was originally written for the Huffington Post UK Blog)

Like any other group of people, refugees are a resource, a basket of abilities and talents which, if harnessed and integrated appropriately, will be an asset wherever they settle



The recent debacle in the Mediterranean serves as a reminder, on World Refugee Day, that dignity for displaced people is still a long way off.

The Aquarius, with its human cargo of 629 people, plucked from inflatable boats off the Libyan coast, was given permission to dock in the Spanish port of Valencia, after both Italy and Malta said they wanted nothing to do with it.

Migration may be an issue every country wishes would vanish but that’s simply not going to happen: according to the UNHCR, globally, there are now more displaced people (65.6m) and refugees (22.5m) than at any time since records began.

A huge part of the problem is that refugees are, inevitably, viewed as being a burden, no matter how their stories end.

Those who are unable to find a job, for example, are branded ‘parasites’ – even though they are explicitly barred from working in most countries. Those who do find employment are ‘stealing jobs’. It’s a Catch-22 situation which helps no-one.

Time for a new approach

In a world where mass migration is the new norm, some countries stand out because of their enlightened approach to this issue. For example, Uganda has granted those fleeing poverty and violence in neighbouring countries the right to work, allowing them to help themselves.

Meanwhile, two years ago, Jordan cut a deal with the EU, Taiwan and South Korea that provided almost €1.5billion in grants and loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, tied to changes in how Jordan integrated Syrian refugees in terms of both education and enterprise. So far, 80,000 Syrians have been given work permits out of a target of 200,000, while 130,000 children are now in school. Moreover, around 80% of Syrians in Jordan live in towns and cities – not separated off into camps.

The Jordanian experiment shows the potential for adopting alternative approaches that bring multiple benefits – to refugees themselves, to Jordan, its businesses and (perhaps cynically) to those EU countries which would rather the Syrian refugees remained in the Middle East.

The situation is rather different in another country that has been a major recipient of Syrian refugees: Lebanon. Lebanon, in fact, has the highest proportion of refugees as a percentage of population in the world – its government estimates it is host to 1.5million Syrian refugees alone, about a quarter of its entire population.

The rights of Syrian and Palestinian refugees are seriously curtailed in Lebanon, amplifying an ‘us and them’ message, and there has been disagreement with the UNHCR over efforts to encourage refugees to return to ‘safe’ areas within Syria.

No one benefits in a situation like this, which is why the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) has launched the RELIEF Centre, in conjunction with partners in Lebanon.

This five-year project is focused on inclusive growth and prosperity. This means that we’re looking at issues around job creation, education, and the building of shared spaces that will benefit both the refugees and the Lebanese population.

This will be led by hard data. Working with our partners at the American University of Beirut and Lebanese American University, we’re looking to update a major household survey conducted in 2011 but never published. We want to see how life and attitudes have changed for Beirut’s people during a period of massive upheaval and change.

But we’ll also be looking at very practical solutions to day-to-day problems. So for instance, we’ll be looking at how online learning can be used to train Lebanese and refugee teachers to put in place education for refugee youngsters left traumatised by their experiences in Syria.

Scapegoating of refugees must stop

On a recent visit to Lebanon I got talking to a 75-year old taxi driver. He told me that, with no pension he could not retire and would work until his body gave up. Despite the prevailing hostility towards Syrian refugees in popular discourse, this elderly man held no malice towards them. He remarked that in 2006, when Lebanon was attacked by Israel, Lebanese people had sought refuge in Syria and saw the acceptance of Syrians now as returning the favour.

To me, this encapsulated the whole issue. Lebanon’s problems run much deeper than its hosting of refugees. With little of what we would understand as a welfare state, less well-off Lebanese people are often living a hardscrabble existence themselves – even without 1.5m extra people competing for resources. These pre-existing problems are not the fault of refugees.

While the RELIEF project is focused on the prosperity of Lebanon in particular, it also forms part of a larger agenda for developing sustainable ways to improve the quality of life of people throughout the world.

Key to this is an acknowledgement that, over time, refugees have a valuable role to play in their host country’s prosperity. Like any other group of people, they are a resource, a basket of abilities and talents which, if harnessed and integrated appropriately, will be an asset wherever they settle.

With imaginative thinking and strong leadership, that is an ambition worth striving for – rather than trying to deal with refugees by locking them out, we should engage and try to integrate them into our own systems.

For that is how people cease to be refugees.

The place of prosperity in protracted refugee crises by Financing Prosperity Network Admin

by Annelise Andersen - Communications and Impact Officer for the RELIEF Centre

(this piece was originally written for the ESRC blog: Shaping Society)

Mass displacement today

Today one in every 122 people on the planet is now either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum. Movement, it seems, is the new normal.

Global human mobility has always been a part of human life. But in the past to be a refugee was a short-term consequence of conflict. Interventions aimed at ensuring a right to life for refugees in the short term too.

The extreme numbers of people on the move now present us with new challenges. One of these is how to respond to the rise of  ‘protracted refugee situations’ – refugees that are in a long-lasting and intractable state of limbo for five years or more.

The effects of protracted refugee situations are dramatic. They can contribute to ongoing crises, disrupt strategies that aim to make them more stable and hinder sustainable development in host countries and those of refugee origin.

The conflict in Syria, now into its eighth year, has caused one of the most well-known and severe cases of long-term displacement today. The number of Syrian refugees that have fled their home country’s violence to neighbouring countries has been immense.

Lebanon alone hosts over a million registered and unregistered Syrian refugees – around one quarter of its total population. This is a lot for a small country, particularly one with such a long history as a host.

Apartment blocks in Hamra, Beirut , © Annelise Andersen

Apartment blocks in Hamra, Beirut, © Annelise Andersen

The high number of refugees in Lebanon has put enormous pressure on housing and basic services, infrastructure, jobs and wages and educational opportunities, which were already strained prior to the Syrian crisis. Competition for limited resources has also created tensions between host and refugee communities.

The challenge of living, and living well in this context, is overwhelming. Change will not come overnight. So how do you improve the quality of life for people in an ongoing climate of crisis?

This is the question that prompted the beginnings of the RELIEF Centre: the five-year transdisciplinary research project funded by the ESRC Global Challenges Research Fund, and led by Professor Henrietta Moore at the Institute for Global Prosperity, UCL, that I am proud to be a part of.

The RELIEF Centre

My colleagues at the RELIEF Centre focus on how to build prosperous and inclusive futures for communities affected by mass displacement. Our fieldwork is based in Lebanon, the home of our academic partners the American University of Beirut and Lebanese American University. However, the plan is that what we learn here will be applicable to other places too.

Our starting position is that efforts to bring about positive change for those affected by mass displacement are more likely to be successful if they are inclusive and sustainable. We apply this thinking across four themes: The Vital CityCreating ValueFuture Education and Prosperity Gains and Inclusive Growth.

Each research theme explores different questions about prosperity that go beyond GDP and money, and include quality of life and wellbeing. The answers will form the basis of co-designed pathways towards lives that will be prosperous long into the future. We do this with our community of academic and non-academic partners, including charities such as Catalytic Action and Multi Aid Programs, and United Nations agencies such as UN-Habitat that work in Lebanon (and we have plans to work with many more).

As Communications and Impact Officer I am lucky enough to work closely with all the RELIEF teams and our partners, and there is rarely a dull day in our office. What launch events, workshops and many conversations in London and Lebanon have taught me so far is the value of flexibility, creativity and capacity-building in creating long-term responses to mass displacement that work. This is in terms of who to collaborate with, which direction to take your research in, and how to engage new audiences.

Finding ways of integrating this into the work we do is great fun and opens up all sorts of new opportunities: whether it is running arts events through our cultural committee, being generously supported by the ESRC to take part in media training, or meeting with exciting sustainable businesses in Beirut to discuss setting up Fast Forward 2030 Lebanon – a network and collaborative platform for businesses aiming to incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals into their business models.

The year that follows will be a busy one, but also one to look forward to with new ideas, partnerships and innovations.

Members of the RELIEF Centre Team at the UK Launch of RELIEF, ©  James Rippingale

Members of the RELIEF Centre Team at the UK Launch of RELIEF, © James Rippingale

Reflections on Representing Refuge: The Role of the Arts in Mass Displacement by Financing Prosperity Network Admin


by Annelise Andersen

On Thursday 7th June 2018, the RELIEF Centre cultural committee organised ‘Representing Refuge: The Role of the Arts in Mass Displacement’, as part of the UCL Festival of Culture 2018. The event aimed to prompt a conversation around media and humanitarian representations of refuge and displacement, and explore how artistic expressions can open up new avenues of self-representation, research and advocacy. 

The arts and academic worlds were represented through presentations, poetry, documentary filmmaking and public engagement. We heard from Fouad M. Fouad (Syrian doctor and poet), Cameron Holleran (Poet-in-Residence at the Institute for Global Prosperity, UCL), Sophia and Georgia Scott (Directors of Lost in Lebanon), Yousif M. Qasmiyeh (Writer-in-Residence, Refugee Hosts), and Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, (Head of Public Engagement at the RELIEF Centre, Reader in Human Geography, co-Director of the Migration Research Unit, PI of the AHRC-ESRC funded Refugee Hosts project, and Coordinator of UCL’s Refuge in a Moving World).

Guided by Dr Hanna Baumann, Research Associate at the RELIEF Centre, the speakers were invited to present, and reflect upon, their experiences of using the arts with communities affected by mass displacement. Cameron Holleran delivered an interactive poetry performance from the audience midway through the event – a planned pause of creative disruption that encouraged the audience to take part in the conversation.

Cameron Holleran performs ‘We are mostly bark’ as part of the event Representing Refuge: The Role of the Arts in Mass Displacement, organised by the RELIEF Centre. To read the full poem, and to find out more Cameron’s inspiration behind this work and the other poem they composed for this event, click here

The range of work discussed demonstrated the many creative opportunities that have already been found in projects addressing mass displacement. And there was a sense that there was potential for many more. The anecdotes used to explain how works were chosen and able to represent human experience were highly personal and stirring. They said a lot, at times in a small number of words:

Sophia Scott explained to the audience why she felt compelled to capture Dr Fouad reciting one of his poems on film:

“Poetry is a powerful tool. We can and should use it to see through other peoples’ eyes.” 

Dr Fouad himself explained that he viewed his writing process less as a means for psychological healing and more as a need of political expression:

“Writing is pain. When you write, you suffer. Some people say it is a relief, but that’s not true for me. It always brings discomfort. I do it anyway because it’s the only thing I can do, just to feel I am still alive, that I can scream, I can see what’s good and what’s bad. Writing is my fragile weapon – the way that I resist is by writing.”

Similarly, in his poem ‘The Camp is Time’, Yousif M. Qasmiyeh highlights the importance of locally-situated creative and critical responses to situations of mass displacement:

“Who writes the camp and what is it that ought to be written in a time where the plurality of lives have traversed the place itself to become its own time.”

Challenging dominant humanitarian narratives about refugees and their lives is, in fact, one of the core concerns of the Refugee Hosts project. Finding new ways of depicting displaced people – such as focusing on spaces of encounter between refugees and diverse host communities, rather than depicting refugees’ faces – is one way of highlighting the potential of alternative perspectives, as Dr Fiddian-Qasmiyeh has argued in the project’s blog series on ‘Representations of Displacement’:

“Does the absence of ‘the humanising face’ in our photographs necessarily embody a failure to resist the dehumanization of refugees? Or might it offer a productive alternative mode of ‘seeing’, ‘feeling’, ‘understanding’ and ‘being with’ communities affected by displacement?”

The discussion showed that the arts have many places and purposes in communities affected by mass displacement. Art matters – as a form of communication, advocacy, and self-expression. It can also lead to something entirely new and unpredictable. While there is great possibility in this, there is also risk – the risk of power asymmetries, of ethics, of misrepresentation.

How do you manage this? There is not one way, as was clear from the many different examples the guests at this event gave to this question. After all, it is not realistic to imagine that you can predict the outcome of a project. A thoughtful approach can help you to be aware of your position and the position of others in the creative process, however.


Sophia Scott and Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh returned to the value of co-creation, time and reflexivity in their work repeatedly. This is important first in terms of creating artistic platforms for communities affected by mass displacement that are accessible, empowering and authentic. They also spoke of the deeper, more empathetic understandings of the context of the communities they were working with because of this approach too. For example, Sophia spoke of the friendship that developed from getting to know Fouad M. Fouad, his family and his poetry over months. The trust that came out of this gave new weight to his words. Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh reflected on how different and sometimes unexpected forms of cultural performance can help an audience slow down and better engage with the experience of others. Cameron’s performance served as a live example of how this might work, and feel, in practice.

The message here? Inclusion is important. If you are unable to see yourself in work that aims to represent you, then your sense of identity and belonging can be undermined. At the RELIEF Centre we have chosen to embed inclusivity within our research questions and public engagement programme. We believe that the arts can be an effective way of bridging gaps in understanding between groups and facilitating encounters, as long as they are used ethically. Through the cultural committee, we find and create opportunities in the arts that have the capacity to impact both our research and public engagement programmes directly.

Read and hear more from the speakers of this event here:

Representing Refuge: The Role of the Arts in Conditions of Mass Displacement by Financing Prosperity Network Admin

Representing Refuge: The Role of the Arts in Conditions of Mass Displacement

Ai Weiwei,  Soleil Levant,  installation of refugees' life jackets on the facade of Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2017).  (c)  TeaMeister

Ai Weiwei, Soleil Levant, installation of refugees' life jackets on the facade of Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2017).  (c) TeaMeister

A RELIEF event at the UCL Festival of Culture

Thursday 7 June 2018, 18:00 - 19:30

Roberts Building, G06 Lecture Theatre

Lebanon has the highest number of refugees per capita in the world. Ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June, this session will bring together members of UCL's Institute for Global Prosperity and the RELIEF Centre to discuss the role of the arts in situations of mass displacement. We will see and hear poetry, documentary excerpts, photography, as well as a contribution to last year's Venice Biennale. This will prompt a conversation around media and humanitarian representations of refuge and displacement, and how artistic expressions can open up new avenues of self-representation, research, and advocacy. 


  • Fouad M. Fouad, Syrian doctor and poet, Assistant Professor, AUB Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, RELIEF Co-Investigator
  • Sophia and Georgia Scott, Directors of the documentary Lost in Lebanon 
  • Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Reader in Human Geography and Co-Director of the Migration Research Unit; Coordinator of UCL's Refuge in a Moving World, Head of RELIEF Public Engagement Committee
  • Cameron Holleran, Poet-in-Residence, Institute for Global Prosperity 

Panel moderation: Hanna Baumann, Research Associate, RELIEF 

Register for the event here 

Read more about the events planned in the UCL Festival of Culture 2018 here

Reflections on the No Lost Generation Tech Summit by Financing Prosperity Network Admin

21-22 February 2018, Amman, Jordan

Diana Laurillard, Professor of Learning with Digital Technology UCL

Dr Eileen Kennedy, Senior Research Fellow, UCL

The NLG Tech Summit for 2018 set out to be ‘an innovation forum with and for youth and adolescents impacted by the crises in Syria and Iraq, to highlight how technology can support education, employment, participation and representation’.

And it succeeded brilliantly.

Youth Perspectives on Participation and Representation Panel

Youth Perspectives on Participation and Representation Panel

It lived up to this ambition by the simple trick of bringing young people to speak on behalf of their peers in short sessions throughout the conference. Their eloquent voices continually punctured the formal presentations and panel sessions. Young men and women with extraordinary stories spoke with passion and commitment to their desperate call for the opportunity to learn and engage. One young woman exhorted us to “give them more facilitation and you will see the energy that is coming out of them”. They all exuded that energy – here are some of the young voices we heard:

Help us learn English so that young people have access to the internet for courses we can use.
I would feel honoured to register in a public university, but we do not earn enough. Now I am 29, too old for a grant. So I would appreciate a practical solution. We will lose a generation now, and we will face a bigger disaster, of Syrian uneducated men.
Employers need skilled staff, but business owners do not even speak to us. We are very skilled. I am a graphic designer but have no employment to use those skills.
One employer had 32 jobs but no connection to the young people who need them. He uses family and friends because there is nowhere to train young people, or link to them.
What is your priority? Education. Education, education. Without that how can we rebuild Syria when we go back?
The NLG Tech Task Force Panel

The NLG Tech Task Force Panel

There were answers too, from the speakers and panellists – all of them from organisations and companies deeply engaged in finding ways of giving young people the chance to flourish. At a Tech summit about educational technologies of course everyone understands that technology has a vital role to play – including some of these great examples:

PluralSight with UNICEF work to reduce the gap in digital skills development, bringing young people into designing robotics, giving them access to the market, connecting youth with digital and online jobs, and incubation.

Kiron, through UNHCR, overcomes barriers of costs and legalities in Lebanon and Jordan through MOOC providers and online tutorials, with 250 module completions leading to 75 transfers to partner universities.

The Digital Opportunity Trust empowers youth and women to solve challenges through digital skills, giving them the 21st c skills to deal with their challenging environment

These solutions have led to entrepreneurial successes – and young entrepreneurs and their supporters were very happy to tell us about them:

We developed an e-learning program for Syrians in the construction sector, designed to target 1000 people to help them understand labour rights, conditions and labour rights security. So tech is helping us to promote labour rights.
We have Syrian craft products to export to Saudi Arabia and EU to support the Syrian community. A Syrian restaurant here and in Doha, is supplied with these customised products. One man got approval to migrate to USA but said: “I do not want to go now, as I will have to give up my traditional industry there. It is impossible to get the right materials. If I move from Jordan I will lose my business”.
Tech is the main key for the entrepreneurs to grow. People in Gaza may be trying to get the basics, but we also want to be more open to the world. So even if they cannot go out of Gaza, this can be the way to help them solve this. So now we can use tech to practice those things. Open your laptop and you are open to the world.

Everyone at this Tech Summit about education technologies understood the importance of scaling up the educational interventions, and that only digital technology could help them reach the 100,000s still being neglected.

So, what does our ‘Future Education’ project at the RELIEF Centre, at University College London, contribute to these powerful initiatives? We contribute in three ways, I think: by (1) scaling up, (2) harnessing the energy of the teaching community, and (3) designing edtech for active learning.

1. We are co-designing a series of open online courses, with local teachers and NGOs. A MOOC (a Massive Open Online Course on the Edraak platform) can reach anyone with online access. It complements local face-to-face groups of 10s and 100s with online access in a blended learning solution that could reach 100,000s. Its resources, activities and forums could link to all these great projects.

2. We focus on the teaching community, and adult professionals, because they know their local contexts, and have professional skills and experience. From an online collaborative community, they can pass on to their local groups the new techniques they learn, testing and sharing their innovations. Too many EdTech solutions bypass the teachers and talented adults whose energy and experience we need. A MOOC brings them together.

3. EdTech solutions tend to rely on access to resources, but knowledge does not develop by watching videos alone. EdTech can provide active ways of learning – through forum debates, digital tools and games, shared digital making, etc. We will demonstrate how active digital learning can be used in all curriculum areas, not just in the context of learning digital skills.

This great conference had a real sense of pent-up energy about to burst, through the outlets being fashioned by all these innovative projects and initiatives, to make a new kind of impact, and release those young minds to achieve their full potential. What a huge responsibility we have to make that a reality.

The story of the RELIEF Centre Logo by Financing Prosperity Network Admin

A timeline of the RELIEF Centre Logo

The RELIEF Centre logo was designed by Maria Saadeh from The Art Room, an arts school based in the centre of Hamra, in Beirut. This timeline shows how we came to work with Maria and how RELIEF got its visual identity.

April 2017

The UCL Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) launches RELIEF: one of two five-year projects that form part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), a £1.5 billion UK Government investment to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. We trial a couple of visual identities for our website.

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July 2017

On 14 July 2017, the IGP launches a competition for the design of a logo and website homepage for the RELIEF Centre. The "RELIEF Artwork Competition" invited young emerging designers, under 30 years old, from the Middle East region who live in Lebanon to submit either a logo, or the design of a website homepage, or both, for the use on the RELIEF project communications. Awards for the winning artist included:

  • £500 honorarium for each competition strand.
  • The artwork (for both logo and homepage) to be featured on a UCL hosted website with global visibility.
  • The logo to be featured in all the project specific communications and publications.
  • The winning artist/artists to be invited to the launch of the project, in October 2017 in Beirut.
  • The competition and all selected artworks posted on the RELIEF and IGP Facebook pages, and Twitter account. 

We advertised the competition through our social media accounts and website, and got in touch with art schools, universities, design studios, NGOs and other creative groups in Lebanon to circulate the advert.

August 2017

Logos and website ideas were submitted to the IGP by 18 August 2017 for review by a panel. The collection of design concepts we received were excellent. They varied in approach, with artists using a range of colours and materials. Many of the designs featured people, or represented care or growth, but the overall range of images that were depicted reflected the scope and broad approach of the RELIEF Centre. The high quality of the logos produced made it difficult for the panel to choose a winner. 

After deliberation, the runners-up were announced from the applications submitted as Aya Serdah and Abdul Rehman Fadel, from ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid) Lebanon and UNICEF Lebanon.

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September 2017

The winner was announced on 1st September 2017 as Maria Saadeh from The Art Room Beirut. Maria's logo was applied to RELIEF social media channels, the website, and on other RELIEF communications.

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The two runners up for this competition were also announced in September 2017: Abed and Aya from the organisation Anera. Abed and Aya were honoured at the RELIEF Centre's launch event in October 2017, which took place at the American University of Beirut. For information about Abed and Aya's graphic design careers can be found here