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. 

IGP 2018 summer reading list.landscape.jpg

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

 PA ARCHIVE/PA IMAGES

PA ARCHIVE/PA IMAGES

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

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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.

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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:

https://refugeehosts.org/representations-of-displacement-series/

https://refugeehosts.org/creative-archive/

http://www.lostinlebanonfilm.com/

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. 

Speakers

  • 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