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Alice Sachrajda

Creative researcher and storyteller

Stirring the imagination and fostering empathy

I enjoy bringing imagination, creativity and fresh ideas to the way that we carry out and disseminate social research. My passion lies in exploring human attitudes, perceptions, feelings and values. These are not easily quantified and lend themselves to a deep inquiry that illustrates the messy complexity of human existence. A creative starting point embraces curiosity, takes us into the realm of metaphor, and provides new avenues for expression while bringing in new and often unheard voices.

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Be kind to others and give, give, give

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It’s pretty tough out there at the moment. For anyone who cares about social justice, listening to the news in the morning and reading the paper is enough to make you want to crawl back under the duvet. But, being an eternal optimist and half-glass-full kind of a person, I am determined to remain positive. This post is a little celebration of the countless acts of kindness I witnessed while out and about in London today:

Continue reading “Be kind to others and give, give, give”

Supporting refugee children in education: Networks and connections

Guest blog for the RSA

The widely shared theory that there are ‘six degrees of separation’ between us and every other human being on the planet (that’s seven billion, and counting) is awe-inspiring to reflect on. Regardless of whether the ‘six degrees’ theory is fact or fiction, the truth remains that a web of teeming connections intricately links us to one another.

The strength that comes from our networks and relationships can be used to powerful effect, particularly as advances in technology bring us ‘virtually’ closer, and more widely connected to one another, than ever before. The power of connecting with one another was central to the RSA’s recent summit in Athens, exploring citywide approaches to refugee education. The summit was convened by the RSA and supported by the Educational Collaborative of International Schools (ECIS), ACS Athens (American Community School Athens), The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) and the British Council – all significant collaborative networks in their own right. The summit provided a valuable opportunity to strengthen pre-existing connections, as well as forge new global links amongst experts, education professionals, policy-makers, international networks and local practitioners.

A powerful illustration of the strength of networks is demonstrated by the connection that the RSA made, prior to the summit, with Hope-School in Skaramagas refugee camp, on the outskirts of Athens. Continue reading “Supporting refugee children in education: Networks and connections”

Do you collect butterflies? Asking questions and sharing stories is the best way to loosen the ‘Gradgrind grip’

The life-changing power of reading is beautifully depicted by Jorge Méndez Blake’s artwork, ‘The Impact of a Book’. The knock-on, shockwave effect is expressed with artful simplicity:

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I luxuriated in many good books this summer. They sparked countless connections and reading each one made me want to share themes, thoughts and ideas. So, as the summer days come to a close, here are the ones that had that rippling effect on me.

Continue reading “Do you collect butterflies? Asking questions and sharing stories is the best way to loosen the ‘Gradgrind grip’”

Faced with the tyranny of numbers stories are our greatest currency

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The age we are living in is the ‘Information Age’. It is a time of digital communication and endless data. It is characterised by a stark reliance on quantitative analysis and interpretation. We have seen the culmination of this in the recent referendum in the UK. The referendum was the ultimate poll, an opportunity to answer a question based on a binary outcome. The result has precipitated a deep fracture in our society with ‘Remain’ voters at 48% on the one side and ‘Leave’ voters at 52% on the other.

Continue reading “Faced with the tyranny of numbers stories are our greatest currency”

It is our love for one another as human beings that makes Britain great, not a small-minded superiority that blames migrants for our problems

Guest blog for Counterpoints Arts

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The senseless killing of Jo Cox MP is painful to bear today. I am finding it increasingly hard to comprehend our society, which seems to be in the grip of anxiety, mistrust and fear. The brazen UKIP poster unveiled yesterday implying that migrants are swarming into Britain is a malicious attempt to whip up these tensions. It is starting to feel like our humanity is unravelling.

For many years I have researched public attitudes to immigration. I have held focus groups all over the UK seeking to understand more about what drives public opinion about migration. I have listened to people say that we should put chips in migrants; after all we do it to our dogs, that European migrants should be made to leave because they take over the patch of the British drug dealers, that our country is so full that we are being driven into the sea. There is a seam of deep mistrust woven into our society and it does not take much to bring it to the fore.

How can our society pull back from this wave of resentment? Continue reading “It is our love for one another as human beings that makes Britain great, not a small-minded superiority that blames migrants for our problems”

Bursting the busy bubble and the art of listening

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I’ve had so many of these conversations with friends and colleagues recently: “How are things with you?” “Ah good, you know, busy”. Sometimes I’m the person asking the question; sometimes I’m the one answering. It can start to feel like we are all buzzing around endlessly chasing our tails. Continue reading “Bursting the busy bubble and the art of listening”

Feel the fear and do it anyway

I was travelling back from a long day delivering training in Sheffield recently when I remembered that I’d seen an eventbrite invite for a Charity Meetup networking event. I had a little conversation with myself (come on, we all do it) which went a bit like this: “Alice, you’ve just gone freelance – this is exactly the sort of event you should be going to…” And in reply: “But I’m tired and hungry and networking can be so, well, awkward, do I really have to?” I’m sorry to say that ‘negative me’ won and I started going down the escalator in the direction of home. But then ‘positive me’ got cross with ‘negative me’ (it does that sometimes) and so, (second embarrassing admission) I got to the bottom of the escalator turned round and promptly went back up again. I’m pleased I did.

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Continue reading “Feel the fear and do it anyway”

The science behind the story

Human beings are programmed to engage with stories and narratives. From an early age we use stories as a tool for learning and making sense of the world. As we grow older our lives are endlessly shaped by the stories all around us – we share anecdotes with colleagues and friends, we are exposed to daily news reports charting people’s lives and experiences, and we read literature to provoke, challenge and fulfil us.

But why are stories so viscerally powerful? What is the science behind the story? Continue reading “The science behind the story”

Stories are just data with a soul

One of my favourite TED talks is Brené Brown sharing her research about vulnerability. At the outset she recounts how she first doubted, then embraced, being called a storyteller. Such initial trepidation is perhaps unsurprising from a distinguished academic. After all storytelling isn’t immediately associated with academic rigour.

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Continue reading “Stories are just data with a soul”

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