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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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Light, Hope and the Promise of Pop Culture: Platforma, Newcastle 2017

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As the sun beamed through the windows of the St John the Baptist church in Newcastle this morning, the people gathered in the pews were bathed in lustrous hues of aquamarine, magenta, tangerine and luminous yellow. It felt like an auspicious moment for the Platforma Festival, a celebration of creativity and the arts by and about refugees and migrants. The festival is organised biennially by Counterpoints Arts and this year’s programme is set to enthrall and inspire in equal measure across the north east of England.

Continue reading “Light, Hope and the Promise of Pop Culture: Platforma, Newcastle 2017”

Harnessing the power of stories: the ‘Trojan horse’ of engagement

Guest blog for Engagement 2017 conference, published May 23 2017

What’s the best way to persuade others of your point of view? That’s the question academics, politicians, activists and many other change-makers are grappling with in our increasingly interconnected world. At a time when we are saturated on a daily basis with endless information and data, the question of how we carry out effective and persuasive engagement is becoming increasingly salient.

I worked for many years in academia, legal and policy environments, and I used to rely on straightforward methods of persuasion to make my case: facts, evidence-based data, well-marshalled arguments and rebuttal. But, after many years working on the complex policy area of immigration, I have come to recognise that whilst these can sometimes be effective forms of communication, they are not the only kind. And, what is more, they are not always the most appropriate when communicating on emotive and socially complex issues like identity and immigration. Indeed, persuading with facts and data can have the negative effect of polarising an issue, rather than winning people over. Instead, when we want to engage others with our message,

Continue reading “Harnessing the power of stories: the ‘Trojan horse’ of engagement”

Belonging – my story

I love listening to other people’s stories. It is a deep and special privilege of a researcher to capture so much insight into other people’s lives. Earlier this year I decided to reverse the process and spend some time thinking about how to tell and share my story.

I signed up to a We Video online course run by StoryCenter. It was a thoroughly rewarding and fun experience – thank you Rob, Dascha and the rest of the team at StoryCenter! The StoryCenter methodology is based on the work of Joe Lambert, a pioneer in digital storytelling. His book, Digital Storytelling: Capturing lives, creating community is a must-read for anyone interested in creative storytelling.

So here it is, my identity story, weaving together the things that have affected me and matter most to me in my life: Belonging.

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Everyone has a story…

 

Refugee narratives must shift from dependency to opportunity

Guest blog for the RSA, posted 22 June 2017

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Generosity and hospitality are rich seams in Ancient Greek mythology. Ovid’s tale of Baucis and Philemon describes the good fortune bestowed upon a couple that showed kindness to the Greek Gods Jupiter and Mercury who were disguised as ordinary peasants. Stories with the moral of ‘xenia’ (the Greek concept of hospitality towards newcomers), teach us that good will come from aiding and showing kindness to others.

The RSA’s work exploring refugee education in Athens proves that the concept of ‘xenia’ is alive and thriving in Greece today. Some of the examples we observed while in Athens were the work of The Cube, a co-working innovation space that has set up a Self-Organised Learning Environment (SOLE) to support refugee children, Hope School in Skaramagas refugee camp which provides education for displaced children run by volunteers within the camp and ACS Athens (the American Community School) which is piloting a project educating and mentoring unaccompanied minors. There are many other examples that illustrate the resourcefulness and resilience within the city.

Download ‘Cities of Reciprocity’ report (PDF, 0.5 MB)

Continue reading “Refugee narratives must shift from dependency to opportunity”

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”

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