The project is focused on what happens after the `welcome’ of refugees/asylum seekers in Austria. The aim is to question the notion of ‘integration’ and use design processes to create the tools for an alternative solution where inclusive cultural production is used to desegregate the communities.

With high numbers of new comers entering the country, many have demanded ‘integration’. But what does that really mean? It is often described in a very vague manner and used as a synonym for assimilation – where minorities lose all traits of their original culture to melt into the majority culture. The question is whether it is ethical to expect people to lose their identity, or whether full assimilation is a realistic approach, as it implies there is only the option of belonging to either culture, with no space in between.
The aim of this project was to explore the possibilities of an alternative to integration/assimilation by developing a new approach. Instead of focusing on one culture or another, the focus is on new cultural production shaped by members of majority and minority culture together, and that both communities can relate to.  The collaborative production of new culture also provides an opportunity for Syrians/Iraqis,… and locals to have interactions at an equal level, form genuine relationships and expand networks.
Throughout the project the role of the designer shifted between different modes of action. Firstly, the ethnographic research is a crucial element to this project, including tasks such as volunteering, surveying and most importantly having conversations with individuals at the heart of the issue – refugees/asylum seekers, social workers,… In the generative phase of the project the designer acted as a mediator/facilitator when leading various workshops, developing a functional method of collaborative cultural production between members of two different cultures. The result of extensive experimentation is a process that can be narrowed down to three stages:
1.sharing (where members of both cultures share experiences/memories/rituals with each other)
2.generating (collaborative process of producing new forms of culture from the shared memories)
3.positioning (the positioning of this new cultural product in mainstream culture)
Throughout these stages the role of the designer is to develop the tools that enable this process and to mediate between the participants.
This form of cultural production can be applied to various aspects such as food, literature, sports, film, fashion,… However, theatre as a platform became an apparent choice to drive this project, as it allows for long-term commitment and regular equal interactions, which enables genuine relationships and networks to be formed between the two communities. The result is a detailed proposal of how this process can be applied to theatre, where every stage from script to costume and set design is a collaborative process. 
final proposal
example of tools used in workshops overcoming language barriers
The final proposal and tools are the product of extensive experimentation and development of the various workshops outlined in the proposal.
set/prop design workshop experiment
costume design workshop experiment
script writing workshop experiment
Reflecting on my approach in comparison to some existing projects, I have devised a manifesto/speech on how to approach projects regarding the work with refugees and asylum seekers, highlighting the issues with de-centred design, which I am aiming to communicate this to professionals to see whether these insights would change the way they approach their work.

You may also like