Warsaw Stories: participatory media methods for supporting migrants

Have you ever wondered how the city you grow up in looks from a perspective of a foreigner? And not just any foreigner who came for a couple of days as a tourist, but a person actually lives here, a person for whom this city is now a home – sometimes for a little while, and sometimes forever.

This was one of the main questions that we were asking ourselves while organizing local workshop on digital storytelling within our Erasmus+ KA2 project in the field of adult education –Digital Participation: Engaging Diverse and Marginalized Communities. As Fundacja Autokreacja is focused on developing educational tools for supporting social inclusion of people at risk, we were very excited to explore how collecting personal stories in a digital form could be used for supporting migrants living in Poland. 

To do so, we invited foreigners living in Warsaw to join a three-day long workshop designed to provide them with a safe space to share, reflect, and interact. We based it on the digital storytelling – Berkeley method that was developed and popularized by Joe Lamber and the Story Center in California.  The method is deeply rooted in the understanding that everyone has a story to tell and since the stories each of us carries are so unique, all of them are worth sharing. 

Sharing stories in itself is a process that can help individuals to feel heard and empowered, but it is also a group process that brings different people together. Opening up about experiences that are sometimes challenging and deeply emotional in a way makes people feel less alone – this is because during the final film screening, they get feedback from other storytellers who quite often have similar experiences.  

This was the case of our workshop in Poland – we had two participants who decided to create stories about their feelings towards Warsaw and why they choose to call it their home despite being born and raised elsewhere. The films were very different from each other in terms of narrative style and visual materials used, but in the end, they depicted a very personal life experience that was somehow shared by two people who haven’t met before. Sharing it with an entire group was a powerful moment that also made other participants to relate even if they decided to make their own films about something else. At the same time, Polish audience who watched the films about Warsaw and immigration, said they helped them see their own country from a new perspective as well as develop a new, more broader understanding of the emotions and experiences of foreigners migrating to Poland. We believe that this can be an opening for a meaningful dialogue of people with different cultural backgrounds who engage in interactions that are concentrated on looking for similarities and building an understanding based on them.

Digital storytelling as a method can be successfully used for supporting adults learners at risk of exclusion due to different factors, such as cultural differences or migration/refugee background. During Digital Participation  Autokreacja Foundation together with partners from Denmark (Upstream Stories) and Italy (Mine Vaganti) we are exploring how participatory media methods can be adjusted to the specific needs of different groups with fewer opportunities. Our findings will be summarized in a form of a digitalized training course for adult practitioners that will be freely available online. 

Digital Participation: Engaging Diverse and Marginalized Communities is an Erasmus+ KA2 in the field of adult education supported by the European Commission. 

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