Collaboration with the University of Highlands & Islands on Resilience & Official Development Assistance project

Culture and Heritage, Language, Education and Creativity

Developing a University of Highlands & Islands (UHI) Cultural Resilience Team in partnerhsip with Greek, Turkish and Senegalese partners

The aim of this proposal is to bring together a collaborative interdisciplinary team from Humanities Arts and Culture Cluster and Society, Identity, Landscape, and Knowledge Cluster to support analysis of, and action in, resilience factors in the lives of young people and communities in the Official Development Assistance (ODA) Framework categories.

The University of the Highlands and Islands has experience in working with dispersed communities and young people who face challenges in isolation and access to enriching experiences available in more urban and affluent environments. Staff have significant expertise in respect to: enhancement and understanding of culture, heritage and language, creativity and education.

The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence and the ‘Time to Shine’ programme introduced by Creative Scotland in 2014 places the individual young person as the focus for educational and creative development. These precepts offer UHI staff a particular methodology to deploy in other contexts beyond the Scottish condition. The Department for International Development proposes.

‘Our programming will support young people to make successful transitions to adulthood, and we will work with young people as agents of social change and as passionate advocates seeking to shape and influence the world that they will inherit’.  (Putting young people at the heart of development: The Department for International Development’s Youth Agenda. 2016)Resilience

Education, communication, creativity and cultural enrichment are key to young people’s development and their growing experiences in life.  These offer inclusive and democratic foundations for personal enrichment. Research indicates demand for support for young people faced with life changing conditions brought about by conflict, enforced migration, loss of access to education and unemployment and by family disruption through ill health and family loss.

All of these can have a direct negative effect on self-esteem, create the sense of powerlessness and loss of personal control and value.  Young people require stimulation through active engagement, increased autonomy and personal capability which can be met by participation and engagement in meaningful collaborative activity with others; essential dimensions to young people’s development.

These themes are central to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence and the development of the four capacities – successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

More broadly the aspirations and ethos of our proposed project is grounded within, and is committed to, the concept of educational praxis as “reflection and action directed at the structures to be transformed” (Freire, 1970, p. 126), and the practice of critical public pedagogy within which we recognise “the need for critical educators to act on the belief that academic work matters in its relationship to broader public practices and policies” (Giroux, 2000, p. 34).

 ‘Just at the time when young refugees need to explore and develop their personal and social identity and become autonomous, their lives are put on hold. Young refugees were found to use four strategies associated with resilience: (1) acting autonomously, (2) performing at school, (3) perceiving support from peers and parents, and (4) participating in the new society’. (Marieke, S, Trudy, M et al, 2017)

Key themes emerging from such narratives describing the condition of young people in conflict situations or their experiences as refugees or orphaned through Aids highlight the following:

  • Impact on self-esteem
  • Powerlessness and loss of personal control
  • The necessity for stimulation
  • The desire for autonomy, and increase of capability
  • And the desire for participation.

(Ungar and Nichol, 2002; Vindevogel et al., 2015;)

Action and Partners in Building the Team

From the perspective of resilience theory, self-esteem should be based on “a pro-social values system, a realistic sense of oneself and one’s capacities, and an awareness of personal responsibility”.

                                                                                                                                  (Wood, Theron & Mayaba, 2012)

Empowering young people with positive, transformative experiences, skills and insights is an investment in the future of communities faced by significant challenge and debilitating conditions. UHI staff can make a contribution to this global endeavour – with staff development and enhancement of existing expertise in the transfer of skills and experiences.

Stage 1.  Analysis and appraisal of the criteria and methodology required to provide the team with the information, data and contexts to create a detailed programme of workshops and laboratories designed to boost resilience and to raise self-esteem, empowerment and agency in young people in a country selected from the OECD list.  A resilience systems analysis provides information for the three key steps in constructing a theory of change: analysing the contextexploring assumptions and hypotheses for changes in the future; and assessing evidence for future change. Preparatory work will involve the team using Guidelines for Resilience: ‘Systems Analysis, How to analyse risk and build a roadmap to resilience’ by OECD to create a UHI focussed toolkit for development. Resilience analysis does ‘not require “resilience experts”, but instead draws on expertise already available in different societies and their systems.’ (OECD 2017)

Stage 2. In respect to development of the team to engage in resilience analysis and resilience boosting through educational and cultural interventions it is proposed to collaborate with cultural and educational experts from Greece, France and Senegal to analyse the requirements for such a programme of work.

This will establish a foundation of understanding and knowledge to ensure that the UHI team are prepared and well equipped to create an effective and robust experiential programme. It is proposed to work in the first instance with two experts in cultural enhancement and sustainability and educational expertise and innovation in challenging conditions.

Dr. Mahamouda Salouhou is currently Professor of International Business at the Lille School of Management and the Executive Director if the European Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurship Education (ECLEE) as well as founder of Djagora University (DjU), Dakar, Senegal.  DjU is an independent higher education institution, accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education of Senegal.

Georges Perot is Founder Managing Director of MESO Events, National Coordinator of the Hellenic Network of the European Music Day Organisers and “Fête Européenne de la Musique” and President of EURICCA initiative (European Research & Innovation Agency for Cultural Clusters).  M. Perot has helped steer successful cultural and creative enterprises with young people in Greece and other Mediterranean countries during some of the countries darkest financial and social challenges since 2008. Youth unemployment still runs at 47% in Greece.

Stage 3. The third stage will involve a pilot of resilience workshops, toolkit and methodology in Inverness with Highland Youth Arts Hub, and with MESO in Athens with young people identified by partners in the city and in Turkey.

It is proposed to test and evaluate the team, the toolkit and the methodology in workshops and through pre and post intervention research. This will provide the essential groundwork for creating an effective approach, a robust theoretical model and strategies for deployment on an ODA designated country in the next round of funding.

More information will be released in the up-coming weeks.